Paul Zindel: High school chemistry teacher and celebrated author

Many fine educators distinguish themselves in other fields. Such is the case with Paul Zindel, a high school chemistry teacher who is also a celebrated author and playwright.

Paul was born on May 15, 1936 in Tottenville, on Staten Island in New York. His father was a policeman, and his mother was a nurse. When Paul was still a child, his father abandoned his family, and his mother struggled to support the family alone. It was, by his own account, a difficult childhood.

Upon his high school graduation, Paul enrolled in Wagner College on Staten Island. Although he majored in chemistry, he took a creative writing course from celebrated playwright Edward Albee. Albee encouraged and nurtured Paul’s writing talent.

After Paul earned his college degree, he accepted a position as a technical writer for Allied Chemical. He was employed there for six months, but did not enjoy the work. Pursuing a passion for helping young people, Paul decided to go into teaching. For the next ten years, he taught chemistry and physics at Tottenville High School.

While still teaching, Paul wrote the book he is probably most famous for, The Pigman (1968). It was so successful that in 1969 he left teaching to write full-time. “I felt I could do more for teenagers by writing for them,” Paul once explained. “I started reading some young adult books, and what I saw in most of them had no connection to the teenagers I knew. I thought I knew what kids would want in a book, so I made a list and followed it,” he continued. “I try to show teens they aren’t alone. I believe I must convince my readers that I am on their side; I know it’s a continuous battle to get through the years between twelve and twenty — an abrasive time. And so I write always from their own point of view,” he concluded.

Paul’s other signature work includes The Effect of Gamma Rays on the Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, which received an Obie Award in 1970 for best American play. He garnered a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1971.

Sadly, Paul contracted lung cancer and passed away on March 27, 2003. He is interred in Moravian Cemetery in Staten Island.

To learn more about this extraordinary educator and author, visit his website at www.paulzindel.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *