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Adds New Dimension to History Lessons : Sailor Does Hitch as Junior High Aide

February 25, 1988|KATHARINE SCHMIDT | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jerry D. Fausett once wanted to be a history teacher. For the past two months, he has been partially fulfilling that old yearning as a volunteer in a seventh-grade class at Stephens Junior High School here.

He enjoys his work with the students so much, he said, that when the time came for him to decide where to hold the ceremony for his reenlistment, his wife suggested that he do it in the classroom.

So it was that a delegation of Navy officers in crisp blue uniforms visited an American history class at Stephens Friday morning.

"This day is a big day for me," Fausett told the class moments before taking his oath of reenlistment. "You remember last year was the bicentennial of the Constitution. Well, our job is to defend the Constitution."

The students, half of whose parents had come from abroad, sat quietly through the ceremony. Fausett's immediate superior on the guided missile cruiser Leahy, Lt. Dewey McCullough, conducted the ceremony while the ship's commanding officer, the chaplain, Michelle Fausett and several of Fausett's shipmates stood by.

The enlistee received papers discharging him from his four-year term of service and swore once again to uphold the Constitution and obey his commanding officers. After the oath, his wife received a certificate of appreciation for her support, and an $8,000 check for half of Fausett's reenlistment bonus; the rest will come at the end of his new term of service.

Fausett, 30, is one of 12 officers and enlisted men on the Leahy who are participating in a partnership program with Stephens Junior High while their ship is dry-docked for renovation.

Capt. James R. Stark initiated contact between his ship and the Long Beach Unified School District shortly after the Leahy arrived in Long Beach last summer. Since then, crew members have tutored students, talked to classes about life in the Navy and career choices and even chaperoned dances at Stephens.

Fausett was assigned to Joe Sackett's second- and third-period history classes. He takes time out of his Monday mornings, he says, because he gets "a kick out of it."

Chaplain Kenneth Puccio said: "It's good for the sailors--they feel the kids look up to them."

The time Fausett spends in the classroom is not all his own. The Navy allows him and other crew members to take a few hours here and there from their work on the ship to help at Stephens. This, Stark said, gives his crew an opportunity to feel important in the community, and allows them to get a feel for teaching.

Most of the time, Fausett helps the students review their American history lessons. If the review ends early, he tells them about the places he has seen on his tours of duty, such as Singapore, Australia and the Philippines.

One student said she likes Fausett because "he doesn't get mad or nothing, he doesn't raise his voice."

"He knows how to teach," said another.

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