Longtime teacher brings learning to Brooksby

Created date

July 26th, 2010

[caption id="attachment_13172" align="alignright" width="280" caption="In addition to teaching lifelong learning courses at Brooksby Village, Elaine Antonakes finds time to practice her piano skills. (photo by Setarreh Massihzadegan"][/caption] There s nothing like teaching adults, says Elaine Antonakes, a teacher at Brooksby Village who typically receives applause following her presentations. You never get a hand teaching elementary school! she quips. A teacher for 25 years in Lynn, Mass., who now resides at Brooksby, Antonakes earns her applause with spirited presentations covering topics from Nobel Peace Prize winners to famous events of the 20th century. Together we explore new subjects and share our knowledge and experiences, Antonakes says of the courses, which she teaches through the Explorers Lifelong Learning Institute of Salem State College. Formed in 1992 by retired Salem State faculty members, Explorers offers people 50 years or older the opportunity to exercise their minds in two semesters of courses each year for an annual membership fee of about $200. The Explorers courses were only held in Salem, Mass., when Antonakes then president of the Explorers thought about bringing the courses to Brooksby, a community she did not yet call home. For the past five years, those who live at Brooksby have had the opportunity to attend Antonakes courses, taught as a series of four two-hour lectures for a total of $25. Louise Collins and her husband, William, are among her students. The Collins had attended lifelong learning classes in Florida, where they spent winters before moving to Brooksby. We were absolutely thrilled to see that this program would be available right here on campus, thanks to the generous time given to us by people like Elaine, Mrs. Collins says. She and her husband have attended all of the courses offered in the two years since they moved to Brooksby. A former teacher as well, Mrs. Collins appreciates Antonakes dedication to her subject matter and the meticulous research she puts into each lecture. She genuinely loves teaching and it shows, says Mrs. Collins. Antonakes captures the attention of her students with a 45-minute presentation followed by a relevant documentary. Each session culminates in group discussion. She chooses topics that she thinks will appeal to her students, often putting into context events that they lived through but may not have studied. She makes these characters come alive, Mrs. Collins says. You get a great appreciation for who these people were as real-life human beings, she adds, reflecting on Antonakes lecture about Eleanor Roosevelt. Though Antonakes spends hours thoughtfully preparing her lectures, her students have it easy: No grades, no exams, and no papers, she promises. Just learning to enhance their personal development.

Continued learning

The learning that begins in Antonakes classroom extends beyond the allotted class time, says Frank Dellapiana, an avid student since he moved to Brooksby last year. It gives us something to discuss when we bump into each other, Dellapiana explains. After each lecture, we try to sit with someone who went to the lectures and discuss it at lunch. Students agree the intimate classroom, set in their community, makes for a positive learning environment. It s just more accessible and, knowing the instructor, it s a friendly feeling of comfort you know you re going to have something wonderful, Mrs. Collins says. Antonakes and her husband, a retired Salem State professor, first became acquainted with Brooksby through Explorers students who had moved there. The couple felt ready for a move, and, when they arrived, some of her Brooksby students welcomed the couple with a dinner party. In addition to teaching both at Brooksby and at the Explorers base in Salem, Mass., Antonakes has joined a book club at Brooksby and the board of the community s Women s Forum. She also assumes the role of student in Explorers classes and finds time to play the piano in her Brooksby apartment home when she isn t preparing for courses on the next topic. This fall, Antonakes will teach Turbulent Years, 1914-1918, with lectures on World War I, the Armenian genocide, and the abdication of Nicholas II and the Russian Revolution. It seems like a long time now to wait until the fall, Mrs. Collins says, adding that at Brooksby, The education never stops, the learning never stops, and I hope Elaine never stops. Luckily for Mrs. Collins and others, Antonakes says she plans on teaching until I can t. This is good for me. I really believe in lifelong learning.