Mr Pacioni by Ashley Roberts

12th September 2014 at 01:00
The former Pussycat Doll's sports-mad elementary teacher turned every lesson into a game. But he made sure his students kept their eyes on the ball when it came to learning

Mr Pacioni taught me in 5th grade, so I must have been about 10. The school was Mercury Mine Elementary in Phoenix, Arizona.

Everyone wanted to be taught by Mr P. He was so enthusiastic, so fun. He loved the Phoenix Suns basketball team, and he taught us as you would imagine a coach teaching. He played games in class and we all tie-dyed our T-shirts purple and orange - the colours of the Phoenix Suns. He made school so exciting that we just wanted to learn.

We could tell, even at that age, that he absolutely loved his job and he loved the kids he taught. Isn't that funny: 10-year-olds can tell if someone's happy in their work. It shined through in his teaching; it was obvious.

Mr P wasn't just a riot in class, he was influential. I speak to him to this day on Facebook and I can't say that of any other teacher in my life. He was like our best buddy. If he was taking a PE class, he would go out on to the field and play with us, make us feel as if we were part of a crew rather than just having to learn.

He was the kind of teacher who, if he had to raise his voice, it would be like, "Woah! Mr P is getting serious. He means business. We've been out of line." It was like your best friend was mad at you - you took it very seriously and you wanted to make things right, fast. That's how discipline works. If you have that sort of respect, if the kids feel that way towards you, you don't need to scream at them.

Mr P is an all-round good guy. He was on our side and he's still on my side today. If I post a picture on Facebook of me on stage, he might comment: "I'm so proud of you, I knew you were a star." I'd go so far as to call him a role model. The most important thing I learned from him was a life lesson about being passionate about what you do - doing it to the fullest and enjoying it. That's the key.

It's so vital to have teachers like that at a young age, because you're like a sponge, soaking everything up. It wasn't all fun and games - we were learning at the same time. There was education going on. But Mr P taught in a way that made you want to learn. A creative, fun way.

When I got to high school, I just didn't feel like the love was there from the teachers. In fact, my history teacher in high school got fired, or he left or something, and they decided to get the security guard to come and teach us. I'm not joking. So he would come and teach us history, then we would break for lunch and he'd be walking around in his orange vest doing a security patrol. What's that all about?

But, Mr P? He was the man.

Ashley Roberts was talking to Tom Cullen. Roberts' new single Woman Up and her debut solo album Butterfly Effect are out now via Metropolis MusicPIAS

All dolled up

Ashley Roberts

Born 14 September 1981, Phoenix, Arizona, US

Education Mercury Mine Elementary School, Phoenix

Career Singer, songwriter, dancer, choreographer, actor and television personality. Former member of the Pussycat Dolls. Has appeared on I'm A Celebrity.Get Me Out Of Here! and as a judge on Dancing On Ice

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