BRATTLEBORO -- At this point, smart phones and tablets are fairly prolific, but how many of us really understand all those arcane settings and options that come with these devices? How do we avoid over-using our data plan? How do we preserve those great photos sitting on our phones? What’s a virtual private network and do we want one? What’s the "Cloud" and do we want to be on it or off it?
All these questions, and more, are answered in a course entitled "Maximize Your Electronic Phones and Tablets." What’s particularly unique about this course, which offers separate classes for iPhone/iPad users and for Android users, is that it’s being taught by a local 17 year old.
Dan Fooks, a Brattleboro resident, is teaching this spring course for the Windham Regional Career Center’s Adult Education program. Dan is a senior this year at Brattleboro Union High School and is an active student in the Career Center’s business program. He was hired to teach the course by Betsy Gentile, the Career Center’s Adult Education Coordinator, after she had a conversation with a group of students about the need for such an offering. They overwhelmingly recommended Dan to teach it.
"The response to the course has been fantastic," Gentile said. "I bumped into one adult student just the other day who told me how much she loved the class and that she really couldn’t believe this was Dan’s first teaching experience. We are very pleased with the decision to have hired him."
Dan shared that the class was more fun than he expected. "I spend a lot of time preparing for each class and I get pretty nervous right before they start, but once I’m interacting with the students I find myself relaxing and really enjoying myself." The challenge, he said, is that although everyone is eager to learn, they’re "all in very different spots about what they know and don’t know. I have to be sure to take that into account." He credits terrific support from one of his Career Center business teachers, Maribeth Cornell, who has been helping Dan develop his skills as a budding young teacher.
Dan thought at first his age might be an issue for some of his students, but that has not turned out to be the case. "It’s a generational thing, I think, in terms of the comfort level people have with these topics. I’ve grown up with the technology and that’s obviously not the case for everyone." He shared that one of his students was a teacher he had during his freshman year and that two others are co-workers of his parents. They all, he said, have been a delight to have in class.
Dan doesn’t see himself pursuing a career as an educator, though he thinks teaching part-time might be a great way to generate some extra income. He’ll be starting college in the fall with an intended major of international business. In addition to teaching the course this year, Dan is also a student intern through the Career Center’s apprenticeship program, working for Mondo Mediaworks in downtown Brattleboro. He’s their "student on the ground," finding content for interesting school news, interviewing students and providing them with photographs.
Individuals interested in Career Center adult education course offerings should contact Betsy Gentile at 802-451-3965.