By Yvonne Hill
At the 2015 Annual Meeting in Jacksonville, Florida, in January, USPS honored five top volunteer instructors with the 2014 Charles F. Chapman Award for Excellence in Teaching.
These educators share several traits including a wealth of experience, a love of teaching, a dedication to their students and a desire to make the water a better place.
Each district can nominate one instructor for this award each year. A national committee selects the top five educators from this pool of nominees.
Each winner receives a plaque honoring the achievement, a four-year USPS-certified instructor card and a gold Chapman Award lapel pin. The winners’ squadrons receive a high-quality sextant in a presentation case engraved with the winner’s name and squadron. A permanent log of all winners and nominees resides in the USPS Memorial Library in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Please join us in congratulating these dedicated educators and honoring their service to USPS and boating education.
Lt Ronald J. Davidson, SN, of Poverty Bay Sail & Power Squadron/16, has 13 merit marks and has been a member for 14 years. After retiring from the U.S. Marine Corps, where he created the curriculum for an Instructor Training School, Ron taught college-level computer science for 20 years.
After teaching himself Junior Navigation, Ron volunteered to teach Navigation, simultaneously taking and teaching the class. Ron currently teaches Junior Navigation and Navigation, but he has also taught America’s Boating Course, Weather, Marine Electronics, Piloting and Advanced Piloting. He serves on the national Offshore Navigation and Inland Coastal Navigation committees and chairs the local board for advanced grades.
Using an informal teaching style to create a comfortable learning atmosphere, Ron takes a practical approach to the subject matter using real-world examples that meet the needs of all his students.
“He understands the subject material so well that he is able to explain key concepts from different points of view, using different examples, diagrams and teaching aids,” said Richard Rutkowski.
Patricia Foley, who has taught with Ron for six years, said Ron “provided extra information beyond what was available in the textbook and revisited topics with which students were having difficulty. His extra effort resulted in all students successfully completing the course and receiving the grade of N or SN.”
Fellow instructor Craig Brown said that Ron encourages students to expand their knowledge and improve their skills, adding that “his constant desire to better understand why, what and how himself rubs off on his students.”
Cdr William C. Eldridge, SN, of Palm Beach Sail & Power Squadron/8 has 49 merit marks and has been a member for 53 years.
A retired printing professional, Bill has taught America’s Boating Course for more than 10 years, graduating 1,263 ABC students in that time. He has also taught Piloting, Advanced Piloting and Cruise Planning.
A life-long boater, Bill has held a USCG 50 ton license, taught boat handling for the Chapman School of Seamanship and captained the Diva Duck amphibious excursion vessel.
“He made himself available to us at any time to answer questions about the course or anything boating related,” said Max Cohen, a former ABC student. “He encouraged me to join the squadron, which I promptly did.”
After joining, Max went on to take Seamanship, Piloting and Advanced Piloting, “all with Bill’s encouragement.”
Another ABC student, Jeremy Michael Witaszek echoed these sentiments and added that Bill “used the national material [and] also local charts and navigational information, which helped us understand our waterways and feel more comfortable on them.”
Tim Tiller, another student, said that Bill did a great job teaching all age groups in the ABC class.
“His passion and love of boating were apparent from the first few minutes,” said Tim. “Simply put, he made the class fun for everyone.”
Lt/C Wilbur G. Hugli, SN, of Fort Walton Sail & Power Squadron/15, has 23 merit marks and has been a member for 26 years. Hugli, a retired U.S. Air Force officer, teaches at the University of West Florida.
Wil teaches America’s Boating Course, Weather and Seamanship. He has also taught Sail, Junior Navigation and all seminars.
According to his squadron nomination, Wil has expanded his teaching methods to include online and on-the-water instruction, giving students hands-on experience in boating safely. He has also established many boating education partnerships in the area, including the continuation of Crestview High School’s boating safety curriculum, which has benefited more than 1,300 students.
When Fort Walton Yacht Club Education and Training Chair John Farris needed assistance developing a boating education curriculum, he chose Wil Hugli.
“He recommended that we focus on boating safety, then branch out from that foundation.”
John added that his club holds an ABC class monthly and that Wil helped him develop a training calendar and marketing materials. In addition to being a great instructor, Wil has become his mentor.
“He was always available to answer questions and would get back to us with an answer when he needed to do additional research,” said Richard Gercak, a student and fellow instructor, who added that Wil made learning fun and encouraged him to become an instructor and become more involved in the squadron.
Lt/C Gary E. Magnuson, JN, of Mid-Illini Sail & Power Squadron/20 has 37 merit marks and has been a member for 39 years.
Magnuson, a retired telecommunications applications engineer, teaches America’s Boating Course, Seamanship, Piloting and Advanced Piloting.
His squadron’s nomination cites his enthusiasm for teaching multiple classes each year, his ability to engage students and his unwavering commitment to having each student master the material. A firm believer in hands-on instruction, Gary gives students the opportunity to examine safety equipment, such as life jackets, vessel placards, rescue aids, visual and sound signals, anchors, and more.
Squadron Commander Gerry Christman tells people that the squadron has the “best boating training available given by the best instructor in the area.
“After they complete the class with Gary, students agree,” he said.
Initially reluctant to take the class, student Debra Yeagle passed Piloting and wants to take more classes with Gary.
“He was never too busy to let us ask questions and showed us various ways to find the answers,” Debra said. “His great sense of humor and love of all things nautical was truly contagious to me.”
Randy Dempsy, who has taken four classes with Gary, said, “He goes the extra mile to bring to the classroom easily understandable props that illustrate clearly what he is trying to get across to his students.”
Many students talked about Gary’s enthusiasm for teaching as well as his respect for and commitment to his students.
“His knowledge was unquestionable, but he never made anyone feel less smart because they didn’t have the years of experience he had. He really wanted people to learn and know more so they could enjoy boating more and be safer on the water,” said student Richard Langlois.
Lt David P. Whiting, SN, of Wawenock Sail & Power Squadron/19 has 30 merit marks and has been a member for 37 years.
A retired naval architect, David teaches Piloting, Inland Navigator Boat Operator Certification, Seamanship, Practical On-the-Water Training and several seminars.
His squadron nomination calls him the squadron’s go-to person for course resources and development. His knowledge and experience make him an “excellent instructor for both newcomers and seasoned hands.”
According to his nomination, “he excels in a style of teaching for self-learning that engages the student’s interest in safe boating and boat handling, nautical tradition and practical application. The theoretical is not lost in his teaching; it is woven into the body of the material with hands-on mentoring and illustrations.”
Squadron Cdr William Wood described David’s contributions: “His ability to teach at all levels, his versatility in many topics and types of programs, have been some of his contributions to our squadron’s revitalization. His fascination with everything nautical keeps his teaching fresh and alive.”
Peter Asquith, who took more than five courses with Dave and has taught with him as well, said, “Dave took time to understand the scope of each student’s experience and addressed concerns and areas of interest to class members. He presented examples of past situations that clearly demonstrated the need for the rules and principles taught. He shared personal experiences from his extensive background in offshore racing and boating.”
Student George Apgar said Dave likes to show and tell. “For instance, in the Sail class, Dave brought in Laser sails to help us understand the ways sail shapes can be changed and the effects of those changes.
“Dave gets right into the mechanics of the topic at hand” by bringing all the necessary tools and teaching aids, George said. “He will patiently explain a difficult point, coming at the topic in a variety of ways until the student gets it.”
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