During a 32-year-career as a high school English teacher, Robert Pacilio figures he performed roughly 28,000 one-hour "shows" before his students. He thought of his classroom as a sort of cafe, where he had the opportunity to both educate and entertain his charges, teaching them about music and literature.
"When you finish a class, there's never any applause. You don't know the impact you've had until, sometimes, many years later," said Pacilio, 63, an Encinitas resident.
Since his retirement from teaching in 2010 - he spent his entire career at Mt. Carmel High School in the Poway school district - Pacilio has taken up a different kind of storytelling: he recently published his fourth novel, called "Meet Me At Moonlight Beach."
The book is set in Encinitas, and the two protagonists, a man and a woman, are both dealing with physical and emotional challenges. They meet at the office of a therapist, and the book chronicles their fledgling relationship.
"Most people say it's a book about surviving and finding love again," said Pacilio.
Pacilio's first book, "Meetings at the Metaphor Cafe," is an autobiographical work, told through the eyes of four high school students who have a fictional teacher modeled after Pacilio.
"These four gather at the Metaphor Cafe and reflect on the inspirational lessons of their English teacher, Mr. Buscotti, who helps them navigate their troubled waters. They come to understand the powerful words of writers from Twain to Springsteen, discovering that the Metaphor Cafe is a state of mind - like slavery was and freedom is," reads a description of the book on Pacilio's website, www.robertpacilio.net.
"Metaphor Cafe" has been adopted for use by several school districts, including Poway, Temecula and Riverside, said Pacilio.
A former San Diego County “Teacher of the Year,” Pacilio coached his school's speech and debate team along with teaching his American literature classes. These days, he is occasionally invited to speak to high school classes, and standing in front of the pupils provides an "adrenaline rush," that he misses from his teaching days, Pacilio said.
Pacilio's first two books were targeted at a young adult audience, while his next two, including "Moonlight Beach," are written for adults. Pacilio self-published the books, forming his own publishing company to handle editing, design and other tasks.
His books are available on Amazon.com, as well as a couple of shops in Encinitas, Booktales and Coffee and Co., the latter being where Pacilio held a book launch event in November for "Moonlight Beach." Online purchasers have the option of buying the book from Amazon, or directly from Pacilio's website, where they can receive a copy complete with an autograph and personal message from the author.
For his next writing project, Pacilio plans to turn a play he wrote during his teaching days into a novel. When he's working on a book, he writes five days a week, for about 90 minutes each day. He often sends out finished sections to an informal network of friends who provide feedback.
Among the joys of being a retired teacher, Pacilio said, is hearing from former students. Pacilio estimated that he taught about 5,000 students during his teaching career, and he enjoys hearing from them. Some have gone on to do government work, others became doctors or artists. One ex-student started a Facebook page titled "Mr. Pacilio Made a Difference in My Life," which drew comments from more than 500 former students.
"I was more than flattered," Pacilio said.
Pacilio's wife, Pam, is also a retired teacher, having taught second grade at Sundance Elementary School, also in the Poway district. The couple have two grown children, who live and work on the East Coast.
When he's not writing, Pacilio said he enjoys practicing yoga and playing golf with former colleagues.
In March, Pacilio said, he plans to participate in a showcase for local writers at the Encinitas Library.