• Last modified 3227 days ago (Aug. 25, 2010)


Learning center offers flexibility to learners

Staff writer

The Marion County Learning Center offers flexible and unique curriculum options.

A parenting class taught by Parents as Teachers counts as an elective credit.

Adult students earn physical education credits using Wii Fit.

An art website provides instructional videos to teach students drawing and shading techniques for an art credit.

While the learning center offers resources for homeschooled students and an English as a second language class, it generally serves as a resource for adults who dropped out of high school and want to earn their degrees.

“I think the toughest thing is being able to go back to school again,” learning center director Julie Westerman said. “It takes some serious resolve to get back into the swing of things.”

The learning center is structured to make it as easy as possible for adult learners to return to education. The class schedule is completely flexible because 90 percent of the classes are taught online. Students can earn a credit in as little as one month or take as much time as they need. Students need to go to the learning center for unit tests, but can receive the rest of their schooling from their home.

Still, students face the challenge of working around an adult schedule, often involving families and jobs.

“It’s still not easy, especially if you waited 10 years,” Westerman said.

Variety at the learning center matches the variety of its students. Westerman said students come back after dropping out for myriad reasons. Some women dropped out because they were pregnant, some students dropped out because they were frustrated with moving from one school system to another, and others were just plain frustrated.

One of Westerman’s former students came back to the learning center when she was 53 years old. She was forced to drop out of high school when she got married. Another student dropped out of school because sitting in a classroom caused him back pain.

“Life was tough for them at the time, they didn’t fit in the school system, and they just quit,” Westerman said.

Westerman compiles the students’ transcripts from their high schools and has to fill in the blanks.

“Some students need two or three classes; some need a couple of years’ worth,” she said.

While the center employs a teacher for the ESL course, Westerman is the only certified teacher for regular adult students, although two para-educators assist her. Westerman said she teaches every class imaginable and will help students in the learning center or over the phone.

“For most students, it can go fast if they focus,” Westerman said. “(In high school) not every minute in the classroom is focused on you. A person who has good ability should take less time.”

Although it isn’t always an easy road, learning center graduates earn a high school diploma not a general education development degree.

The learning center has started enrollment and will continue to enroll students through Sept. 15. Students can work through the summer but the learning center is closed in July, making test-taking unavailable for one month.

For more information, call the learning center at (620) 947-3210.

Last modified Aug. 25, 2010