Editor’s note: This instructor profile is part of a series profiling some of the best instructors 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 Zanze is a class advisor and primary instructor for Electronics Technician “A” School. He is also an Auxiliary Officer with Training Center Petaluma’s Police Department and part of the ET School’s Military Fundamentals and Professional Development Team.
Interview conducted by Lt. Erin Chlum
1. What made you decide to become an instructor?
During my time in the field, I often found myself giving on-the-job training to new technicians and passing information up the chain regarding equipment readiness. I enjoyed going into detail while explaining the functions of the equipment, and felt that instructing full-time would be a good fit for me.
2. What do you find most motivating or rewarding in your role as an instructor?
One of my biggest motivations is the desire to produce the best technicians possible to the fleet; people who can show up to their first unit as Electronics Technicians with the basic knowledge they need to be productive members of the team. It’s very rewarding to teach lessons and then see students perform well during the practical portion of the class.
3. What are some of the lessons you have learned from your students?
How to communicate effectively, especially with the students, is one of my biggest lessons learned. This goes both ways, so encouraging the students to speak up when they don’t understand something is as important as getting the information across in a manner that they understand easily. Each student has a different learning style; figuring out how to adapt to each style can make a big difference on how each student receives information.
4. Where do you want to go for your next assignment, and how will this tour as an instructor help you in your career?
I am considering several options for my next assignment. Specifically, my tour as an instructor has made me consider being a Company Commander at TRACEN Cape May. ET instructors can have an influence on the rate, and I hope that I have been able to make a positive impact on the type of technicians that are being sent into the fleet. It is encouraging to witness individuals come into ET “A” school and leave as developed technicians and professionals.
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.
A challenge I have faced is breaking down specialized terminology to language that the students can understand. The terms used when speaking to other technicians that are already familiar with what you are referring to does not always translate well to students who are unfamiliar with, and do not yet have an in-depth understanding of, the concept.
6. Describe some new or innovative methods or equipment you are using in the classroom.
ET “A” school employs visual, verbal, and kinesthetic training aids to accommodate the students’ various learning styles. Instructors verbally pass information that is also available via Powerpoint and student guides, and then the class spends time in a lab so the students can get their hands on the equipment they are learning about. Labs reinforce the information passed during lectures.
7. How do you ensure that you keep current, teaching students the most up-to-date information and skills they will need?
The curriculum improvement team is a group of instructors that take suggestions for updates to each class. If information is no longer relevant or accurate, instructors inform the improvement team and they will update the information so that classroom material is as accurate as possible.
8. Are there specific experiences, skills, or knowledge you have found helpful in this tour as an instructor?
Communication skills are definitely very important as an instructor to ensure that the information is easy for the students to understand. Fleet experience is very helpful, but not necessarily a requirement for the particular class an instructor will teach. Unfamiliar subjects are typically learned quickly with the help of other instructors in the class.
9. What would you say to someone who is considering a tour as an instructor?
I highly recommend a tour as an instructor! In addition to the job being fun and rewarding, each student brings a new set of challenges for the instructors, so the job always stays interesting.
10. Who do you think would make a great instructor? What would you say to encourage them to pursue assignment to an instructor billet?
I think a great instructor would be someone with a high level of patience, with a willingness to put in the work required to actually teach someone something they know nothing about, and who is approachable and understanding. I have greatly enjoyed my time as an instructor and feel that I have been able to accomplish a lot. Many people seem reluctant to come back to Petaluma as an instructor, but like any job, it is what you make it. TRACEN has given me many opportunities to improve as a technician and pursue avenues to grow professionally.