2020 Outstanding Instructors

By: Instructors

ASA has selected the Outstanding Instructors of the Year for 2020. This Award honors the top 1% percent of all active status ASA Instructors as determined by Instructor Surveys that are submitted by their students. Of the 2405 Instructors in 2020 who had active status, 980 taught at least one ASA class and thereby became eligible for this ASA Award. Last year was unusual. Accordingly, ASA has decided to honor more Instructors than is customary. There are two reasons for this. With the boating industry booming, boating instruction in high demand, and ASA Instructors in short supply, these Instructors were among those available to instruct during the global pandemic. The other reason is that ASA is transitioning away from the Threshold Method that has been used to determine recipients of this Award since 2017 to another method with which we have been experimenting that uses Bayesian Inference.

Both the Threshold Method and the Bayesian Method have been used for this year’s determination. The top 25 (1.04%) Instructors were selected from each method separately and independently. Since 8 of the same Instructors were selected under both methods, the net top 42 (1.75%) are listed below, representing 39 cities, across 13 states, and 3 countries. Here are the ASA Outstanding Instructors of the Year for 2020:

Craig Beimgraben
Spring, Texas
Lance Botthof
San Diego, California
Philip Brittain
Punta Gorda, Florida
Michael Brown
Newtown, Pennsylvania
David Burch
Seattle, Washington
John Carlson
Brooklyn, New York
Joseph Cetner                 
Cape Coral, Florida                      
Alexis Christofi
Strovolos, Cyprus  
Mihai Cosereanu
St. Augustine, Florida
Jason Cox
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Doran Cushing
Austin, Texas
Richard Dawson
Waxahachie, Texas
Christopher DeHart
St. Augustine, Florida
Brian Earl
Wilmette, Illinois
Jeremy Elwell
Panama City, Florida
John Ensley
Vancouver, Washington
Alexander Leo Gaskell
Lexington, Massachusetts
Joan Gilmore
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Ken Hogrefe
Seabrook, Texas
Michael Hoye
Heath, Texas
Timothy Jenne
Sequim, Washington
Edd Jennings
St. Petersburg, Florida
Rick Johnson
Clearwater Beach, Florida
James Kell
Tiburon, California
William Lemex
Kemah, Texas
James Marvin
St. Petersburg, Florida
Christopher May
Key West, Florida
Rob McAdams
Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina
Daniel McCoy
Seabrook, Texas
Barnard Meyer
Tavernier, Florida
Jose Miranda
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Bogdan Niculescu
Hermosa Beach, California
George Norwood
Riverview, Florida
Kyle Parrott
Charleston, South Carolina
Tony Raleigh
League City, Texas
Paul Sullivan
Haverhill, Massachusetts
William Sutherland
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Joel Taylor
Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
Bartholomew Timm
Webster, Texas
Tibor Van den Wildenbergh
Denver, Colorado
Richard Van Loon
Shrewsbury, New Jersey
Jennifer Wirth
Miami, Florida

ASA is proud of its Certified Instructors who are committed to providing excellence in sailing instruction, and we extend our congratulations to those who have achieved an Outstanding commendation for 2020. Very well done. Thank you. Keep up the great work!

Now, let’s look at the reasons behind the transition.

To qualify as Outstanding under the Threshold Method for 2020, each of the Instructors had a minimum Rating of 3.67 with at least 49 Student Survey submissions. In 2019, the minimum Rating was 3.67 with at least 41 Survey submissions. During the development of the new Survey Report Tool for the ASA Affiliate and Instructor Portal pages, it became apparent early on that the Threshold Method that requires a minimum Rating of only 3.67, though excellent, may not always be Outstanding. The next step of moving aside Instructors with Scores below 3.67 and re-sorting the group that remains from the highest to the lowest number of Survey submissions, is a method that favors Instructors who teach at ASA Affiliates that produce higher volumes of ASA Certifications, either due to school size, or operating year-round in warmer climates, or both. There was some consideration simply to raise the Average Rating minimum in stages from 3.67 to 3.80 and later to 3.95 to match the criterion of the Survey Report Tool. Then, experimentation with Bayesian Ranking revealed that it was capable of identifying exceptional Instructors with fewer Student Survey submissions than required for the Threshold Method. And this in turn makes this Award accessible to Instructors who teach fewer classes at smaller ASA Affiliate schools and to Instructors at larger schools who can teach only part-time. Bayesian Inference provides a powerful tool to assess Instructor performance in different scenarios, as a kind of Holy Grail for Instructor evaluation.

 To qualify under the Bayesian Method is not as readily apparent or describable. There is no single explicit cutoff to survive nor threshold to cross. The Bayesian Method uses a statistical model to determine the probability that each Instructor’s next Survey Score will be a perfect 4.00. This model is the foundation for many applications that include movie rankings for Netflix and product review rankings at Amazon. The Bayesian Ranking of each Instructor updates over time as more students submit Surveys, and it can also be influenced by the Scores received by other Instructors as the Rating distribution of the entire community of ASA Instructors changes. It is illuminating, however, to examine the data behind the 25 Instructors selected under the Bayesian Method: 8 Instructors with perfect 4.00 Ratings and only 25+ Survey submissions, 8 Instructors with 3.99 Ratings and 28+ submissions, 4 Instructors with 3.98 Ratings and 34+ submissions, 2 Instructors with 3.97 Ratings and 51+ submissions, 2 Instructors with 3.96 Ratings and 65+ submissions, and 1 Instructor with a 3.95 Rating and 67 submissions. No Instructor with a Rating below 3.95 reached into the top 25 Bayesian Rankings for 2020. These pairings of Ratings and Student Survey Submittals are not cutoffs, nor thresholds pre-set by ASA, nor are they set internally within the Bayesian Inference program itself. They are just the data that produced the top 25 probabilities, ranging from 0.9612 to 0.9821, of the individual Award recipients.