“It is all about connections, that is what I would teach my kids in school,” says Joe Sottile as he stands in front of a group of Brickstone by St. John’s residents.
Making connections and speaking in front of people is not a foreign concept to Sottile. The new Brickstone resident is a retired English teacher and says he was inspired to teach as early as the sixth grade. “At the time, I didn’t like my sixth-grade teacher and thought to myself, ‘I could easily teach sixth grade,’ so that’s what I did,” he says.
Sottile says he may have been too harsh on his former teacher, as he realized how much work went into teaching, but he says that he “loved it.”
Along with his teaching degree, he studied English, which propelled him into the world of poetry. His teaching would inspire him to write a book of poems titled, Waiting to See the Principal and Other Poems. Sottile says he wrote the poems as if “you were seeing school through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy or girl.”
This book was the center of his most recent poetry class, which he leads once a month at Brickstone by St. John’s. Residents enjoyed Sottile reading works from his book as well as his insights into the artwork done by a colleague and his inspirations. He says that most of the book is based on his life teaching in the Gates-Chili school district — the noisy cafeteria, “boring” teachers, students chewing gum in class, and much more.
“This [poetry program] gives me something positive to look forward to each month,” Sottile says. “I like being able to connect and share with others.” The program, though still fairly new, allows residents to discuss and analyze poetry readings in a group as well as bring their own works to read.
Sottile moved into a Brickstone apartment with his wife Marilyn in July to downsize and be close to local hospitals.