Faculty Alumni in the Spotlight: Kyle O’Donnell

Posted on April 17, 2020 by

Get to know Class Afloat faculty and students throughout the ages in our Alumni in the Spotlight series.

Class Afloat Alumni

What’s your name?

Kyle O’Donnell

Where are you from?

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

What year did you sail with Class Afloat? 

I joined the Gulden Leeuw in March of 2015 to finish out the 2014-15 school year. I then returned for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years. We sailed on the Atlantic.

What did you teach on board the ship?

Mathematics (Math 10, Pre-Calc 12, Calc 12, Math 12, Math at Work 11)

Where are you now?

Ottawa, ON

What have you been up to following your time at sea?

After Class Afloat, I moved to Kingston, ON to pursue a Master of Education at Queen’s University. During that time I married my beautiful best friend Liz and we welcomed our son Joël into the world. We maintained our love of travel and the outdoors with camping trips throughout North America and visits to friends and family in the States.

What impact did Class Afloat have on your life and career?

It’s impossible to measure the impact Class Afloat has had on my life. I met my now wife, Liz, onboard the Gulden Leeuw during the 2014-15 year. We developed a strong relationship that continued off the boat and has grown into starting a family of our own! Beyond that, the interpersonal relationships formed through the program feel endless. I still keep in touch with students, fellow faculty, and maritime crew from all of my years onboard.

In terms of teaching, Class Afloat gave me the opportunity to work with intelligent, highly motivated, and interesting students which I appreciate immensely. The experience also helped me develop my flexibility and creativity as a teacher.

How would you describe your experience working as a faculty member with Class Afloat?

Working as a faculty member with Class Afloat is one of the most unique opportunities in the world for educators. You are a part of a small, collaborative team that is responsible for educating, mentoring, and leading a group of remarkable and diverse young adults in an intensely unique environment. It is difficult to describe the experience in words, which I believe is a testament to its impact.

What’s your favourite Class Afloat memory?

There are many to choose from, but a few that come to mind include watching the sun rise from the sand dunes in Morocco, exploring Fernando de Noronha, and furling the t’gallant during a storm in the South Atlantic.

If you could offer your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Every time life gives you an opportunity to step outside your comfort zone, take it.