“Once you stop learning, you stop living,” said Connie Sue Centrella. The lifelong pool professional and industry educator added, “We are students of our profession. The key is to never stop trying to learn something. In the last 10 years, this industry has boomed with technology and green [products] that are so important to the future. We are businesspeople who chose the pool industry, and we need to broaden our knowledge of business.”
Indeed, she said her passion has always been teaching. “I was supposed to be a teacher,” noted Centrella, who obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Vanderbilt University. As for where she would end up teaching, was there really any question?
While in high school, she worked at her father’s building/retail business, Nashville Swimming Pool Co., which Joe Gibson founded in 1954. After graduating from college, she joined the company full time, answering phones. Over the years, she worked her way up to president.
The firm closed its doors in 1989, and Centrella then worked on the distribution side of the industry at several companies, ending up at Team Horner. For the past 12 years, she’s been director of education there. For almost as long, she’s also been department chair of Aquatic Engineering Technology at Keiser University, where she attained a Masters degree in 2009 while also working on its teaching staff.
She got involved with Keiser University through Team Horner’s Bill Kent, who was friends with the chancellor, Dr. Art Keiser, and volunteered her services to the university, starting in 2004. “Then I had two jobs,” she said with a laugh.
As if that weren’t enough, she’s been a CPO instructor for 34 years and is on the education committee of the National Swimming Pool Foundation.
In 2010, NSPF recommended her to Royal Caribbean Cruises, and she’s taught the CPO course to officers and engineers on more than 40 ships, working in Royal Caribbean’s Public Health Division.
It has meant a lot of time away from her Nashville, Tenn., home. “I travel all over the world, teaching on cruise ships,” Centrella said. “I’ve been to Thailand, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. After the [PSP] Expo in 2014, I was teaching on the ships before the holidays.”
But that’s not all. She’s also been a speaker at World Aquatic Health Conferences, as well as a seminar leader at many national and regional trade shows.
So it’s not too surprising to learn that she has been recognized by various groups for her industry and educational contributions. Besides receiving several Teaching Excellence Awards from Keiser University, Centrella has been honored with awards from NSPF and, most recently, the Founders Award for contributions to education and leadership from the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals, presented during the 2014 PSP Expo.
What has kept Centrella so dedicated to teaching all these years? “If I can touch one person, then it’s worth it,” she said, adding, “It’s a wonderful journey. I’m not going to give up. I’m having so much fun!”