Ocean City Today

Ocean City Beach Patrol employs teachers

By Kara Hallissey | May 25, 2017
The Ocean City Beach Patrol has dozens of teachers on its roster who help guard the 10 miles of beach in the resort including from left, Jamie Falcon, Josh Wilder and Rick Cawthern.

(May 26, 2017) Coinciding with Ocean City Beach Patrol members taking the stand for another summer season this weekend, Ocean City Today will have an ongoing series dedicated to showcasing the other jobs these lifesavers employ.

Having the summers off and working in a capacity where spreading knowledge is a daily occurrence, it makes sense the Ocean City Beach Patrol has dozens of teachers on its roster who help guard the 10 miles of beach in the resort.

“Beach patrol members learn these skill sets, bring them to the classroom, perfect them and then bring them back to the beach patrol,” said Ocean City Beach Patrol Lt. Ward Kovacs.

Sergent Jamie Falcon, 43, has been a member of the Ocean City Beach Patrol for 21 summers while also teaching economics at the University of Maryland Baltimore County for the last 12 years.

“I had been a Navy rescue summer before college and was majoring in business,” Falcon said. “I figured it was something I could do for one summer while putting off an internship.”

Along the way, Falcon realized he couldn’t find another profession quite like his Ocean City Beach Patrol experience.

“I realized what a difference I can make in people’s lives and I wasn’t going to find that appreciation elsewhere,” Falcon said. “It is a great opportunity to serve.”

Falcon, of Annapolis, has helped run competitions and events, facilitated a scholarship program and organized the annual lifeguard banquets.

“In doing these things, I have seen how uniquely wonderful the support we receive from local businesses is,” Falcon said.

In addition, Falcon organizes the Ocean City Beach Patrol’s Dive Team.

Currently, Falcon is an adjunct professor teaching three courses in economics to 120 students at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and looking for a tenure track. Last year, he received a doctorate in public policy and is working on his master’s degree.

In October, Falcon will present information about aquatic spinal injuries at the World Conference on Drowning Prevention in Vancouver, which was his dissertation topic last year.

Sergent Rick Cawthern, of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, will spend his 29th summer on the Ocean City Beach Patrol this year.

“I was working in Fenwick Island as a lifeguard and sat right next to the Ocean City guards,” Cawthern said. “I saw how good it was and life was better over the state line.”

In addition, Lt. Walter “Skip” Lee attended some competitions Cawthern was in and talked to the young lifeguards, which also encouraged Cawthern to join the team in Ocean City.

“[Being a lifeguard] becomes part of a lifestyle,” Cawthern said. “When I went to college for education, I knew I had summers off. It was a big motivator and I knew I had something to look forward to. Why not work on the beach in the summer?”

Cawthern, 48, received his degree from West Chester University in Pennsylvania before spending more than eight years teaching at Stephen Decatur High School.

The last five years, Cawthern has been a special education social studies teacher at Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes, Delaware.

Crew Chief Josh Wilder, 24, has been a part of the Ocean City Beach Patrol since he was 10 years old.

“All the guys have been a pivotal part of why I am here today,” Wilder said. “Sergent Colby Phillips always talked about beach patrol when I was growing up. Family and friends knew about the camp and my mom wanted me to have water safety knowledge at a young age.”

Wilder, of Ocean Pines, spent five summers participating in the Junior Beach Patrol Academy before he received the opportunity to become a junior instructor during camp at 15 years old, which is a paid position.

“I was a junior instructor a second time at 16 years old, which got me in shape and ready for beach patrol,” Wilder said.

At 17 years old, Wilder became an Ocean City surf rescue technician and this will be his eighth summer serving the resort.

“It’s a family I trust and I love all the people I work with,” Wilder said. “They have my back and I have theirs. I’ve spend half my life here. Its pretty much all I’ve known.”

As a young lifeguard, Wilder enjoyed making rescues the most, but as he has moved up the ranks to crew chief, he credits leading his team as the best part of working for the beach patrol.

“Having them look up to me and sharing my knowledge and experiences with them,” Wilder said.

In August, Wilder will begin teaching technology education to Stephen Decatur High School students. He is taking over the position for mentor, Larry Ryan, who is retiring and officially signed the contract a couple days ago. Wilder received his technology teaching degree from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

“He [Larry Ryan] is the reason I became a teacher,” Wilder said. “Having my summers free, the two jobs marry together well. It was a dream to come back and work [at Stephen Decatur]. Dreams really do come true.”

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