'Mr. P' honored with big party

MARYSVILLE — The man who hired him 34 years ago, John Garner was one of the first to show up at Mr. P's retirement party June 13.

Jim Pankiewicz, a.k.a. Mr. P spent 34 of his 36 years as an educator teaching at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. Garner was principal when Pankiewicz applied for the job.

"I was looking for someone with experience working with minorities," said Garner, who followed his public school administration career with a stint on the Snohomish County Council. Garner was principal for 12 years, three at Marysville High School before the new school was build, two at Pilchuck High School, and seven at M-PHS.

"Jim went to Cleveland High School in Seattle, so I figured he would be good with minorities. Then when I met him, his interview immediately sold me," Garner said.

Little did Garner know that Pankiewicz would be an all-time favorite teacher, who would attract hundreds to his retirement party.

Three of the many who attended the party included Megan Gulbransen, Jody Swobody and Krystan Costa who were in his classes in 2001 and 2002. They agreed that Pankiewicz's strength as a teacher was that he cared.

"Not only that he cared, but he showed that he cared," Swobody said.

A president of DECA back then, Costa said it's even more than that.

"He doesn't give up," Costa said. "He tells you everyday that he cares."

Charlotte "Duffy" Michaelson and Sonia McElroy Wetzel had Mr. P as a teacher in 1991. They heard about the party from Facebook. Michaelson worked in marketing before starting a family and she said that she uses the skills he taught her every day, both at work and in raising her family.

"I learned patience and reasoning skills from Mr. P," Michaelson said.

"He gave me self esteem," Wetzel added.

Pankiewicz told The Marysville Globe recently that he still loves his work at school but he wanted a change.

"I'd just like to do something different while I'm still mentally alert and physically healthy enough to enjoy it. I want to write in the mornings and take time out to fish. I'd like a different schedule for my days," he said.

But he won't be sitting around eating bonbons.

Pankiewicz plans to work as a real estate agent, a side job he's kept throughout his teaching career.

"I'll miss seeing these kids grow in skills and confidence," he said.

"I leave M-PHS with a deep, profound and enduring sense of gratitude," Pankiewicz said. "I want to thank my students, my peers, the parents and the business community for the heartfelt support they've shown me."

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