Teacher Stories: Alex Stuci, 6th-8th Grade Science, Spring Lake Heights Elementary School
I teach middle school science and I am also a lifeguard at Avon by the Sea. Going from a bathing suit lifeguard on the beach to literally, dressing and acting the part of a professional: it takes a little while to get used to it. My kids think it’s exciting that I’m a lifeguard because they’re still at that age where lifeguards are cool for the most part. So, when they find out that their teacher is a lifeguard they think it’s very exciting and cool, and they ask me a ton of questions. It presents a unique opportunity for lessons. For example, a few years ago there was a situation where sand collapsed on an 8-year-old boy. He was playing in an 8-foot hole on the beach when the sand caved in on him and it took rescue crews to save him. I used that as an example of how earthquakes work. I always try to mesh what I have experienced with our lessons throughout the year as much as I can.
I have had a lot of experiences with the outdoors and nature. One summer while I was in college I was selected to study and get paid to do research for the US Forest Service in Yosemite National Park in California. That was an amazing experience. That was probably one of the scariest moments of my life, though, because I had never really been on an airplane and I was flying to California by myself to live with all of these strangers. It was basically like the show, The Real World, where they send a bunch of people to live in a house. Except we all lived in this cabin in the middle of the forest in California. I think there were 12 of us, and I had to share a bunk bed and room with all of these people that I didn’t know. And the entire time I was hiking and doing strenuous work, but it was so great. We would be studying forest fires, so we looked at the plants that would grow back after a forest fire. It was phenomenal. I wouldn’t change it for the world. But it was so scary jumping into that. I wasn’t even sure if I should do it. But it was a program I had to apply to, and I got accepted, and they needed to know in a week if I was coming out there. But I did it, and it was great. Now it’s my favorite place in the world. We’ve been back a couple of times since then. I want to take my mom there.
It’s interesting, because I was terrified of bears the entire time, which sounds crazy. We would hike off trail so we would basically go off into the middle of the woods, and we would see bears like a lot and I just never quite got over the fear of a bear possibly being right over my shoulder. It became too stressful, and it sort of caused me to shift my idea of working in the forest industry and eventually I became a science teacher here at the Shore. As a lifeguard, I can tell you that bears are definitely scarier than sharks.
Interview by Gregory Andrus
Portraits of the Jersey Shore