Guest Blogger: Jo Walters
In this monthly interview series, the 2015 Elite Instructor My PADI Challenge winners share their stories and the secrets to their success. Read on to see how Open Water Scuba Instructor Hannah Tannenbaum travels the world taking teenagers on liveaboard dive adventures for Broadreach College – and how she discovered one of the Caribbean’s most pristine dive sites alongside a rock in the middle of an eight hour sail!
Describe your inspiration to become a diver.
When I was 10 years old, I was on a vacation with my parents in Playa del Carmen when I saw a scuba demonstration in the pool. I tried it and discovered it was the coolest thing ever! I went on to become a PADI Jr. Open Water Diver at age 11.
Tell us about your decision to become a PADI Professional. What or who inspired you?
When I was 17, I had the opportunity to go to Egypt and complete the PADI Rescue Diver course in the Red Sea. This course taught me a valuable lesson about diving: that you can never stop learning and improving your skills. I also realized that becoming a PADI Professional could open my world to new places and to the most interesting and diverse group of people who share a common passion and speak a common language: the love of diving.
How do you think you’ve changed personally and professionally as you’ve moved up the ranks from Open Water to Elite Instructor?
As I have moved up to the ranks to become a PADI Elite Instructor, I gained confidence in my teaching ability and a greater sense of responsibility to my students. They inspire me to continue to refine my diving skills and work on being an effective Instructor – because every opportunity I have to teach a new diver is also an opportunity for me to become a better instructor.
What do you consider your greatest achievement in your diving career?
I am always inspired when see my student divers performing their skills underwater and recognize their beaming smiles beneath their regulators. But my greatest moments of achievement come when I get to guide others through meaningful life experiences. For example, I recently took a dozen students on a night dive in St. Vincent. I could see how much it meant to them to be doing this night dive – playing in the bioluminescence and getting excited about seeing the stars above us when we surfaced.
What is your next goal related to scuba diving?
I want to continue teaching young people: exposing them to a whole new world and inspiring them to take responsibility for the preservation of the ocean environment. I have only certified one Divemaster, so teaching more Divemasters would be a fun new challenge. I would also like to try tech diving – it would be an exciting and entirely new type of diving for me.
Everyone has a certain style of teaching. When you’re teaching someone to dive, what do you put the most emphasis on?
I place a high value on my students feeling safe, comfortable and confident underwater, so I emphasize building a rapport with my student divers and getting to know them so that they feel comfortable with me. Since I work for Broadreach, I mostly teach teenagers, so I concentrate on creating a safe environment, both physically and emotionally, where my students can tell me – or even better, I can see – if they start getting stressed out.
Did you have to overcome any fears, challenges or obstacles to get where you are now with your diving career?
Of course! My biggest challenge was my own confidence. However, the more courses and students I have taught, the more confidence I’ve gained, and the better instructor I’ve become. Also, I used to be terrified taking students on their first night dives. Now I am a Night Diver Specialty Instructor and I am so excited to show new student divers how awesome night diving can be!
Tell us what you enjoy most about teaching people to dive.
More than anything, I enjoy sharing my passion for the ocean and marine life. I also enjoy having the ability to expose people to something that can change their lives and take them all over the world.
Describe some of the encounters you have had along the way that inspire you to keep teaching.
Of course, not every student will have his life changed by learning to scuba dive, but the students who do inspire me. Sometimes I hear from former students that they have been on an exciting dive vacation, signed up for the next course or even completed the IDC (Instructor Development Course!) Knowing that I made an impact on their lives in such a positive and meaningful way inspires me to keep teaching.
What does diving give you that nothing else does?
Diving gives me peace. It is the ultimate escape for me, allowing me to relax, focus on my breath and enjoy the quiet. It is beautiful and engaging, but also humbling; whether I focus on the big picture or the minutiae like juvenile smooth trunkfish, it reminds me that I am a small part of this giant and beautiful world.
How has diving changed your life?
How hasn’t it changed my life?! I cannot imagine where I would be if I had never started diving, or if I had never found Broadreach. Diving has taken me all over the world, from Grenada to Indonesia, from St. Martin to Fiji…and who knows where diving may take me next? Through diving, I have made friends all over the world. Also, being a PADI Pro shaped my desire to reach additional professional goals, including studying environmental conservation in college and working as a program coordinator to organize marine science and professional diving programs through Broadreach.
Describe in a few sentences how you would convince a non-diver about why they should learn to dive?
Learning to dive is an opportunity to experience a world totally foreign to your own and explore ecosystems very few people ever get to experience. It reminds you that you are a small part of the much larger world. You can escape the stress and pressures of normal life and experience the pleasant pressure of the water all around you.
Walk me though your most memorable dive experience.
I’ve led the Broadreach Grenadines Advanced Scuba Voyage for the past two years. This is a 21 day live aboard program for 12 student divers at time. One of the coolest dives sites is Petit Canuaon – just a rock in the middle of an eight hour sail – where we can pop in for an awesome drift dive. I did this dive two years ago for the first time. As we descended, I was amazed to find giant beds of Elkhorn Coral, the likes of which I have never seen elsewhere in the world — not in Bali, Fiji nor anywhere! It was absolutely breathtaking, and I felt extremely fortunate to get to dive a site where so few people ever dive, on one of the most pristine reefs in the Caribbean.
What does ‘My PADI’ mean to you?
My PADI means that wherever I go in the world, whenever I am teaching the course, I have the knowledge and support of the largest and most reputable dive organization in the world behind me. My PADI means I have the ability to challenge myself and my students to become the best divers that we can be.