One of the greatest gifts anyone can be given is an education. Thanks to the incredible teachers throughout the world, many receive this gift. Today we celebrate all the educators, from professors in colleges and universities, to teachers in unique classrooms — especially those who serve in floating classrooms with us on our ships. At Mercy Ships, we offer fully accredited Academies onboard our ships for all children, kindergarten through 12th grade, that come to serve with their families. Teachers from all corners of the globe volunteer to educate and equip young crew, not only in academics, but also on how to be lifelong learners.

Sarah Leffel, a teacher from Alabama, volunteered to come aboard to teach because she is passionate about learning and loves adventure. Her enthusiasm was infectious and her second and third-grade students were eager to grasp everything she was sharing with them.

After Sarah’s first year onboard the Africa Mercy, the pandemic began, causing her to return home and reevaluate. When there was a question if the Academy would be able to offer instruction for all the children still onboard, Sarah knew she needed to return. Even in the mist of safety restrictions onboard, Sarah said,

“I love my students with all of my heart and I love being with them. They were my world and they will forever be a part of my life. I wanted to come back for them. I wanted them to have the best.”

And the best was exactly what they got! Sarah’s students were thrilled with her return and their school year was filled with fun, challenge, and creativity. Sarah wanted to take her class on a field trip, but with restrictions, getting off the ship was a challenge.  That didn’t stop a superstar teacher like Sarah.  Instead, her class went on a “field trip” all over the ship that was transformed into a jungle adventure.  The day included crossing the raging river (ship pool), fighting off wolves, jumping through quicksand on the dock, and crawling around in secret places to accomplish their mission.

This imaginative field trip ended with a pic-nick lunch on the dock and hopscotch. One student, who professed not to like reading at the beginning of the year, told Miss Sarah that they did not want to play hopscotch, instead asking, “Is it ok if I read instead Miss Sarah?” as they pulled a book from their backpack. Sarah was thrilled! A beautiful testament to an incredible teacher that through this year, had inspired her students to read and became lovers of books!

We are so thankful for all the teachers who are preparing the next generation for the future! And thank you to all the Mercy Ships teachers who volunteer their time and give so generously to transform the lives of the smallest crew members onboard our hospital ships.

If you have a heart to teach children and enjoy creative settings for education, come onboard with us and share your talents in a one-of-a-kind classroom!  Check out mercyships.org/volunteer for opportunities to teach on one of our ships.