Nancy Jones has served as both a teacher and a student in her retirement years. Her day typically begins at Monroe Elementary School, where she helps Special Needs children learn to read or to solve math problems. From there, she becomes a student herself with classes offered through the University of Oklahoma’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
“The best part of the OLLI program is the extensive range of subjects offered,” said Jones. “I can choose a class that is of special interest to me or choose an unfamiliar subject that I wish to learn more about. There are so many possibilities!”
Jones began taking classes through OLLI in 2009 when she stumbled upon an article in the Norman Transcript advertising a class called “Poetry for People Who Hate Poetry.”
"I knew that was the class for me,” Jones said. “Not that I hated poetry, but much of it was tedious and difficult to understand. Now, writing poetry and family stories is a hobby of mine.”
Jones has taken a number of classes in her time with OLLI, from classes on Shakespeare taught by David Anderson to an Intergenerational Politics course taught by OU Honors College dean, David Ray.
“Professor Anderson has a great talent in bringing Shakespeare’s scenes to life. His classes were so interesting that I am currently taking both his poetry class and the David Copperfield reading class. He gives a wealth of background information in his classes and also keeps all of us engaged in lively discussions.”
The Intergenerational Politics class placed Jones and other OLLI members alongside current undergraduate students at OU.
“A part of our study in the Generational Politics class focused on the bleak job market and increasing national debt that today’s students will be facing, as compared to the many employment opportunities and the healthy economy the previous generations have enjoyed since World War II. While the students were skeptical of any meaningful action in Congress to address these problems, I was impressed by the confidence they have in their own skills to succeed,” said Jones.
A Vitamin for the Brain
Jones has enjoyed returning to the classroom, although much has changed since she first attended school.
“I attended school in the ‘30s and ‘40s, and my favorite subjects were geography and reading. But our world and society have greatly changed since then, so the OLLI classes are my opportunity to catch up on world events, history, the arts, and new advances in technology. Today I think it is important to be informed about the world around us, to listen to different opinions and to have an open mind.”
In the future, Jones hopes to take classes on women’s history, specifically focused on the Suffrage movement and the battle for the 19th Amendment, or the Supreme Court and the impact some of its more controversial decisions have had on our society.
“Time is valuable to my age group, and we want to make the most of it in our retirement years,” Jones said. “I promote OLLI to anyone who might be interested and I keep a few copies of the OLLI class schedule handy for reference. I tell those interested how important it is for us to keep our minds active and how fun it is to attend classes, make new friends and learn from an OU professor. To me, learning is a vitamin for the brain, and it makes life more interesting. I’m enjoying every minute of it.”