By Iuliana Petre
Killeen Daily Herald
It's no surprise that Central Texas College has a tough time locating instructors to teach college-level courses onboard Navy ships.
After all, few people voluntarily deploy.
However, that was not the case for Dr. Kenneth Word, the mathematics department chair at CTC. Word volunteered to teach classes onboard the USS Ronald Reagan this summer.
Working in less than ideal conditions, Word instructed more than 60 students in academic skills mathematics, college algebra and intermediate algebra. He also led three correspondence courses.
The perk for Word was he taught on the same ship on which his stepson, Tyson Williams, was stationed.
No stranger to teaching in a military setting, Word previously taught soldiers on Fort Hood, so instructing onboard the USS Ronald Reagan wasn't completely new to him.
"I didn't have to do too much adjusting," Word said, adding that from his previous experience instructing soldiers on Fort Hood, he recognizes that military students want to better themselves through education.
But, life onboard a ship was slightly different from former teaching conditions.
Word logged long hours, teaching every day except Sundays, with his days usually running from noon until 10 p.m. Although not all of that time was spent teaching classes, a lot of it was spent tutoring his students and providing them with extra support.
And onboard the ship, Word was more than an instructor; he was the registrar and bookstore as well. During the first three days of class, students came to him to purchase books and sign up for the lectures.
Lacking air conditioning, the classrooms were often hot and uncomfortable. And located directly beneath the aircraft carriers' flight deck, classes were often noisy as well.
Sixty-ton aircraft were launched from the flight deck by means of a catapult, which is three-and-a-half football fields in length. With 90 planes on board, the Navy can launch one airplane every 30 seconds and recover one every 60 seconds, Word said.
But because his students are sailors first, classes often were disrupted by regular drills, which required the sailors to take their places in their assigned areas of responsibility.
Despite the hardships of working more than 20-hour days at times, all of Word's students passed their classes. No one scored less than a "C," Word said, adding, "and I don't give away those grades."
The qualifications and standards for the classes onboard a ship are the same as what CTC expects for their educators on the Central Texas campus, said Jim Yeonopolus, deputy chancellor and dean of the Navy campus.
When the ship docked in Hong Kong, Word and his stepson, Williams, toured Lantau Island and Victoria's Peak and shopped in Stanley Market.
But, the most exciting part was the catapult launch off the ship to catch the flight home, Word said.