This article was written for my column in the St. Pauls Review in the summer of 2008:
When I first arrived in St. Pauls from South Florida for a teaching job in 2004, I turned to Maya (my 4 pound Chihuahua) and told her, “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.” Steve Gaskins, the then principal at St. Pauls High School, had told me that St. Pauls was “a bit like Mayberry.” I thought he was joking. But Mr. Gaskins was right, and there I was, in what could actually pass for Andy Griffith’s Mayberry.
I only stayed here for three months before returning to Florida. (Some of you will remember the ice storm of 2004 – that is the event that sent this South Florida girl scurrying back to the sun.) But St. Pauls had gotten into my blood and three months was enough time for me to fall in love with the town and my future husband. In March of this year I returned to St. Pauls to get married and make this town my home.
In the short time that I have been here I have met some extraordinary people. Who would have guessed that this tiny town holds such an incredible group of talented, dedicated, and caring people? I decided that I want to get to know as many of you as possible. What better time for us all to get to know one another than right now, in these months leading up to the Centennial anniversary of St. Pauls?
In this week’s column, I would like to introduce you to my husband, Enzo Silvestri, an Australian teacher who joined the St. Pauls community in 2004.
Visiting Australian teacher finds ‘home’ in St. Pauls, N.C.
When Enzo Silvestri, an Italian Australian, was approved by the Visiting International Faculty (VIF) organization to teach in the United States, he was given the choice of teaching at a middle school in S.C. or a high school in N.C. He chose the high school. Silvestri describes his first reaction to St. Pauls by saying, “It was exactly what I imagined hometown America to be like.”
Silvestri’s route to teaching took longer than most. After high school, he joined the Royal Australian Air Force and hoped to have a career in electrical engineering. His plans were cut short by a devastating car accident that left him in a coma for 34 days and in rehabilitation for months. After relearning how to walk, Silvestri found himself discharged from the Air Force and out of a job.
He spent the next years working various labor jobs, driving taxicabs in Brisbane, and traveling around the world. After traveling to Italy to visit his family, Silvestri decided he wanted to go to Israel for a few weeks.
“Those few weeks turned into a few years,” Silvestri says with a smile.
While in Israel, Silvestri added Hebrew to the list of four languages he can speak. Back in Australia, he earned a master’s degree in Linguistics. The turning point in Silvestri’s wandering career came when a friend asked him what he planned to do with his life.
“I was quite content to plod along driving cabs and writing my poems and novels,” Silvestri remembers telling her.
But the question nagged at him. He decided to take her advice and “have a go” at teaching. Since then, Silvestri has taught around the globe, charming students with his accent and quirky sense of humor in Australia, Korea, and the United States.
He bought a home in St. Pauls in 2006 and then reluctantly returned to Australia last summer. Silvestri returned to the U.S. this past March to marry Karen Hamilton, a teacher he met while they were both teaching at St. Pauls High in 2004. Asked his plans for the future, Silvestri says, “I am working on getting my PhD in Linguistics and writing another novel.”
Silvestri teaches History, English, and Italian. He is currently working on his third novel and a memoir detailing his adventures teaching in Korea and the United States. Silvestri’s novels – a fictional account of the book of Revelation and a Fantasy trilogy for youth readers– can be found at the St. Pauls library.
What is your favorite book? “Exodus by Leon Uris”
What was your most memorable moment? “Getting married.”
What do you think is the most important thing we need to teach our children? “To love God.”
Where is your favorite place to go in St. Pauls? “The Huddle House. They let me plug my laptop in at the table while I wrote my second novel – Thief in the Night.”