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Retired teachers drawn to education program

  • Jo Hendry speaks to OLLI members about one of her favorite classes, Educational Farming at Joppa Hill. Courtesy

For the Monitor
Published: 7/1/2020 10:23:25 AM

You would think that by the time teachers retire the last thing they’d want to think about is classes. And yet teachers flock to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Granite State College both as members and as presenters. For some it’s an immediate transition – they couldn’t wait to get in. For others, after a period of rest and relaxation, they find they miss the classroom and find OLLI provides all or most of the good things with few of the pressures. 

Jo Hendry, science teacher in the Bedford School District and now member and a science teacher in OLLI, recounted her first exposure to OLLI courtesy of a friend who was an OLLI member.

“I learned about OLLI before I retired, by going to a daylong Brown Bag University event about China that was offered on a Saturday. At that point I said, when I retire, I am definitely joining OLLI,” Hendry said. “When the great day arrived, I signed up. Shortly thereafter I joined the Communications Committee and in addition, offered some classes and also became a trained class assistant. A teacher is a lifelong learner and there is no better place to find that satisfaction than as an OLLI member.”

Former teachers’ aide and Girl Scout leader Marilyn Astell said “OLLI has and continues to provide me with opportunity!” Some examples she gave are:

■The opportunity to meet other peers in my new community, which in turn, gives me the opportunity to ask others to share their ideas of the best restaurants, stores, gyms, etc.

■The opportunity to share my passion and expertise in certain areas, such as quilting, and to gain more information about the other areas of interest to me, such as history, basketmaking, music, etc. I think as teachers we are always seeking more information about various subjects. I hope this will never stop.

■It gives me the opportunity to volunteer in my own capacity, for as much or as little as I please. Unlike a “job,” I can contribute when I wish to, making my own schedule. As I have gotten more involved with OLLI, I find myself wanting to do even more.

■OLLI provides the opportunity for me to cook and bake, providing the people who can enjoy my efforts.

■I especially enjoy that OLLI is an organization pretty much administered by peers. I agree with the philosophy that if you have a say in an organization, you gain a bit of ownership, and will try hard to keep it running smoothly and efficiently. I am extremely impressed with the professionalism I find in most areas.

• OLLI provides the opportunity to play, and teaches me that not everyone likes it when I “gloat” at my winning in a game.

“Life comes in phases. First you are in school, then college, then raising a family, and/or then in the working world. But when you retire, where do you belong? Who is your “group”? In my case, the answer is OLLI!” Astell said.

One of OLLI’s newest members, Terry Marcille, offered her perspective on joining OLLI this year.

“After 37 years as an elementary teacher, mostly in Massachusetts, though I spent a year with the Department of Defense in Germany and did a Fulbright exchange to England, I moved to New Hampshire to be closer to my mother, my son and his family,” Marcille said.

“I believe that teachers are innately lifelong learners. Pursuing one’s interest is also a great way to interact with others of similar interest in your community. The older we get, the more we need to work at connecting with others. Dogs and children act as magnets for meeting people. Those of us without those attractions must find other means. Subjecting myself to new learning and offerings in the community for others ‘in their years of wisdom’ seemed a natural fit.”

And from Jane Thul, five-year member of OLLI, added “As June 2015 approached, I was both excited and nervous about the end of my 40 years as an elementary classroom teacher. I was envisioning evenings and weekends free of correcting papers, creating lesson plans, and writing report cards. But how was I going to fill that hole that was being left from leaving a job that I loved? I loved learning with the kids, I loved being friends with my fellow teachers and parents, and I loved being part of a school family.

“As a retirement gift, a friend gave me a membership to OLLI, and that answered my questions. I couldn’t believe the incredible learning possibilities that OLLI offered! I have taken classes on everything from The Underground Railroad (a subject I taught to my fourth graders), to group singing, to World War II History, to coyotes, to police dogs, to hiking, to touring the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard . . . and so many more!” Thul said. “Beyond the incredible classes, I have made friends and have joined committees. My need to learn and my need for social interactions have been filled by OLLI. Some of the classes are taught by former teachers, and all of the classes are taught by people who are passionate about the subject they present. That retirement gift was an incredible life changer.”

Teachers retiring this year have had an unusual ending to their careers as reported in several stories recently in the Monitor. OLLI, specializing in “learning for the fun of it” for those age 50 and above, has likewise experienced the unusual since coronavirus has changed our world. Composed entirely of the “vulnerable population,” OLLI has and will continue to hold its classes and social events remotely on the Zoom platform through the fall term. We continue to welcome new members – retiring teachers and anyone else looking to energize their brains and interact with their peers in this time of social isolation. Visit our website at olli.granite.edu or call 513-1377 for more information about membership and educational events this summer and fall.

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