UMO Professor Takes Classroom Outside
MOUNT OLIVE- When social distancing and “masking up” are the norm, why not just do everything differently? University of Mount Olive Associate Professor of English Dr. Jill Gerard has decided that the University’s outdoor classroom might be the perfect spot for teaching English 111 and 225 this semester.
Armed with a beach buggy fully equipped with an umbrella, books, flip charts, sparkling water, sunscreen, and snacks, Gerard heads to the outdoor classroom three times daily on Tuesdays and Thursdays to teach poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and more. Gerard’s husband is high risk, so, for her, teaching outside seems a safer option. However, when the weather becomes a factor, she will turn to Zoom.
“The students have been amazing,” she said. “They seem grateful to be outside. Everyone has been really positive.”
When COVID-19 caused an abrupt halt to face-to-face instruction in the spring, Gerard confessed that she missed her interactions with students. “Teaching and learning are, for me, highly personal acts,” she said. “I love to see students grow and develop their skills and habits. Sometimes they surprise themselves, and this is lovely.”
Gerard hopes that being outside this fall will not only offer a safe space for learning, but also a creative space for students to grow and develop skills and foster curiosity. “I hope that the outdoor classroom will be a place to find connections,” she said.
In terms of the teaching and writing, Gerard, who has been honing her profession since 1989, sees herself as a more experienced writer–sharing her ideas, habits and expertise. “A friend once described my class as an old-fashioned guild. I like that idea,” she smiled. To emphasize that idea, Gerard recited a favorite quote from T. H. White’s, The Once and Future King, “There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you.”
The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists. For more information, visit www.umo.edu.
University of Mount Olive Associate Professor of English Dr. Jill Gerard has decided that the University’s outdoor classroom might be the perfect spot for teaching English 111 and 225 this semester.