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Release date:October 19, 2006

Community Classroom still experimenting with program lineup

PLAINVIEW – When Debbie Stennett signed on as director of Wayland Baptist University’s continuing education program to kick start the new effort, she figured she’d be involved in helping educate others. Coming from the teaching field, that was a comfortable role.

              Little did she know, she’d be the one getting a major education.

              In the past year since the program’s rebirth as the Community Classroom, Stennett said she’s learned much about community education programs, what folks are interested in and what they will and won’t pay to learn. The lessons have been eye-opening.

              “The major challenge in any adult education program is competing for their time,” said Stennett. “It’s one resource we all struggle with. Young adults with kids are overprogrammed with their kids’ activities, and older adults are often involved in volunteer activities.”

              Couple that with economic issues and the challenge of coming up with programs that appeal to many residents and Stennett’s task becomes even more difficult.

              “The last year has definitely been a lot of trial and error,” she said. “It’s still a huge grand experiment, so we’re working it out.”

              The trial and error process has landed on some winners and has helped Stennett refine the programming to better fit her audience. One area that has seen revamping has been the computer offerings. Beginning immediately, many of the Computer Bytes classes will now be offered as one-on-one individual instruction sessions with trained instructors, at a rate of $30 for a two-hour session.

              Interested students will call Stennett to set up the initial visit with an instructor according to their own schedule, then the student and teacher will determine if more sessions are needed to further the skill base.

              “We were finding that in larger classes, there would be some who would need much more individual attention and it made it hard to teach everyone on the same level,” Stennett explained, adding that the change should increase students’ comfort level.

              “For a lot of folks, if they haven’t been in school for a while, classes are intimidating. The threat of not knowing something and being embarrassed in the class is minimized in a one-on-one situation.”

              Stennett added that the James and Eva Mayer Computer Lab will be split into two smaller areas in order to allow for privacy in individual instruction sessions. Textbooks will also be made available for those needing additional resources for computer classes. The courses are offered for a variety of software, including the Microsoft Office suite (Word, Excel, Publisher, Access, Outlook and Power Point) and general classes on email and Internet usage.

              Stennett said the Classroom will continue to offer the CompTia computer software and hardware certification courses through the Lubbock campus, as well as the Linux and Microsoft Office certification classes. A new cycle of those should be coming soon.

              A new offering on the horizon is the Holiday Help series featuring four events related to the holiday season. One session is a tasting bee format with recipe swap; others involve holiday décor, dealing with holiday stress and using technology for holiday mailings. Those are offered in November.

              Some of the programs that have met with success include the Literary Lunch Bunch, which meets monthly for discussion about books read the previous month. Though Stennett said the group is not a huge one in numbers, their enthusiasm and commitment to the group is encouraging.

              “It’s not a threatening, collegiate literary analysis that scares people to death,” she said. “It’s very relaxed.”

              That group meets again Nov. 7 from noon to 1:30 p.m.

              The poverty training sessions also continue to be popular for both teachers and agency representatives, and Stennett leads those herself thanks to her past life in education and extensive training in the work of Dr. Ruby Payne. A session on poverty training for agencies is set for Nov. 6-7.

              Another popular offering is the English as a Second Language classes, which Stennett said are offered at the intermediate level at the Community Classroom with instruction by longtime ESL teacher Lynette Bowen.

              “These are people that are licensed and degreed in places like Mexico or other countries but need a better handle on their grammar and writing skills,” she said.

              The recent partnership with the Hale County Literacy Council has proved beneficial, Stennett said, in providing a continuum and a crossover of services within the entities. Several of the council’s adult tutoring students have also enrolled in ESL courses and vice versa.

              The partnership is also going to make it easier for Stennett to add two new components to the Community Classroom in the spring. A citizenship preparatory class will be offered, featuring lessons to help residents prepare for the interview and exam portion of the process to American citizenship.

              The Classroom will also begin offering Pre-GED and GED Prep courses emphasizing tutoring in reading, writing, math and language skills. Though the area offers several GED programs already, Wayland’s program will aim at bringing students up to the level where they can successfully maneuver a program at Houston Street School or Caprock Community Action.

              The difference will be in one-on-one tutoring sessions with trained volunteers, and sessions will be scheduled around the student and teacher. The minimal cost will cover class materials.

              “There are other GED programs in town and we’re not looking to compete with them,” Stennett said. “We’re looking to make this an extension of the Literacy program and provide additional help to prepare them for those other programs.”

              Stennett still welcomes input from the community on classes of interest, and welcomes any questions or feedback to make the Community Classroom better serve the residents of the area. For information, contact her at 291-3650.