2007.01.14: January 14, 2007: Headlines: COS - Poland: Navy: Military: Education: Psychology: Santa Cruz Sentinel: Poland RPCV Jann McCord sees world from aboard Navy ship

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Poland: Peace Corps Poland : The Peace Corps in Poland: 2007.01.14: January 14, 2007: Headlines: COS - Poland: Navy: Military: Education: Psychology: Santa Cruz Sentinel: Poland RPCV Jann McCord sees world from aboard Navy ship

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Poland RPCV Jann McCord sees world from aboard Navy ship

Poland RPCV Jann McCord sees world from aboard Navy ship

Raised in Berkeley, McCord, now in her 70s, graduated from UC Irvine, earned a master's so she could be a marriage and family counseler and went on to receive a doctorate in psychology from United States International University. She later joined the Peace Corps, but in 1996 had to unexpectedly leave her post in Poland due to a severe jaw infection. She soon found herself in Santa Cruz, where her daughter lives. Each summer, she climbs aboard a U.S. Naval ship where she teaches psychology classes to sailors during an accelerated two-month semester. She began teaching the college-level courses in 2001, and has since taught aboard ships everywhere from Virginia to the Persian Gulf. Traveling is a central part of her life, and teaching for Texas Central College, which has a contract with the U.S. Navy, allows her to see places she otherwise never would. "As soon as I come home, I start planning my next trip," said the mother of three and grandmother of two. A psychotherapist with more than 20 years experience, she said the sailors are model students. Classes are completely voluntary, and students attend because they truly want to learn, said McCord, who's also taught for such institutions as Sacramento's Chapman College and the University for Professional Studies in Southern California.

Poland RPCV Jann McCord sees world from aboard Navy ship

A sailor's life for me: Teacher sees world from aboard Navy ship

By Justine DaCosta
Sentinel correspondent

Caption: USS Abraham Lincoln

Floating in a ship miles from land, Jann McCord's classroom is far from conventional.

Each summer, she climbs aboard a U.S. Naval ship where she teaches psychology classes to sailors during an accelerated two-month semester. She began teaching the college-level courses in 2001, and has since taught aboard ships everywhere from Virginia to the Persian Gulf.

She said that while each trip's an adventure, some experiences are more memorable than others. This includes braving the wrath of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 while continuing to teach at the port.

"We just sat up there ... and watched it roll by," she said.

When the semester's complete, helicopters come and pick up the instructors from the ship. The back of these helicopters are often bottomless, she said.

"You look down and see the ocean," she said.

At the end of her first semester, she and the other instructors were picked up from the USS Abraham Lincoln and dropped off in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere with no instructions or transportation. Luckily, one of her fellow teachers had been through this before, and quickly hired a driver to take them to the airport.

"We were in the middle of Saudi Arabia somewhere," she said. "It was quite an adventure"

Raised in Berkeley, McCord, now in her 70s, graduated from UC Irvine, earned a master's so she could be a marriage and family counseler and went on to receive a doctorate in psychology from United States International University. She later joined the Peace Corps, but in 1996 had to unexpectedly leave her post in Poland due to a severe jaw infection. She soon found herself in Santa Cruz, where her daughter lives.

Traveling is a central part of her life, and teaching for Texas Central College, which has a contract with the U.S. Navy, allows her to see places she otherwise never would.

"As soon as I come home, I start planning my next trip," said the mother of three and grandmother of two.

A psychotherapist with more than 20 years experience, she said the sailors are model students. Classes are completely voluntary, and students attend because they truly want to learn, said McCord, who's also taught for such institutions as Sacramento's Chapman College and the University for Professional Studies in Southern California.

"These are people who were really dedicated to their education," she said.

A variety of instructor-led general education classes are offered on the ships, including math, English and sociology. McCord said her students are responsive to the material she teaches, and often open up to her about their personal experiences.

"They'd sit around on the floor, and we'd have conversations after class," she said. "It's a teacher's dream"

She said she's encountered many "disturbed young people" who are struggling to deal with the stresses of leaving their families behind while out at sea.

"It's a very different life," she said.

Many of the sailors are straight out of high school and confused about how to deal with this new reality, she said.

"Most of them signed up because they couldn't get jobs at home, and they wanted a free education," she said. "They work very hard at this"

Females are hard to find on the ships, and out of the several hundred sailors on her last voyage, only 16 were women, she said.

"Very few women are willing to go to sea," she said. "I've always been the only woman instructor"

The worst part of going to sea, she said, would have to be the noise. The ship's engines are always going, and bells and phones seem to constantly be ringing, she said.

"I thought for sure it affected my hearing," she said.

Helicopters also land on the boat, which shakes the entire vessel.

"The whole ship shudders," she said.

Susan Barrett is the site manager for the Navy Pacific Pace Operations Central Texas College in Bremerton, Wash. She said the goal of the program is to provide sailors with the best education possible.

"Our job is to give college work as they would receive it on campus," she said. "A warship is not exactly a campus, rising trees in the shining sun"

Instructors sometimes have to be creative and open to improvisation. For example, in lieu of a chalkboard or whiteboard, teachers are equipped with a slick white plastic sheet they can attach to the bulkhead and write on.

"On a Navy ship, equipment's a little bit of a challenge," she said. "Instructors adapt"¦ It still demonstrates the show will go on, the class will go on"

Through the contract, instructors from Central Texas College teach freshmen and sophomore classes, while instructors from Missouri's Columbia College teach upper division courses. Instructors come from all different backgrounds, and many have no military training.

"We have people from all walks of life," she said. "I have yet to see a trend except for self-sufficiency"

Barrett, who served eight years in the Air Force and 20 years in the Reserves, said the sailors have to work toward their academic goals to discover that academia is really an avenue to one's self.

"They're better when they go out than when they come in, from an educator's point of view," she said, about how the soldiers see themselves after going through the educational process.

Butch Carlos, Education Services Specialist for the Navy College in San Diego, knows first-hand the importance education plays in the military.

Before retiring from the Navy, he took classes while out at sea. He said keeping up with coursework can create a juggling act when added to a sailor's military responsibilities.

"It's tough," he said. "You have other duties you have to perform"

Navy College offers about 165 computer-based courses which are CD, not Internet-based, and 80 instructor-led courses each semester, most of which are transferable to other colleges. He said it can be hard for sailors to separate their personal and professional lives, and succeed in academia at the same time.

"You're limited to that environment on board the ship," he said. "They want to better themselves"

Instructors push their students and challenge them with new ideas, he said.

"They're motivating them," he said. "They're giving them a different outlook in life"

The Navy pays for tuition, but students pay for their own books and materials. Carlos said this helps motivate the sailors because they're actually investing in their own education.

"It's really not free you have to work for it," he said.

While some of the instructors have military backgrounds, many are new to the environment.

"They have to adjust, along with the sailors, and they both work toward one goal," he said.

For McCord, spending a couple of months hundreds of miles out to sea is an adventure as well as an opportunity to get to know the men and women who are serving in the U.S. Military. A sailor's life is not an easy one, she said.

"I think they would like appreciation," she said. "They would like people to know they're giving up a lot"

Contact Justine DaCosta at atsvreeken@santacruzsentinel.com.




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