Tellico Village adds stress-free learning to its amenities with TV

Tellico Village residents already enjoying the community's luxury lakeside lifestyle can add lifelong learning to the list of the community's amenities.

Tellico Village University was founded by Director Cynthia Solomon and other village residents to provide a wide range of educational opportunities that complement the golf courses, restaurants, boat docks and other amenities provided for residents. "We are a learning community," she said.
A retired college professor and 15-year resident of Tellico Village, Solomon said her initial goal was to create a lifelong learning program for current Village residents and to create a program that would enhance the marketability of Tellico Village.
For a nominal fee residents can take classes taught by experienced professionals in such areas as computers, foreign languages, astronomy, investment management and nutrition. Classes began in January.
There are no tests, no grades and no homework. Diversity of offerings is important. The curriculum reflects the interests of the community, she said.
"Residents step forward and tell us what they would like to teach," she said.
These types of programs have existed in various forms around the country for years, Solomon said. Based on the response from volunteer instructors and students, the Tellico Village program could be a model for the future, she said.
Tellico Village University is sponsored by STAYinTV, a non-profit organization whose mission is to "identify the changing needs of our population and spearhead actions that enable our residents to age in place with dignity in Tellico Village."
TVU first came up in a discussion in 2008 and has been followed by several adult learning initiatives including a newsletter listing educational opportunities, said John Cherry, Tellico Village public relations manager. Industry trends point to the need for lifelong learning opportunities. TVU will be a part of the marketing effort as a pillar of the Tellico Village brand, he said.
The university is a community effort, Solomon said. Villagers have volunteered as assistants and coordinators and to form a curriculum committee and class coordination crew. Instructors range from registered dieticians to teachers with 30 years of experience.
For topics that come from a defined discipline, such as health, business management, government, or science, instructors hold sufficient academic credentials to validate their credibility on their topic.
For topics that come from experience rather than academic preparation, such as hobbies or careers, instructors must be able to present their accomplishments in that area. Examples would be samples of their artwork or craft, or their career accomplishments.
TVU has already attracted some uniquely qualified instructors, Solomon said.
Tom Kowalewski volunteered as webmaster and primary computer instructor for the University. He earned an MA in Media Technology and taught technology at various levels from middle school to junior college.
Kowalewski said that as a parent and grandparent he tries to keep up with new technology as a way to be closer to his family, especially the younger ones. Other residents feel the same way but may not be able teach themselves, he said.
"It's important for retirees to be able to share information with their kids and grandkids," he said.
On a recent weekday morning Kowalewski taught a second-level computer class focusing on web page design. The classroom in the Chota Recreation Center in Tellico Village was equipped with wireless networking and a projection screen.
A half-dozen students followed along with the lesson as he explained how to html code various features on their own practice web pages. Kowalewski answered questions and worked with each student individually during the two-hour class.
Gaye Williams is a Tellico Village resident who is developing a line of children's clothing called "Ridiculously Adorable." She enrolled in the class to learn how to build and maintain her own webpage.
Williams said she likes the fact that Kowalewski is able to work with each student. "He's very patient," she said.
Solomon said one of the most popular courses so far was focused on orchid care taught by Rich Gettings, a resident of the Kahitee neighborhood and vice president of the Smoky Mountain Orchid Society.
About 20 students attended the class. Many people receive orchids as gifts but they don't know how to care for them, Gettings said.
"The two-hour course taught them proper watering, lighting and fertilizing techniques," he said.
TVU's spring curriculum includes classes on web design, self-publishing, French language and the art of animation.