By Jim Gunderson
Who is Scuba Educators International?
Worldwide, there are literally hundreds of scuba training agencies. Some of them are very small, perhaps only two or three members. Others have dozens of employees. Some have been around for decades, others, perhaps a few months. Most of them are not members of the World Recreational Scuba Training Counsel (WRSTC) or their affiliates of the various Recreational Scuba Training Counsel(s) (RSTC).
One of the agencies, and a member of the RSTC, is Scuba Educators International (SEI). In order to trace the origins of Scuba Educators International, we must go back to 1954. Shortly following World War II, a wide interest in skin and SCUBA diving developed in the United States. Small independent groups of divers sprang up in organized clubs all over the country. Dive training was incredibly varied in length and intensity, with a lack of standardization.
In 1954, a group of YMCA, Red Cross, and National Academy of Sciences experts encouraged the Council for National Cooperation in Aquatics (CNCA) to take a look at the safety aspect of this engaging and rapidly growing activity.
The material was outlined to produce capable and confident students of this new underwater sport. Through the winter of 1954-1955, a test course was directed by Bernard E. Empleton. The YMCA, through Mr. Empleton, then developed its own course of instruction and, in 1959, began certifying the first YMCA SCUBA diving instructors.
In 1969, the Professional Diving Instructors College, or PDIC, was formed by Ed & Ruth Brawley in Monterey, California. This was the first SCUBA instructors’ college in the United States. PDIC trained and certified thousands of divers and instructors over the years and was a founding member of the Recreational Scuba Training Council (RSTC). From its beginnings in the United States, PDIC expanded into over 35 countries worldwide!
As the YMCA program approached its 50th year, the YMCA of the USA made a decision to sunset the program, thus ending the involvement of the YMCA in SCUBA education.
After the announcement in 2008, former YMCA SCUBA instructors Ken Nemeth, Dan Marelli, and Tom Leaird made a decision to begin a new agency with no connection to the YMCA but continuing with the spirit of its high education standards. Tom Leaird led the creation of Scuba Educators International (SEI) to uphold this tradition of excellence, and a new agency was born.
PDIC was purchased in 2011 by Scuba Educators International, and they have continued as one company ever since. SCUBA Educators still uphold the same dedication to quality SCUBA training that it has for over 60 years and continues as a member of the RSTC.
Today, SCUBA Educators thrives under the leadership of Ben Brown, with Tom Leaird serving as the director of education. In May of 2023, Jim Gunderson joined the leadership team as the Vice President of Training and Curriculum Development. As of September 2023, Jim has become the President and looks forward to leading the agency in teaching a new generation of divers and leaders the joys of safely visiting the underwater world as life-long divers. The legacy of our comprehensive, instructor-led education remains at the core of our values.
Instructor-led education – This is a fundamental core value for Instructors associated with Scuba Educators International. While there is nothing inherently wrong about e-learning (in fact, there are many benefits), there are those agencies and instructors that use e-learning as the preferred and sometimes only method to convey academic information. E-learning has its function but cannot replace the value of face-to-face time between the instructor and the students. After all, we are scuba educators! Instructors with Scuba Educators leverage this face-to-face time towards the betterment of their students.
As any experienced instructor will tell you, each student has their own best way of learning. That same instructor will also tell you it takes some students longer than others to not only perform a given skill properly one time but sometimes even longer to become proficient at that skill. Instructors and shops with Scuba Educators International are encouraged to adapt their teaching style and methodology to best meet the students’ needs and how they learn. Not only adjusting their teaching style but taking the time needed to help and allow the student to become proficient with a given skill or overall course.
Scuba Educators International prides itself on being educators. SEI Instructors spend quality time in the classroom, confined water, and open water to train not just the one-time-bucket-list or only-on-vacation diver but rather to create a diver who has a life-long passion for the sport. It is important for the health and longevity of this industry, that we create life-long divers. And, as any successful dive shop owner will tell you, the life-long divers dive more, take more classes, buy more gear and help promote this wonderful activity to their family and friends.
If you want to become part of a scuba training agency with high-quality standards, does not get in the way of your day-to-day operations, doesn’t have a lot of drama, is growing, and thrives on educating rather than facilitating, we’d love to have you.
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