After listening to teachers Jason Perch and Dylan Shaughnessy repeat the safety protocols they had already preached for months, it’s easy to understand if they dream in scuba terminology.
Their every signal — tone of voice, body language, choice of words — conveyed safety to their second-year students who would earn their advanced PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) certificates.
Preparation for the open water dives — students must complete two to earn certification — begins the day before. Students meet with Perch and Shaughnessy to check equipment and review safety protocols.
And then on dive day at Haigh Quarry in Kankakee, they do it again.
“We need to make the students’ safety the first priority. We work very hard to make sure our students completely understand every step before, during, and after the dives,” said teacher Jason Perch.
Most students earned a basic PADI certificate, which allows them to dive to 33 feet. Students completing their second year of aquatics, a physical education elective for more than 10 years in District 218, received an advanced license for dives up to 140 feet.
The basic certification course teaches fundamental scuba (an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) knowledge, theory and safety — both in and out of the water. Aside from learning to dive safely, students gain an experience unlike any other in the aquatics course.
The advanced course includes skills such as tying a variety of knots, search and recovery diving, wreck diving, environmentalist diving, and other specialized dives.
Haigh, known as the “Caribbean of the Midwest,” offers a scenic vista for the dives. The owners do not allow boats, so the water remains crystal clear. It’s so pristine, in fact, that The Shedd Aquarium has allowed some of its stock of fish to live at Haigh from time to time.
Students who earned certificates this year included Christopher Abrand, John Alberts, Michael Albrecht, Kaitlyn Augle, Daniel Brooks, Joshua Buric, Tristan Busch, Samantha Crouch, Joseph Cullinan, Selvio DeAngeles, Kyle DeRoos, Rebecca Dunterman, Daniel Dusek, Raymond Dusek, Charlie Dziedzic, Madeline Dziedzic, Keenan Elliot, Erik Fields, Anthony Ganzer, Edgar Gonzalez, Alissa James, Emily Killeen, Keanu Klingensmith, Jordan Loman, Erin Lyons, Alexus Maravillas, Piotr Mazurek, Luis Mendez, Jonathan Miller, John Nagle, Julius Newman, Christian Reyes, Ryan Riley, Jake Rocchino, William Rybicki, Alex Schade, Scott Skulemowski, Jurita Stankute, James Steele, Joseph Walter, Betty Waters and and Michael Wilder-Lindsay