By Casey Hans
For Paul Test, four principles guide his life: Faith, family, friends and, not surprisingly, football.
Recently rehired as the head football coach at Pioneer High School, he balances that with his regular job as physical education teacher at Thurston Elementary School. Test said he enjoys students of all ages and loves teaching and molding young lives.
“I think what kids need to learn are structure and discipline. The kids want to connect and I like connecting with the kids,” he said.
A Youngstown, Ohio native, he grew up in a family with two older brothers and one younger sister. He attended parochial schools, graduating from Dearborn Divine Child High School and then attended the University of Pittsburgh. Football was an important part of his schooling throughout high school and college.
He majored in communications and Test originally thought he would go into broadcasting as a career, but didn’t take that route. Test got his teaching certificate and began teaching in parochial schools at about the same time he started as defensive coordinator under former Pioneer head coach Chuck Lori, where he spent 11 years sharing in the team’s two state titles in 1984 and 1987. He became the head coach at Pioneer in the early 1990s and also spent time in recent years coaching in the Huron High School program.
Between college and the start of his teaching career, Test worked as a chef in a Detroit restaurant, sold insurance and was a quality control supervisor at Ford Motor Co., but eventually left that post to pursue his dream of teaching kids.
When he moved to Ann Arbor in 1979, he began coaching at Pioneer while he taught at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School, eventually moving into the Ann Arbor Public Schools as a teacher in 1986.
The loss of his father at a young age strengthened Test’s faith, which has carried him through the many choices and changes in his life. He calls his life a “work in progress. We’re just passing through – we’re not getting out of here alive,” he notes. Test said his biggest challenge over the years has been knowing that he can’t control everything and “as a coach that’s hard.”
With that in mind, Test allows his faith to guide the way he lives his life, coaches his players and interacts with his students and colleagues. He said he emphasizes life skills, unselfishness, humility, integrity and a general humanity toward each another.
He implemented a peer-tutoring program in his physical education class at Thurston, where older students come in and work with the youngest ones. On one recent day, he had far too many older students lined up to help their younger peers. They all came to him with the same request: “Mr. Test, can I come in and help during my lunch hour?” Having too many students asking to help is not a bad problem to have, he said.
He was also part of a group, including Principal Pat Manley and “Mr. and Mrs. Smooth (also known as Calvin and Jackie Siebert) that started an all-school dinner dance four years ago to encourage the multi-cultural community of families to come and enjoy an evening together. Test encourages physical activities such as dance. “It’s lifelong, it’s rhythmic,” he said. “Anyone can do it. And it’s crossed some (cultural) barriers.”
Test and his wife, Pam, live in Ann Arbor and he met and married her through a twist of fate. He was friends with his wife’s first husband through their church and Pam wanted to set Test up with a friend – something her then-husband was not keen on. After Pam’s first husband died, Test said, they became friends and eventually married and added to the family. “I think it’s funny that my wife was going to set me up,” he said, smiling.
The couple has three grown children – son Michael and two daughters, Jennifer and Andrea. A new granddaughter, Vivian, was born last fall and Test said he is looking forward to meeting her soon.
Test accepted a state-level teacher retirement incentive last year, but filed for a one-year extension allowing him to work through the 2010-11 school year. So, although he will retire as a teacher, he will have plenty to keep him busy with the upcoming Pioneer football schedule.
He said he is excited to be back in the head coach’s role at Pioneer, where he knows many of the players from his time coaching in the freshman program. “My wife encouraged me to apply,” he said of his new opportunity. “To me, it’s all about the relationships. Her encouragement and knowing the players was the key thing for me.”
The team’s 2011-12 schedule, which includes Catholic powerhouses Warren De La Salle and Birmingham Brother Rice, takes him back on a personal note to the days he played in the league in high school. And De La Salle’s coach Paul Verska is a personal friend. “It is one of the toughest schedules we’ve had in years,” he said. “It’s challenging in a good way.”
Lorin Cartwright, Pioneer High School athletic director and assistant principal, said she expects it to be an exciting football season with Test at the helm.
“Paul brings to the program integrity, strong foundation of football, solid coaching techniques, excitement and love of the students,” she said. “Our athletes will be prepared to take on the best of the best football programs.”
She explained that Test likes to “two platoon,” meaning 22 different positions will be filled by 22 different players – so more athletes will see game time. “Paul will be tough but he will be compassionate with our players.” she added.
Test’s life philosophy boils down to a basic: “Just trust in God,” he said. “My whole life has been that way.” Test said he will enjoy the challenges of his new role this fall, but also relishes what might be just around the corner.
Casey Hans writes and edits this newsletter for the Ann Arbor Public Schools.
E-mail her at or call 734-994-2090.
Occupation: Physical education teacher at Thurston Elementary School and head football coach at Pioneer High School.
Residence: Ann Arbor.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of Pittsburgh, master’s degree in secondary education from Eastern Michigan University.
Family: Married to Pam. They have three children: Michael, Jennifer and Andrea and a new, 4-month-old granddaughter.
Hobbies: Likes to stay fit by walking and occasionally sprinting to keep his heart rate up. He is an avid reader.
Community service: Active in his church, St. Andrews in Saline, and in and around the football programs in Ann Arbor Public Schools.
Favorite meal: “I’m Italian, so, of course, I love Italian food,” he says. His signature dish is mezzogiorno, a dish made with whole-wheat rotini, Italian sausage, Romano cheese and his addition of sun-dried tomatoes and some rigata cheese for added texture.
Last book read: He reads Scripture daily and also loves mysteries. Some of his favorite authors include Michael Connelly, Nelson DeMille, David Baldacci and Dennis Lehane. He also enjoys the history genre.
Life philosophy: He says he tries to live his life being faithful and open to whatever comes in life and tries to instill a sense of humanity toward one another among his students and players. “Not everything goes as planned, but it goes as God planned,” he says.