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O’Neill once stranded in Honduran jungle

Photo by AK Alilonu ’16 – Mr. O’Neill teaches math and enjoys mountain biking, sometimes biking three times a week.

By AK Alilonu ’16

Mr. Pete Burr ’07’s question from last edition’s “Teacher’s Pet”: In the 1995 film “Heavyweights,” who is your favorite character and why?
Of course, I don’t remember the 1995 film “Heavyweights,” but I do have to say that my favorite actor is Tom Selleck in “Magnum, P.I.” I kind of think I want to be like him; living in Hawaii, taking care of some millionaire’s mansion, and not really having a job.

Why would you want to live in Hawaii?
I’ve been to Hawaii probably seven or eight times. It’s always been fun. I’ve always enjoyed it. It’s got a great climate. It’s got swimming, biking, you know, weather good enough that I can do a lot of activities I enjoy.

What activities do you enjoy?
Most of what I’ve been doing for the last four or five years is mountain biking. I live about 10 minutes away from South Mountain and I’ve gotten to a point where I go out probably three times a week, maybe.

What did you do before you taught here?
I worked as a sales engineer and I sold solar electric power systems, and mostly I sold those overseas. We put systems up in the Philippines, Guam, Palau, we even put some systems up in Abu Dhabi, we’ve put systems up in Panama. All over the globe.

You had a story you told our class a while ago: You got shot at in the Philippines?
I did. That’s going to have to be a story for one night when we’re sitting up late drinking coffee.

What experiences do you have that don’t involve you getting shot at?
I’ve got quite a few fun exciting stories. I guess breaking down in the jungle of Honduras. I rented a Range Rover in Belize and drove into Honduras and we broke down hours from anywhere in the middle of the jungle. I hiked down the road and came across a dairy that was run by Mennonites. And these two Mennonite guys came and fixed the drivetrain and the Range Rover. They actually just fixed it so it worked in first gear, so we drove the rest of the way for the next four hours in first gear.

What drew you to teaching pre-calc to high school students?
I was traveling a lot. I was probably out of the country six or seven months out of the year, and my wife at the time told me that if I wanted to have kids, I would have to be in the country more. That and she was a teacher, and I wanted to help her with some of her classes and projects, and I kind of fell in love with teaching kids. I tripped into a math job and I’ve been in math ever since.

What is the cotangent of theta plus one?
The root of all evil.

What question would you like to ask the next person who is interviewed?
In the history of recorded time, what is your favorite era?