Give me proof you’re such a great teacher
This page has administrative and student evaluations as well as letters from students.
An email from a former student June 2017:
I took your lifeguard and CPR classes (and joined several Outdoor Club excursions!) in 2004/2005, and although I did work as a lifeguard for a while, I did not test the skills I learned from you until recently. I want to share with you a story of a rescue that would not have happened, or succeeded, without your training and your passion.
I work festival security, and a few events are held at lakeside campgrounds. Distressingly few of these events have lifeguards on duty, and even the ones which do typically only have lifeguards on shift during the day. I therefore spend a bit of time stressing before each event, thinking “what if someone needs a water rescue, in the lake, near the sound stage, at night…” Will anyone hear a call for help? Will anyone have the ability to respond? Or will I get called in when it is already too late? There are several possible worst case scenarios worth thinking about and planning for at these festivals, including active shooters and all the other standard “what ifs ,” and the water rescue scenarios have definitely been on my list of “worst case” possibilities.
Well, at a recent event, I was roaming front of house at the largest stage in preparation for the event closer, just before midnight, and a participant came up to me and said, “Hey, there’s a guy in the water, and it sounds like he’s trying to kill himself.” “Show me!” I said. When I got to the lake shore, a barrage of flashlights were trained on two figures in the water, one occasionally surfacing long enough to yell “Help” before the other pushed him under again. As my feet took me down the rocky hill at a run, my hands were stripping off my radio harness, hat, and other loose gear, and my mind was rehearsing all the things you taught us about working in opaque water and handling panicked/aggressive people. Another part of me was thinking “I do NOT want to get into this water. This is, in fact, worst case scenario. But this is life or death, there is an need, and I have the required skills to meet that need. In you go, then!”
As my feet hit the water, I was counting seconds the one person had been underwater; and also rehearsing to myself that if the other jumped me, I was pushing for the bottom before he touched me, and how I would hold my hands and arms to deter his grip, and all the other evasive possibilities I could think of. I remembered the day in class when you tried to climb on my head (and succeeded!) in emulation of a panicked swimmer, and how it had taken me three tries to figure out how to get away from you; but that I had learned a great deal, and remembered. I thought about the other tricks I’ve learned since then, about leverage and distraction. I thought about the backup I could expect, and how long it would take to get there, and if it would be too long if things went badly. I thought of how many seconds under the water would be too long for someone who had already been struggling for several minutes,
By the time I had reached the two people, who were on the other side on the channel, the submerged person had been under a good half minute, and my heart was sinking. I pushed them apart, yelling “Let him go!” and the one on top did let go, (!) and grabbed the nearby submerged bushes instead. The other came up semi-conscious, and I got him to the bank (keeping him above water and myself mostly under water, as I learned to do in class, since I do not float) where friendly hands were waiting to pull him on shore. The other had calmed while clinging to the bushes, and although he would not let go when I tried to pull him to shore, he let me talk him in. Both were then attended by medical staff and were released a few hours later.
I got lucky – my worst case scenario played out in the best possible way, and everyone came out of it OK. We all were lucky. But what tipped the balance were the skills you taught me, and the thoroughness of your training. If you hadn’t done that drill to let each of us know what it felt like to be grabbed by a panicked swimmer, if you hadn’t had us practice fully clothed, if you hadn’t talked about the specific hazards of lakes and how hard it is to find someone in opaque water once they’ve gone under, if you hadn’t taken a weak swimmer, trained her, strengthened her, and let her prove to herself that she can haul a 200 lb muscle-bound man from the bottom of the diving pool, haul him to shore while she herself is almost fully submerged, and keep drilling hard for another hour afterward, I would not have gone into the water that night. Instead, I would have run for the bridge and the other shore, looked for tools to throw to or bridges to get me to the swimmers, and I would have been too late by minutes. I would have been too late.
So thank you, for the training, for the life saved, and for being the wonderful person you are!
De Anza College requires regular administrative evaluations of faculty by other faculty.
“On Friday, February 26 I observed 60 minutes of a First Aid in the Workplace, Community and Wilderness class for Mary Donahue’s HLTH 57A class. The students came to class with their homework completed. Although this was only the second in a 4 class series, the students were well aware as to what they were expected to do. They placed their homework in front and took their seats. Mary had a power point up that allowed the students to review material as they waited for class to begin.
Mary started the class on time and reminded students about turning in homework. She started off by having an oral mini quiz that covered topics from the prior class. Mary assured students that the quiz was not going to count towards their grade, and she encouraged all students to participate.
Mary used multiple teaching modalities, moving efficiently from overheads to power points to video clips to student demonstrations. Mary had the students actually act out the procedures and scenarios effectively consolidating concepts. She had two student aides who very involved in the teaching and learning process.
Mary used humor effectively as well as personal anecdotes from her experiences
as a member of the Silicon Valley Red Cross Instructor Trainers Committee.
Mary is a valuable member of both the division and the department. She attends meeting regularly and is quick to volunteer her help and suggestions when asked. She has participated in writing and updating curricula. She has been involved in the division process of creating and implementing SLOs for her classes. She also volunteered on the campus wide testing of the portal grade reporting system. Outside of class time she mentors from 2 to 6 students each year to become Red Cross CPR certified for the Professional Rescuer instructors and in some cases first aid and/or lifeguard instructors. Her work for the department and division is truly appreciated.
The class I observed was well organized and the content was appropriate in depth and breadth for this course. The students were constantly engaged and actively participated in the interactive lesson. Mary has consistently demonstrated her passion for teaching and her interest in the student’s success. She has also been a very efficient and valued member of the department and division. Keep up the excellent work.”
A handwritten thank you card I found in paperwork after the spring 2008 lifeguard class;
Coming into lifeguard training, I really did not know what to expect and how I’d do. It has been a roller coaster ride from then up until now. It is amazing how much experience I’ve gotten throughout the quarter. This has been the most challenging class I have ever taken in my life. I’ve never had to deal with so much physical + emotional + manual work. I am so grateful to have read what I needed to know, and for the things…the numerous skills you’ve taught me. I’ve never had an instructor really push me the way you have. I’m really touched and blessed to have taken this training course with you. Thank you for your honesty, time, patience and many chances to become a better rescuer, student and a better developed person.
Thank you very much. I’ll never forget you, and your authority.
God bless. (signature unreadable)”
Part of an email from a PE 26B (Knes 001B) beginning level swimmer:
“I wanted to thank you for an excellent Beginning swimming class. Prior to taking your class, I attended a swimming facility for over 9 months. The second day of your class was essentially equal to the 9 months spent at the other facilty. Your style of teaching is unique. Not only are the students physically in the water practicing their form but also being challenged mentally with the readings, films/movies, and the assessment of the video of our swimming performance…. Your constant focus on safety is commendable and I like that.”
Official student evaluations are required by De Anza College for each faculty member at least once every three years, or nine quarters of employment. The evaluation is handled and tabulated by a staff member other than the instructor being evaluated.
From December 2009, of a HLTH 57E class:
Mary is a great instructor. She keeps things very interesting & fun while being very serious about the need to learn it. She prepares us for the worst to make sure we are prepared for any situation.
This instructor is very thorough. Although she is strict, I still recommend her to anyone interested in learning CPR because she is just that good.
Thank you Mary, you taught so well and helped me understand important materials.
The rest of this evaluation is at: HLTH 57E student evaluations
From March 17, 2006, of a HLTH 57A class:
Mary has excellent anecdotes to reinforce the material, which makes the content interesting.
This instructor was very clear, very upbeat and of course the most important very, very knowledgeable in exactly what she taught. I was very impressed.
She is a very informative teacher. I enjoyed and look forward to coming to her class each week.
The entire evaluation is at: Health 57 A and C student evaluations
November, 2005 HLTH 57E:
There should be more classes like this on campus.
Mary made the course fun yet very informative. I learned so much.
The instructor is a great person and a very good teacher.
Mary knows her stuff. She can answer pretty much anything.
read details at:
There is advice at: students tell how to pass HLTH 57E .
From a swim class evaluation December, 2003:
I would recommend this instructor.
Strongly Agree 100%
Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree, No opinion / not applicable 0%
What did you like about this course?
“Everything. The instructor was just great. If I had a chance I would like to take all my swimming lessons
The whole evaluation is at:
From a lifeguard training class evaluation:
” I really enjoyed all the extra info we were given. There was never a dull moment in this class. Mary is the most thorough and encouraging instructor I have ever had.”
HLTH 57A, Fall quarter, 2002:
“Mary is a very knowledgeable & charismatic instructor. I look forward to returning in Spring quarter.”
“Instructor showed good, positive, energetic attitude towards subject.”
Read more at: Health 57 A and C student evaluations
For another kind of ‘evaluation’ click on this link to read:
more college administrative evaluations (instructors evaluated by other instructors).
Here are evaluations from Biological and Health Sciences Division Adult CPR and first aid classes I taught in October of 2004 and November of 2001.
“I attended Mary Donahue’s Health 57C-95 on Oct. 28, 2004. This four evening course prepares students to take the Red Cross Certification Test in Adult Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Automated External Defibrillation (AED). Students also receive De Anza credit and a grade for successfully completing the coursework and certification test.
Mary’s green sheet for this class is comprehensive and covers a variety of topics ranging from course requirements to appropriate dress. She also maintains an equally comprehensive website. A student who takes the time to look at all the information that Mary provides will have many questions answered.
When I arrived to class Mary, with the help of several teaching assistants, was handing out CPR mannequin faces and showing a review video. Class officially began with a review of the steps to be followed when encountering situations where individuals are down, injured or unconscious. She reviewed the ‘three C’s’ using several imaginary scenarios and finally acting out a scenario purposely adding mistakes. Throughout this review the students were very engaged, listening attentively and readily responding to questions. It was clear that they enjoyed Mary’s easy-going, friendly manner and her sense of humor.
New material was then introduced using several videos on Cardiac Arrest. The videos were followed by a class discussion. Several times during the discussion Mary encouraged students to be confident, responsible first responders in an emergency situation. Students then formed pairs and practiced their CPR skills. Mary and her assistants circulated amongst the pairs and assisted each pair as students took turns working on their CPR mannequins. The students were comfortable asking for help when needed.
Mary brings a lot of enthusiasm and knowledge to the classroom. She does a good job of blending standard Red Cross Certification instruction within a college short course and her students benefit from her many years of experience.
“Section I: Mary is a prepared and well organized instructor who enjoys teaching and interacting with her students. Her knowledge of First Aid is extensive and appreciated by her students. In addition to
her teaching, Mary has contributed to the Department in her willingness to donate her time to revise the course curriculum that she teaches. We appreciate her help in this area.
Section II: The evaluation visit was in a Health 57A lecture period (Standard First Aid Section). Before class, I read Mary’s green sheet which is very complete and informative for her students. I observed Mary for about one hour. She began class promptly at 5:30 PM. What followed was an effective use of class time by utilizing a variety of teaching tools such as videos, overheads, and small group work. She began with a class discussion about why a person may be unconscious.
She led the students in a valuable discussion making sure that all participated. The students were comfortable in responding to Mary and appeared eager to participate in the discussion. She listened
carefully to each student and responded to them in a positive manner. To make her discussion points more meaningful, Mary would relate them to actual life situations. Her rapport with her students
was excellent. She treated each student in a kind and caring manner making sure that each student’s answer was given the proper attention. Her voice was clear and firm. After the initial discussion,
Mary showed a short video which dealt with a variety of emergency situations. She was kind to warn students to prepare themselves for some alarming scenes. After the video, Mary broke the class
up into small groups. The groups were to work from a workbook. She moved about the room checking each group to see if they had questions. After about fifteen minutes, she brought the class
back together to discuss questions that arose during the group meetings and to watch another short video. There was never a dull moment and a great deal of information was exchanged in an
Section III: Mary’s teaching experience and Red Cross credentials have been very valuable to the Biology Department and have served our students well. We also appreciate her efforts to donate her
time to help revise the curriculum that she teaches. Her contributions are valuable to us. In this evaluation it was made obvious to me that Mary enjoys teaching and interacting with her students. She definitely wants her students to learn, remember, and to be successful.”
When the Red Cross introduced the 2001 lifeguard training program, all the current lifeguard instructors went to their chapters for an evening of re-training. At the main Santa Clara County meeting over half the instructors, 17 of 28 people, were graduates of De Anza College Lifeguard Training.
A list of my Red Cross instructor certifications and experience is at
Graduates of the De Anza College lifeguard training program who are now head lifeguards or facility managers come back to help teach the class and recruit employees. A note from one of them:
“I took the American Red Cross Lifeguard Training course and American Red Cross Water Safety Instructor course just for fun. The knowledge and skills these courses have taught me led me to pursue a career in Aquatics as a lifeguard and swim instructor. Not only did I enter the career field fully certified and prepared, but I also entered it with more certifications and experience than most other candidates.
The additional training Mary Donahue provided in the Lifeguard Management portion of the course has helped me advance my career from a lifeguard/swim instructor to a head lifeguard, and now I am the Aquatics Coordinator at the Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center in Los Gatos.
Not only do I highly recommend these American Red Cross courses to persons interested in pursuing a career in Aquatics, but I also highly recommend hiring lifeguards who took their training at De Anza College. I know that these lifeguards/swim instructors will join my company with not only the skills and certifications necessary to ensure a safe pool environment and teach effective swim lessons, but I also know that they will bring professionalism and strong leadership skills as well.
Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center“
an email I received in August 2007:
I wanted to say thank you. I was surfing the web, searching for something, I don’t know what and I ran into a webpage with your name on it with De Anza’s logo. I couldn’t believe it. Anyway the site prompted my memory to pull out all the great things I experienced while taking your classes and helping out with lifeguarding. I took your lifeguard cert class, which was a huge turning point for me. It was my first job where I was helping others. I worked as a lifeguard, volunteered for Danskin’s Triathlon, and your beginning adult swimming class too. I remember all your encouragement and I can’t think of another teacher that gave me so much. You even paid me a huge compliment to my parents. I have so much to thank you for. Well, I’m a physical therapist now, helping those who sustain injuries at work. I finished my two BS degrees in 2000 and now live in Sacramento with my wife and son, with another on the way.
Oh, my name is John H—— and this was back in 1994-96.
Anyway, I had to tell you, that your effort made a difference and I’m grateful for what you did in a time of life where I was trying to define who I was, but now sure how.
Thank you Mary,