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Snapshot: Ray Irrera

Occupation: I’m a teacher at Wallace Middle School in Middlebury, for eighth grade social studies. Never a dull moment! But that’s part of the fun. I’ve been a teacher for 11 years. I started life out as an attorney. I’m a lot happier now.

Family: My mom, Ann, and dad, Ray, live in Queens, N.Y., but are in Belize right now. My dad is tarpon fishing. He’s an architect, and my mother is a retired school principal and my mentor. I have a sister, Theresa, who lives here in Newtown, and she has two kids.

Pets: I have two cats, Leia and Padmae. I’m a Star Wars fan. They rule the house and I freely admit they run things.

How long have you lived here? I’ve lived in Sandy Hook for 11 years. I lived in Queens before that, where I was born.

What do you like to do in your free time? I practice yoga and meditation. I love to fish and do a lot of lake fishing around here. I am a gardener and a big shutter bug. I’m a member of Flagpole Photographers. The photographers in that group, all I can say is, Wow! I also serve on the Board of Trustees of the C.H. Booth Library and I recently joined the Knights of Columbus at St Rose. My goal for next year is to become more active with them.

What is your favorite book? The last book I read was Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. It sent the message home about providing opportunities for kids and helping them find themselves. Never underestimate the value of field trips and extracurricular activities.

Do you have a favorite travel destination? I haven’t had the chance to travel much lately, but I would love to go to Italy and Sicily. It’s a trip that will happen, but not right away. The idea gives me an excuse to brush up on my Italian, though.

What is the best thing about Newtown? The best thing about Newtown is Newtown itself. There’s a certain sense of decorum and civility you just don’t find anywhere else. If you need to feng shui a place, Newtown is already “feng-shuied.” It is so gratifying, for instance, that people here don’t beep at you as soon as the light turns green.

Who has been the greatest influence in your life? My grandfather, James F. Pietrafesa. He was part of that generation that went from horse-drawn carriages to watching men walk on the moon. He was giving me life lessons when I was 10, 11, and 12 years old, and I wasn’t really aware of it. He taught me it’s important to be your own individual. As I got older, his wisdom would come through. He was one of the sharpest people I’ve ever met, and quite the character.

Do you have a personal philosophy? At some point in your life, you have to find a way to quiet your mind and learn to listen for your inner voice.

Do you have a guilty pleasure? It’s probably gardening, and being able to create the down time. I can get lost in the moment. And, ice cream at Ferris Acres Creamery.

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