Paul Chiampa, one of our Senior Tutors and a sports and travel enthusiast, has been tutoring at Open Door Education since 2015. When not helping students determine an angle of elevation or inscribe a special right triangle into another polygon, he can be found walking his roommate’s dog or in a lab working on projects for his master’s program in mechanical engineering. As the first of our tutors to be featured in our new Spotlight column, we asked him a variety of random questions.


Q: Can you share why you chose engineering?


I originally thought about astronomy–a hobby of mine since I was very young–but then I realized the job market for astronomers isn’t very promising.


Ironically, playing and coaching baseball influenced my decision to study engineering. A few years back, I was looking for an adventure, and ended up getting a job as a baseball player and coaching for a program in Austria, about 15 miles west of Vienna in the small town of Tulln an der Donau. I didn’t know much about Austria before going, but it now holds a special place in my heart.  The people were so kind and welcoming; they love their country and cherish the world we live in. Their passion about the environment inspired me to pursue a career in the industry here. I hope to work in the sustainable energy industry to help turn the tides on climate change.  I also work on a research project at BU that is working to improve the efficiency in solar panels.


Q: Great pun, turning the tides on climate change. Are you also a writer?


Totally unintended. Writing is a major theme of my job as a tutor and student.  My professors are completely thrown off by my punctuation at times; I don’t think many other engineering students –that I know of, anyway–can successfully incorporate a semi-colon, hyphen, and comma into one sentence.  


Q: Speaking of hobbies, what passions take up your time away from your master’s program and tutoring and test prep in Acton?


I am sort of obsessed with watching, playing, and reading about sports of all kinds. I play golf, flag football, and softball. I also coach an 18-and-under AAU baseball team out of Medford. I have been coaching pretty much the same group of players since they were 15 years old; they’re a fun group, never a dull moment.


Q: You’re a glutton for punishment! We know you also have a love of travel. Can you share a bit about other foreign places where you have lived?


I studied abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland while in college. I was drawn there for a few reasons but mainly because one of my favorite people of all time, Charles Darwin, studied there. I thought, what better place to study science than where one of the greatest studied?! Scottish culture was just so much fun. People there are always joking, laughing, and looking to have a good time. Also, Edinburgh is still the most beautiful city I have ever visited.


I also volunteered for a summer to teach English to children living in an orphanage in Costa Rica. The saying in Costa Rica is “Pura Vida,” translating to “Pure Life,” and they truly live by that sentiment–in the moment–and value the small, wonderful things in life.


Q: Open Door tutors share a love of pets. Tell us just a bit about yours!


Although he is technically not “my” dog, I live with and help take care of a black lab named Riggins, so I just consider him mine. He has an obsession with toys and needs to take one on every walk just in case an opportunity to play arises.


Q: What is the best teaching experience you’ve had thus far?


I used to teach math and science in a juvenile detention center in Boston. These students HATED math, and wanted nothing to do with calculations, or anything even vaguely related to numbers. They loved sports, though, so I had the idea of incorporating fantasy sports in class to help them gain some comfort with math. It worked wonderfully. We did fantasy football, basketball, and baseball, and kept it going throughout the year. By the end of the year, there were far fewer groans and complaints about working through the algebra and geometry assignments. Every student passed his respective math course that year.


Q: What is the best thing that has happened in your life in the past year?


Four months ago I became an uncle for the first time when my sister and brother in law had a beautiful baby girl named Ella.  


Q: Congrats! Two more questions! What’s the best book you’ve recently read, and if you had to describe standardized testing using figurative language, what would you say?


I recently reread The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho; it’s my favorite book of all time and should be mandatory reading for everyone! And … succeeding on the SAT or ACT is like beating the final boss in a video game.  It is an arduous journey and you probably fail a number of times, but in the end, you learn from your mistakes, and use those to finally take down the test monster.


Many thanks to Paul for being our first interviewee! And, if there are aspects of our tutors’ biographies you’re curious to know, or students you think would make great Spotlight subjects, please let us know!
Paul Chiampa