Teacher Spotlight

 
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Debra Mallard

"This, my 7th year bringing students, will mark over 200 10- and 11-year-olds I've personally witnessed become forever changed by the O'Neill Sea Odyssey voyage."

We've asked Debra Mallard, one of O'Neill Sea Odyssey's teacher participants, to share her thoughts about her unique experience with the OSO program. Here's what she had to say...

Monterey Bay. From the land it is beautiful, but from the sea, gazing back to the shore, it is a totally new perspective, one of mountains melting into the Pacific Ocean's frigid blue waters. For so many of us, it might be a sight we take for granted, but for my 30-34 students, this view is so much more.

My own connection with the ocean is Wordsworthian. The ocean has always been my place of peace. This mysterious vast mass beyond the sand has held wonder and beauty since I was a kid traveling to Laguna Beach. The enormity of the world below the surface offers deep perspective in life. As a teacher for over twenty years, I seek to bring that feeling to my students. As part of my job, I teach my students to be good citizens of the earth. I feel Jack O'Neill has personally helped me achieve that goal via his legacy of the O'Neill Sea Odyssey program. It is a way to educate and influence children to be stewards of the ocean. What I appreciate most is that Jack and the Sea Odyssey team cater to all students, from all backgrounds, knowing each must learn to respect the environment.

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For the last six years, I've been fortunate to be a part of the OSO program as a 5th grade teacher at Radcliff and Ann Soldo Elementaries in Watsonville, CA. I've experienced this wonderful trip through the eyes of students who come from very low-income homes. For my students, their experiences in life may be limited due to economics. In fact, for 85% to 90% of my students, this trip is the very first time they have set foot on a boat. Their excitement is palpable. Though they live just 18 miles from the Santa Cruz Harbor, it may as well be a thousand miles away. But through the gift of this field trip, a whole new world opens to my students.

This, my 7th year bringing students, will mark over 200 10- and 11-year-olds I've personally witnessed become forever changed by the O'Neill Sea Odyssey voyage. Were it not for the generous donors, the cost of this adventure, along with the cost of a bus, would be unattainable. Though the scenery is gorgeous, I find myself concentrating on my students' faces as they light up while they lie on the catamaran netting and bounce over the swells. I see the ocean's power, its blossoming life, its perpetual resilience, and I know the ocean spray leaves lasting gifts in each of their hearts and minds.

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Thank you, Debra, for sharing your experience and your photographs. We are grateful and you're right, their excitement is palpable.