Guest Blogger: Jo Walters
The 2015 Elite Instructor My PADI Challenge winners share the secrets to their success in this monthly interview series. Read on to discover how Master Scuba Diver Trainer Jerry Lawson turned his fascination for the ocean into a flourishing professional diving career. Along the way, he met and married a fellow PADI Pro, found fulfillment in certifying young people and discovered that laughter is an excellent teacher – learning to dive should be fun!
Describe your inspiration to become a diver.
The ocean inspired me ever since I was a child. I loved watching Jacques Cousteau on television and reading articles about the ocean in National Geographic magazine.
Please talk about your decision to become a PADI Professional. What or who inspired you?
When I got my PADI Open Water Diver certification, I was so excited I wanted to proceed straight though all of the levels to become a PADI Pro, but I decided to wait a while. Unfortunately, that “while” turned into 20 years! Finally, as I approached retirement from the military, my PADI instructor, Master Scuba Diver Trainer Alex Bravo, encouraged me to proceed from Master Scuba Diver to PADI Professional.
How do you think you’ve changed personally and professionally as you’ve moved up the ranks from Open Water to Elite Instructor?
I am better at interacting with other people and at balancing teaching time with family time.
What do you consider your greatest achievement in your diving career?
I certified my step-son as a Junior Open Water Diver.
What is your next goal related to scuba diving?
I have so many goals, it’s hard to prioritize! However, my next professional goal is to become an IDC Staff Instructor – on my way to PADI Master Instructor. My next ‘just for fun’ goal is to start technical diving.
Everyone has a certain style of teaching. When you’re teaching someone to dive, what do you put the most emphasis on?
I put the most emphasis on the students having fun. After all, they are in class to do something fun. I try to keep them laughing; it eases their anxiety and promotes better skill retention.
Did you have to overcome any fears, challenges or obstacles to get where you are now with your diving career?
The Instructor Examination was a big challenge for me. I don’t test well and have a fear of failure.
Tell me what you enjoy most about teaching people to dive.
Seeing the students’ sense of accomplishment upon finishing their Open Water Diver certification is great. But it’s even better when I see them go out and dive on their own. Then I know that I have truly succeeded.
Describe some of the encounters you have had along the way that inspire you to keep teaching.
I’ve had many encounters that inspired me, but the most inspiring one was teaching my first Junior Open Water Diver course – watching the student divers progress through the training and finish the course was great. I had a lot of fun with that class!
What does diving give you that nothing else does?
I have never found an activity that gives me a deeper sense of relaxation than diving. To keep it that way, my dive buddies and I try to keep one day free for our ‘Zen’ dives, to de-stress from rest of the week.
How has diving changed your life?
Diving has changed my life in many ways. First and foremost, diving introduced me to my wife, PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer Maria Blanchard. Diving also led me to live a healthier lifestyle and take better care of myself.
Do you believe that you change others’ lives through diving?
Yes. I try to impart my own passion for diving when I teach and then I see that passion in my students as they progress through the ranks and – in some instances, “Go PRO” – become PADI Professionals!
Describe in a few sentences how you would convince a non-diver to learn to dive?
I would tell them how wonderful it is underwater. If they were still uncertain, I would suggest they try PADI Discover Scuba® Diving, so they could experience it without the time and financial investment of the PADI Open Water Diver course. I have had several folks who were uncertain go on to become open water divers after participating in the Discover Scuba Diving experience.
Walk me though your most memorable dive experience.
It was my first dive with my wife after we were married. Being able to dive together made it fun and special – and we had sharks. Sharks always make a great dive!
What does ‘My PADI’ mean to you?
To me, My PADI, means that we, as PADI Professionals ‘are’ PADI and in turn, PADI is ours.
Check back next month to follow along with us as we continue to share the insights of MY PADI Elite Instructor Challenge winners in this series.