By Merrill Witty | Photography by Donovan Eaton Photography
When most of us were in high school, there were no courses in Transportation, Distribution and Maritime Logistics or in Seagoing Deck Operations.
But it’s a new world, and these are two courses taught by Regina Breitmeyer at Baltimore’s New Era Academy (NEA).
New Era is a Baltimore City public school with the mission of “equipping scholars with the pre-requisite academic skills, technological resources and academic rigor needed to successfully transition from high school to a competitive post-secondary career opportunity.” The school also prepares students for college acceptance if that is their desired path.
Breitmeyer’s high school biology teacher piqued an interest in medicine.
“I thought it would be cool to work on research related to genetics,” she said. “Although I didn’t end up taking that career path — no stomach for medicine — I came to realize the power a teacher has to positively motivate her students. I wanted to make the kind of impact on kids that my teachers made on me.”
Breitmeyer trained to be a physical education, adapted physical education (for kids with disabilities) and special education teacher at Ashland University in Ohio. She is completing a master’s degree in Education Administration from the American College of Education.
When Breitmeyer joined New Era, the Seagoing program had gone through several instructors. She started with no materials and no real knowledge of the merchant fleet or merchant mariners.
“Dick Fredricks, member of both the Baltimore Port Alliance (BPA) and the Maritime Advisory board and owner of Maritime Solutions, showed up in my classroom after back-to-school night and offered the resources of the Maritime Institute of Technical and Graduate Studies (MITAGS) and the BPA to help educate me and support building the program,” she said.
Several people wrote and worked to design the program as a general entry-level mariner program. They include Vic Tufts, former credentialing officer at MITAGS, Rob Summers, former history teacher at Maritime Industries Academy (MIA) and currently Assistant Principal at City Springs Elementary/Middle School, plus industry partners such as Edison Chouest Offshore.
MIA (where Breitmeyer was initially assigned) was moved into the same building with New Era and later closed. New Era retained the Seagoing pathway.
Breitmeyer says her proudest moments are always student-centered. She says she’s proud of her students and what the program can do for them. NEA is the only non-ROTC school to be invited to sail on a U.S. Navy ship for fleet week, for instance; it has placed graduates of the program with McAllister Towing, Moran Towing, U.S. Coast Guard Yard, Mega-Tech, Spirit of Baltimore, Baltimore Water Taxi and Pinnacle Logistics. Breitmeyer’s students have sailed with the Lady Maryland on the Chesapeake Schooner Race and worked with Edison Chouest Offshore.
“Taking students to a BPA legislative reception, the creation of the SUNY Maritime summer STEM Academy — there are just so many aspects to this program and so many great events,” Breitmeyer said. “I think we are doing great work at NEA and I know we can expand the opportunities we provide to young people.”
Breitmeyer added: “I will never forget the National Maritime Day when Congressman Elijah Cummings asked if I liked what I was doing. I said yes. He said he could tell, and that I should keep up the good work. I’ve taken that to heart, and I hope I can honor his legacy if I keep doing right by my kids.”