Hooked on Science

By Helen Jardine for Saltus Magazine Spring 2012.

Saltus alum John Paul Skinner swears he has the “best job ever.” In his role as Education Officer at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS), “JP,” as he likes to be called, regularly divides his time between running a number of diverse educational programmes and taking students into the field—“the really fun part,” he says, as it typically involves a boat ride out to Bermuda’s reefs.

“I am doing something I love and hopefully am making a bit of a difference in a few students’ lives as well,” says JP, 44, whose job makes him an intermediary between world-class researchers and local students. “I am constantly intrigued by the cutting-edge research going on at BIOS and its global significance, and see this as a wonderful educational resource for Bermudian students. If I can share this fascination about the ocean’s mysteries with students and get them ‘hooked’ on this kind of dynamic, outdoor investigation, I think it well serve both the students and the local environment well.”

While visiting scenic areas of Bermuda and scuba-diving on coral reefs are all part of the job description, JP says he gets his biggest kicks from seeing students get inspired by the outdoors. “Nothing matches the feeling you get when a student learns something new,” he says. “Seeing the ‘lights go on’ in a student’s eyes is a very rewarding experience.”

JP graduated from Saltus in 1984 and says the most important part of his education was the foundation he received in literacy and numeracy.

“I could cite a number of other valuable lessons, both academic and life lessons,” he says, “but from a perspective of daily life, my ability to communicate has served me best. This is an incredibly valuable foundation. Also, I was able to develop a love and understanding of music which still brings me a great deal of enjoyment today.” JP reached Grade 7 in piano and Grade 6 in violin, but now sticks to the guitar. When he isn’t teaching, JP enjoys surfing and playing as a member of the popular local band, the Go Down Berries.

After Saltus, JP attended the University of California, San Diego, where he studied Anthropology. He then went on to get a multiple subject teaching credential from National University—despite the fact his parents’ biggest piece of career advice was, “Don’t become a teacher!”

"They were joking, as both had been wonderful teachers for much of their lives,” he says, “but their concern, of course, was that I would never make much money!” JP’s mother, Janet, taught P4 at BHS—ironically, he launched his teaching career in her very same classroom in 1995. His father, Timothy, taught at Warwick Academy and Gilbert Institute, later serving as Headmaster.

JP switched majors several times at university and has held several diverse jobs. In hindsight, he believes his best career advice for students today is not to worry too much about future plans, but to build a solid educational foundation. “In many ways, I feel it takes quite a bit of exploration and travel, both literally and figuratively, to find out your calling,” he says. “Follow your interests and find out what you love, and the career will follow.”

JP is married to Amanda Skinner, coordinator of the new Parent Ambassador Programme at Saltus, and the couple has two children at the school, S6 Zoe, 9, and S3 Christopher, 7.