Tantramar Seniors’ College- March, 2010

If you are over fifty and thinking of returning to college, Tantramar Seniors’ College might be just the place for you. The college, a non-profit organization not associated with any official educational institutions, proudly offers three semesters of a wide selection of courses for the yearly fee of one hundred dollars.

The ‘grass roots’ seniors’ college concept has taken off like a grass fire; the first meeting for the Tantramar Seniors’ College was in the spring of 2008, and now the college offers dozens of courses a year in four different locations.

Administrator  Bea Walker, says that, “In the first fall of  2008 we had a few classes in Sackville and two or three in Amherst and none in Moncton, and  now we are running about a dozen in Moncton each session and about a dozen in Sackville, and half a dozen in Amherst , and this winter and coming spring we will have two in Port Elgin”.

“The college  is doing very well”, says Read,  “We are modeled on a seniors college from P.E.I. .That is how we got started”. Walker says that  Heather Patterson, who works in Continuing Education at Mount Allison,  was the spark  that ignited the fire. “ She went to a conference in P.E.I.  and got the Seniors’ College there to come back and speak in Sackville.

The college has been a  “great exercise” in community organization and support says Read. Including the instructors and board members of the college, there at least one hundred volunteers involved in running the college.

Sally Scott is a Baie Verte resident who has signed up for a few courses over the last year.  She says the energy is exciting, “ I  had a feeling of being quite liberated when I went in to sign up in the Church, the energy in the room was palpable. I even like the name,  there is a certain dignity to it”.

Read has not had any difficulty getting instructors for the college. In fact, “They come out of the woodwork, people will approach us and say, I’d like to teach a course on X, Y or Z”.

Some of the courses on offer this session range from Re-upholstery, to Knitting and Yoga. There are classes on Bridge, Digital Photography, the History and Religion of India, and Introduction to Computers. Read has himself taken a course on Darwin and says that they have some very good courses on Art Appreciation and Music Appreciation.

The classes are as diverse as the people offering them. Usually the classes are about six weeks long but that can vary according to the instructor. “It depends on the content and what the instructor wants to do”, says Read, and the class size is variable as well. “Some will say if I don’t have five, I am not going to bother teaching and others say they will teach just one student”.

“It is seniors teaching seniors, and we don’t pay the instructors, so I think people understand that the instructors are not all flawless,  and some of them might have an equipment problem or something, but basically we have 95 % praise and maybe 5 % constructive criticism“, says Read.

There is no specific criteria for an instructor other than being over fifty. “You do have to  be over fifty to take courses” says Read, “Not that we ask for birth certificates, and the same with the teachers. We have had one or two teachers that are below fifty but we do try and gear it towards that level. We don’t want to be shown up by the younger crowd!”

Read says that “Different  people have different techniques. For instance we have two different photography courses, one is more rigorous and one is more about telling stories, and we just say, if you like to learn by listening to stories then go to this one and if you want  technical details go to this one”. 

Virgil Hammock, retired Fine Arts professor and  Sackville Town councilor, has been teaching at the college from the beginning. His drawing classes are generally filled to capacity.

This year his spring class on The Art of Northern Europe has developed into a trip to Europe. After his six week course he is offering an organized tour of Holland, Belgian and France to see the art and architecture they have discussed in class, and to taste the wine and foods of the region. Of course the students will pay their own way, but the tour will include more lectures as they travel.

“I am giving the lectures so that people can see the art that we talked about and we can discuss the paintings and architecture that we will see.”

Hammock says that teaching at Tantramar Seniors’ College is “ A lot more fun that teaching university,  I taught University for 37 years, and the (senior) students are easier to teach and they are keener.  They are very good students and it is a very enjoyable experience for me. They really want to do what they are doing. It is not like you are teaching a first year class and they would rather be at the pub. These people want to be there and they are having a good time”.

Sally Scott has enjoyed her classes, “It is a wonderful way to meet new people. Everyone is very friendly and there is more of a social component to it than university. People of our age are are more eager to go out and meet new people than in university when you have your little clique and people tend not to venture off”.

Read says that the college is about having fun and socializing, and if you learn something along the way, that’s good too.

 “We have had Scottish Dancing and Line Dancing, and Learning to Play the Ukelele” says Read,

“It is about getting people out and socializing. We’ve got a couple of  courses that have kept on going after the course has finished. We had one on Memoir Writing and it was an eight week course, and now that class meets every month, because they haven’t  finished their memoirs”.

Tantramar Seniors’ College :


Spring Registration:

Sackville –  Tuesday, April 6th , 2010

            Anglican Church Hall, 4 – 5:50 PM

Amherst, N.S. – Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

            Trinity-St.Stephen United Church, 3-5 PM

Moncton – Thursday, April 8, 2010

            Lions Community Center, 473 St. George St., Noon – 2 PM

            Camden Park, Tea Room – Peoples Park Tower, 2:30 – 3:30 PM


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