Giving back to his local community comes full circle
Some folks have the opportunity to see what they have given back to their community come full circle during their lifetime.
Jerry Pimentel is one of those folks, with a full career in both teaching and volunteering. He served as an elementary and middle school instructor, volunteered as a referee, coach and in many other capacities in the Crook County School District over the years. Many students, young and old, remember him coming to their classroom as Dr. Seuss's Cat in the Hat.
Pimentel specifically taught fourth and sixth grade for CCSD, retiring as a teacher after 30 years. One of his other roles was as scorekeeper for Crook County middle and high school football — giving of his time for 30 years. This was Pimentel's last season.
"Thirty years is a long time," he added. "The stands kept getting steeper each years —steeper and longer. It took me longer to get to the top."
Pimentel has been an avid fan and supporter of sports events as well, and he and wife, Deanna, are often at games — even if he isn't volunteering. Many of his students noticed, including several alumni. Crook County School Board member Doug Smith was also at Crooked River Grade School when Pimentel was a teacher at the school. He was the coach for flag football and other sports activities.
"I have always thought of him as a positive person," Doug said.
Doug recalls the many roles that Pimentel filled through the years. He remembers when Pimentel was writing a sports column for the Central Oregonian. Doug enjoyed his creative writing and the fact that he was always positive.
More importantly, Doug said, Pimentel was always there for his kids when they were in middle and high school. When his son, Zac Smith, was in college, Pimentel and his wife went to watch him at one of his games on their own accord.
"They have been very important. I always felt Jerry was there when I needed help," added Doug.
He concluded with a story back when Mike Shinkle was coaching, and his son was a seventh grader. Shinkle always encouraged them to "thank those people that help — thank them after the game."
Zac shook Pimentel's hand and thanked him.
"Jerry never forgot that," Doug said emphatically. "That's why it is important to have people help raise your kids, besides yourself. When I look at Jerry's time that he has donated to our kids — it's absolutely amazing."
Pimentel began keeping scores for the middle school football team the same time that former CCMS teacher Les Parker did.
"Les Parker and I were teaching in fourth grade, and I'm not sure why we got started," Pimentel said. "But then he took a year sabbatical, and he went to Portugal to teach for a year. So I kept doing it."
He said he met a lot of interesting kids, parents and grandparents. He has enjoyed running into students many years later and hearing about their lives. He volunteered in a variety of classes after retirement, playing one of his favorite roles, Dr. Seuss's "Cat in the Hat." Many students, including alumni, remember his visits to elementary classes in this role. He added that he was able to get to know some of the students better in those classes.
Rob Bonner, CCHS assistant principal and athletic director, said that Pimentel had been a staple in the community since before he arrived in 1999.
"I have relied heavily on Jerry as a clock operator at middle and high school football games," said Bonner. "He has always been willing to volunteer, and I greatly appreciate the thousands of hours he has given this district."
He added that Pimentel will be very hard to replace, not because of the volume of time he has given the district, but because of the care and love he shows to the young people of Crook County.
"Both of my boys have been fortunate enough to sit and listen to Jerry on Dr. Seuss Day, or while he was volunteering to be a guest reader to elementary students," said Bonner. "Through these reading sessions, Jerry was able to form bonds that extend far beyond the classroom. Every time I see Jerry in the stands at a sporting event, I see ex-students of all ages reach out to say hello and greet him with a handshake or hug."
Over those 30 years, Pimentel has seen a lot of changes.
"People and young adults have become more sophisticated," he indicated. "Back in the '40s and '50s, the big problem was chewing gum. I'm sure there are a whole lot of people who would trade that problem for some of the ones we have now."
He also made some observations about players during his last football season as a scorekeeper.
"When they were coming off the field, I would talk to them," said Pimentel. "They were still cheerful and polite."
He noticed this of both middle school and junior varsity players. He mentioned this to Kurt Sloper, Crook County Middle School Principal.
"(Sloper) said, 'We have been doing that on purpose. We would like the kids to be helpful and polite, and cheerful."'
Pimentel was excited to hear about Character Strong training and was adamant about mentioning that he saw the results of the program in the students and staff wherever he went in the district.
Pimentel was always happy to serve in the role of scorekeeper, ensuring that the fans could focus on watching the game and their favorite players.
"Parents and grandparents can come and enjoy watching their kids play and don't have to worry about getting drafted for a chain gang or to run a clock," Pimentel said.
He added that there are a lot of things going on at the same time when running the clock, including keeping up with the referees. When asked how many coaches he has followed over the years, he responded, "Just a lot."
He was especially impressed by Joe Becker, Brian Bishop and Marcos Villagomez. "They are all people who went to school here. I was really impressed by how they worked with these two groups of kids," he said, referring to the middle school and JV football teams.
Pimentel requested to have his photo taken with the teams on picture day. When he arrived, he discovered all the students and staff knew he were coming.
He proudly displayed a framed photo of the teams that the middle school office had prepared for him, including his photo with the two teams he had worked with that season.
Stacy Smith, director of curriculum and instruction at CCSD, has known Pimentel since he was a young athlete himself.
"Jerry has been a servant leader for the district for many, many years," Smith said. "He was a sixth grade teacher at Crooked River Elementary and ran the after-school sports program when I was a young boy."
He added that for the young boys and girls who loved sports like he did when he was younger, Pimentel was an important man.
"I remember him coaching football, basketball and track," Smith recalled. "Later, when I grew up and became an educator, he was tremendously supportive. He always was there to give a helping hand — be it running the score clocks or celebrating Dr. Seuss Day. He also worked as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA.
"I think Jerry Pimentel is the epitome of a servant leader and is a good role model for others. I am sorry to hear that he is 'retiring.' I hope we still see his friendly face around school and community activities."
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