BUCKTOWN >> How does a school district deal with truancy and behavior issues when the students simply have no interest in traditional education? Challenge them!
That is what Owen J. Roberts intervention behavior and reading specialist Brett Galambos has been doing for the past 10 years. It is through his other passion, scuba diving, that he came up with the idea to combine traditional counseling methods with outdoor challenges and problem-solving activities to motivate and challenge the students.
Over the years, he has combined his master’s degree in education with training in anger management, street gangs and violence issues, as well as scuba and other outdoor activities, not only to create a unique program for the school district, but also to unknowingly lay a foundation to be recognized as a national expert in scuba/aquatics and educational activities.
According to Galambos, “The intervention program teaches the kids, through scuba, various skills like learning geography and math through the use of a GPS by determining longitude and latitude when we are conducting actual dives at Marsh Creek State Park.
“They become certified in first aid and CPR because emergencies can happen during a dive. Journaling their experience builds their use of description and vocabulary, teaching them language arts. As for science, that is pervasive throughout the training: physiology, physics, biology/marine biology. By having them choose a marine animal, research it and prepare a PowerPoint presentation for the rest of the class, they are also learning the basics of teaching others.”
After a successful pilot program, the district was able to obtain grant money to allow Galambos to continue his work. He soon added rock climbing, a high ropes challenge, kayaking and traditional field trips all in an effort to build self-esteem through teamwork and character development through group activities.
“The challenge is the attraction. Meeting that challenge is the reward,” said Galambos. “It encourages leadership, problem solving and teamwork while at the same time being educational, fun, challenging and therapeutic.”
Brett’s work through the intervention program did not go unrecognized. He was nominated in 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2013 for the Citadel Heart of Learning Award, an award given for outstanding student guidance both in and out of the classroom. He has been scuba diving since 1988 and earned his master scuba diving instructor certification in 2011.
Though still employed by Owen J. Roberts School District, Brett joined Robson Forensics in 2007 as a national expert in the area of “Supervision of Scuba/Aquatics and Education Activities” where he testifies in two to three cases per year. Robson Forensics is a specialty company that provides high quality and professional forensic engineering, architectural, scientific and investigative services throughout the United States.
Expert witnesses must meet the criteria of the Daubert Standard, which is to have the skill, knowledge, training, experience and education to prove their methods to be reliable and the reliability must be applied to the facts at hand. Experts determine causation of the incident, whether the incident was foreseeable, and who was responsible through investigation, testing/analysis, reporting and deposition/testimony. As an expert witness, Galambos said, “It my job to educate the judge or jury to do their job, which is to determine guilt or innocence and to what degree.” Galambos summed it up as “weeding out junk science through knowledge, personal, scientific and technical experience.”
His first case took him down south and involved an overnight canoeing trip in which a student drowned while using a rope swing. Galambos’ investigation and testimony led to a determination of negligence, since there were only two supervisors for 53 students. Since then, he has been called upon in cases to include a bullying incident during kickball where one student hit another, damaging his kidney; a zip-line incident where a student fell into a lake and drowned; a bicycle accident in New Jersey; and weight lifting, pool, intramural and lacrosse incidents.
He helps train police, fire and military personnel in scuba to help them better perform basic rescue and recovery operations from bodies of water. He aids attorneys and insurance companies by collecting evidence for their defense through mapping and video-taping the bottom of bodies of water.
Galambos went from growing up in the one-square-mile borough of Spring City to now taking the stage as a national expert in the fields he loves. As for the students that he continues to work with at Owen J. Roberts, Brett lays a foundation for them as well. They learn through the experience of trying something new and intriguing. From there, it is up to them what path they choose to follow through life.