By Amy PerryApril 28, 2016
FORT LEE, Va. (April 27, 2016) -- An Army Logistics University staffer is the 2015 Civilian Instructor of the Year for Training and Doctrine Command.
Keith Ferguson, specializes in instructional methods, received word of the results while on temporary duty at Fort Benning, Ga., last week. Ferguson has more than 30 years teaching, with 28 them outside the military system at an elementary school, middle school, high school, a police academy and the FBI.
When his name was submitted at the local level, Ferguson - who has served in his current position for two years - said he was nervous.
"Although I have years and years of experience instructing, once my name was put forward and I knew I was going to be officially observed, terror set in," he said. "You wouldn't think that would happen still. It was very intimidating."
After winning the ALU category, Ferguson submitted his package to TRADOC but was sure he wouldn't be a top choice.
"I found out a few weeks ago I was in the top three," he said. "I was able to ignore it. It was really stressful getting ready to do it. We submitted the package in December. Between that time and April, I was able to ignore it. I thought the video wasn't good enough, but once someone leaked I was in the top three, it mattered to me. I didn't want to be No. 3, I wanted to be No. 1."
Still, winning the TRADOC competition surprised him, Ferguson said.
"I know I'm different than most Army instructors," he said. "I know I'm also different from most Army Civilian instructors, because most of them have come through the Army. I am a little outside the box."
Part of his "outside-the-box" teaching style is due to him being "very theatrical and definitely not Army," Ferguson said. Another part of it has to do with his dedication to the experiential teaching method, which gives students an experience in the classroom to connect their prior experience to what they are going to learn.
"In one of the classes, as I introduce the lesson on understanding your target audience, rather than standing up and saying 'Hi, I'm Keith Ferguson and here is my experience,' I start the class with a dog squeaker I call 'Mr. Squeaky' and come in as a clown," he said. "The students are there in their uniforms, and I jump in the doorway and I'm happy and talking in a high voice. I use 'Mr. Squeaky' and call the students boys and girls - basically, I act like a clown. They are aghast.
"I look for the person with the worst expression on their face - they are just horrified," Ferguson continued. "I ask them what was wrong with the introduction. They are usually quite pointed and tell me that I don't respect them, and I shouldn't do this or that. It makes it memorable and I drive the point home by telling them 'if I understood my target audience better, than this class would have been better.' That starts a long conversation about developing courses and understanding target audiences."
Due to his unique style of teaching, Ferguson has been selected as an advisor at TRADOC for the senior training and education manager course and plans to develop it to make it more student-friendly. He is set to PCS there in a few weeks.