Andalusia teacher experiences life aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt
Published 11:00 am Saturday, July 1, 2023
Andalusia Elementary School gifted teacher Barbara Peek participated in the Navy League Educators at Sea Program aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) off the coast of San Diego earlier this month.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt is the fourth Nimitz-class, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in the United States Navy. Peek first heard of the opportunity to attend the June trip from her father, who is a retired Naval aviator.
“My father volunteers as a docent at the Naval Aviation Museum at NAS Pensacola. Captain Thomas Pruter walked into the museum, and he and my father struck up a conversation. As soon as Capt. Pruter explained what he did with the Navy League, my father knew I would be interested. He gave Capt. Pruter my email address. When my dad called me to tell me, I was so excited. When I got the email, I responded immediately. Capt. Pruter had a few general health-related questions. He wanted to make sure I could handle all the walking and ladder climbing that would be required. Then it was just a matter of waiting until a trip was planned and seeing if I was available. I had to turn down a trip in March, but when asked if I was free in June, I thought it was the perfect time for a teacher,” Peek said.
She added that she thoroughly enjoyed her adventure and said it was an amazing experience.
“Two of the most exciting aspects of the trip were the ride on the Osprey to land on the aircraft carrier and being on the flight deck watching the F/A 18 Super Hornets (same aircraft flown by the Blue Angels) launch from the catapult. Seeing how the thousands of men and women worked together to make everything work so seamlessly was unbelievable. An aircraft carrier is a floating city with a population of 5,500 sailors and more when a squadron of pilots attached to it. Coordinating everything from meals and health care to launching, landing, maintaining, and parking airplanes is a monumental task, but everything ran seamlessly. Talking with the sailors on board was also eye opening. Many of the young men and women we spoke to were still teenagers. I think they said the two young ladies ‘at the wheel’ of the ship were 19 or 20 years old. Everyone we spoke to was so knowledgeable about jobs and well spoken.”
Peek’s father was a Naval aviator for 20 years, and her brother was a Navy pilot.
“I’m a Navy ‘brat’ and have a tremendous amount of respect for the military, not just for the sacrifices that the men and women make, but also the dedication and skill each person has in their given job. They are masters at their craft. Mechanics, flight deck crew, doctors, munitions specialists, pilots are all highly trained and knowledgeable. I knew this as I watched my dad and brother study, train, fly, and repeat. Seeing it all up close and in person gave me a whole new level of respect for the hard work our military men and women do day in and day out. They never rest because they never know when they will be needed. They must be ready,” she said.
During her trip, her group had questions for the executive officer on board.
“When we asked how they handled conflicts between people, he told us everything must go back to the mission and what course of action best serves the mission. He said when everyone focuses on that and puts their egos in check, conflicts tend to be resolved quickly. I think that’s a lesson we all could put to good use at home and at work. No matter what your age, education level, or interest, there is probably a job in the military for just about anyone who wished to take that path. A carrier is a floating city, one not much smaller than Andalusia. Any job needed to make a city work is also needed on an aircraft carrier.”
Peek would like to take the experiences from her trip and talk to other school administrators, counselors, and students,
“I hope to talk about my experience to let them know about the program and what the Navy has to offer our young people. In my classroom, my students often want to know how a certain skill or piece of information is useful in the real world. Every experience I have helps me answer that question, and my time on Theodore Roosevelt has given me many more examples to share. I also try to expose my students to job and career choices that aren’t ‘the norm.’ I try to broaden their horizons and expose them to vocations they might not immediately think of. Since we don’t live close to a Navy base, sometimes kids don’t think about taking that route.”
She now serves as the gifted specialist teacher at Andalusia Elementary School.
“My kids are, by far, the number-one best thing about what I do. Whether I was teaching in the regular classroom, a science lab, or the gifted classroom, that has always been the case. The thing that makes the gifted classroom different is that I get to have a student for three years. I get to see them grow, mature, and do things they never thought they would do. I really get to know them, and they get to know me. Teaching is all about making connections, and I get a unique opportunity in my room to make some very special connections with my kids. Thanks to living in a town like Andalusia, I get to keep in touch with them and see them grow up into wonderful young adults,” Peek said.
Educators interested in setting up a trip should contact Peek at email@example.com, and she will pass along their information to Capt. Pruter. More information about the Navy League Educators at Sea Program can be found at www.navyleague.org/who-we-are.