Editor’s note: This instructor profile is part of a series profiling some of the best instructors and company commanders within the FORCECOM enterprise. Force Readiness Command will be featuring outstanding instructors regularly who go above and beyond to help shape the future of the Coast Guard. Petty Officer Mathis is an instructor at TRACEN Cape May who was recently selected as Training Center Cape May’s enlisted person of the quarter.
Interview conducted by Lt. Donnie Brzuska.
1. What made you decide to become an instructor?
I went through Company Commander School in 2010, but it didn’t work out. While I was in CC school, I realized my real passion was teaching and instructing, so the command permitted me to be stationed here as an instructor.
2. What do you find most motivating or rewarding in your role as an instructor?
When I see the recruits’ faces and can tell that they are listening and they understand what I’m teaching. It’s both rewarding and motivating to know I’m shaping the future of America’s Coast Guard.
3. What are some of the lessons you have learned from your students?
They’ve taught me that everyone has a desire to learn if given the right level of attention and right approach. Therefore, I tailor my methods to make the classroom interesting and to generate as many questions as possible.
4. Where do you want to go for your next assignment, and how will this tour as an instructor help you in your career?
Teaching has drastically improved my public speaking skills. This will help when I need to give operations and intelligence briefs and while interacting with members of the community during high-stress situations. My teaching schedule has also allowed me to become heavily involved in Worklife as a Victim Advocate, CISM and ASIST team member. The Worklife training would have been unavailable had I been part of a 12-hour watch schedule. I’m looking forward to any Sector in a metro area where I can put more of those Worklife skills to use.
5. Share a memorable anecdote or “sea story” from your time as an instructor…or, describe the most significant challenge you have overcome as an instructor.
The most significant challenge I’ve had to overcome is trying to incorporate my personality and sense of humor into the Personal Finance class. A very common societal view is that finances are boring, and no one really wants to have to deal with making a budget; much less stick to it. I’ve worked to make the class interesting by enthusiastically explaining the value of compound interest and the potential for being a millionaire when you are 65. That’s not bad for an OS I think.
6. Describe some new or innovative methods or equipment you are using in the classroom.
I keep my lesson plans on my iPad which enables me to walk around the classroom and appears more professional. Also, I can more easily access and update material electronically if needed.
7. How do you ensure that you keep current, teaching students the most up-to-date information and skills they will need?
You stay up to date by consistently keeping an eye out for updates and doing research. For the past six months, I’ve been a subject-matter expert for Advancements and Personal Finance. For the Advancements instruction, the subject matter has changed drastically due to the new RPQs and RATs. For personal finance, I’ve continued to research advice from the financial gurus like Suze Orman, David Bach and Clark Howard.
8. Are there specific experiences, skills, or knowledge you have found helpful in this tour as an instructor?
My experiences as a watchstander on the Coast Guard Cutter Gallatin and at Sector San Juan, Puerto Rico, have helped because I have sea stories from Gallatin that help get the recruits attention in Career Counseling and Enlisted Careers. Also, I coordinated search and rescue and law enforcement cases at Sector San Juan which make for good examples of what operations specialists do on daily basis. Also, my experience in the Worklife programs has helped because I can understand the stress that new members may experience when they report to a new unit. Also, I understand the toll that an intense SAR case can have on a boat crew. My passion and knowledge for saving and investing has helped improve the Personal Finance class.
9. What would you say to someone who is considering a tour as an instructor?
Your career experience will help you become a better instructor and the recruits will benefit. Your experience as an instructor will help you become a better supervisor regardless of your career path.
10. Who do you think would make a great instructor? What would you say to encourage them to pursue assignment to an instructor billet?
Enthusiasm and passion – Do it. An instructor tour will be what you make of it, and if you make it great, you won’t regret it.