Sheryl Buchanan, adult learning facilitator and evening coordinator at Genesis Center, was recently named the 2016 Outstanding Adult Educator of the Year by the Rhode Island Department of Education, based on her commitment to adult education, the teaching profession and her impact on student outcomes.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in education?
Teaching chose me. I have ventured into other fields but always wind up teaching. The classroom is where I feel valuable, and valued.
A wonderful experience with my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Findlay, inspired me to pursue teaching. She was strict but passionate. She found ways to teach me concepts that no other teacher could. I saw and felt that she cared for her students.
What, in your opinion, constitutes a good teacher?
A good teacher has multifaceted skills, is highly motivated and determined, and genuinely wants the best for her students; she is creative and passionate about making a difference in the lives of each student. Beyond having a wide cadre of knowledge, a good teacher knows where to source information; a good teacher listens and communicates; she entertains and has a good sense of humor.
Are there any challenges unique to teaching adults?
Yes. As all of us in adult education know, working in an adult center means being flexible and empathetic to needs and challenges that are different from those faced by educators of children and young adults. For example, losing a student to employment or because of a childbirth is bittersweet. My pet peeve is a change in a student’s work schedule that causes the student to have to drop the class – seeing a student’s potential, knowing you can harness it and help that student realize it, believing with all your heart and soul that if they continue, they will succeed – and then watching them get cut off from that.
What is most rewarding about your job at Genesis Center?
Being a learning facilitator by day and a coordinator in the evening gives me the unique opportunity to interact with most of the students at Genesis Center. •