Mentor Community Spotlight: Judith Gutlerner

I couldn’t imagine what I would do when I retired, that could continue to give my life meaning. Now, thanks to Coursera, I can continue my life’s career with a whole other purpose as well.

Today’s spotlight is on Judith Gutlerner. Judy has been a Mentor for Surviving your Rookie Year of Teaching for over a year and is also a Mentor Guide. Today she’s sharing her mentoring story.

“The Coursera Effect”

My 3 retired friends and I were sipping tea, eating scones and catching up on what has happened in our lives since we last met a few months ago. After a few minutes, one of my friends remarked, “Judy, you are so nice these days, patient and kind.” Someone else said, “You also seem so happy!”
My other friend chimed in as well, “You have been giving the best advice”

I thought about that and laughed; “My husband doesn’t think so. He’s annoyed at me for always coming up with possibilities for any situation.”

When did I suddenly have so many ideas? Why have I been giving everyone all of this good advice? I have always been happy, but friends notice that I am even happier? What’s going on?

I was a very successful performing arts teacher. My oldest son inherited my passion for education. After attending Teach for America, and holding a variety of other jobs in the field, he eventually went on to create a Graduate School for Teachers.  He developed a unique program to help teachers find success but he could only reach a small number of people this way. He wanted to be able to share his ideas with others, especially in places where it would be difficult to find colleges. He put together 2 different MOOCs through Coursera and encouraged me to take them. I wanted to see what his ideas were and if I agreed with him, having worked in education for over 40 years. So I took his courses.

The first course I took was designed to help new teachers find success, called “Surviving Your Rookie Year of Teaching”. I loved seeing my son teach and I loved the course.

I became obsessed with it. All day long I would race to the computer, so excited to learn about the next topic, to watch the videos, read the materials, and post in the forums.

There were teachers of all levels, coming from so many different places both physically and emotionally, and yet we could all share the same problems and solutions. My e-mail box was overfilled with comments and discussions. I found myself thinking about the discussions all day long.

Having devoted over 40 years to a career that I loved, and then to have it end was very difficult. Many people struggle with retirement for this reason: they lose their identity. I was a celebrity in my area, with students of all ages running up to talk to me in stores, and on the streets. They would visit me with their first-born babies and seek me out to tell me of their successes. We moved away when I retired, and I never saw any of my students again.

One of the happiest moments in my recent life was when my son asked me to become a Mentor for this course. He didn’t have the time to devote to hold it in live sessions and asked me to try to continue to support it by being a Mentor. I love being a Mentor and being able to help learners connect the information they were learning to their jobs and beyond. Every time someone would write about how important this course was to his/her career, I took it as such a compliment. It meant that my son had created a significant course and it also meant that I was a part of its success as well.

Because of my vast years of experience, I found I could relate real stories to the learners that illustrated why certain strategies were so important.

I loved being able to reflect upon all my years and find the stories that would help learners to understand the importance of what my son was teaching.  It was well appreciated by the learners. I felt so productive, useful and satisfied.

Working with students has been my career. I couldn’t imagine what I would do when I retired, that could continue to give my life meaning. Now, thanks to Coursera, I have thousands of learners again. As a result, I can continue my life’s career with a whole other purpose as well.

Best of all, meeting so many incredible people from all over the world has enriched my life.

I have learned how to be collaborative, work with others, reach out to others, give advice, and ask for advice. I have learned to be sensitive to other cultures, to welcome everybody, and to achieve academic as well as social satisfaction and success. I’ve learned what 🙂 means and how to insert a photograph into the forums.

At a time when many retired people feel out of sorts and non-productive, thanks to Coursera, I have such a full, challenging and rewarding life now.

My 3 retired friends and I continued to talk over tea.

“So, Judy” they asked, “What is your secret? How come you are so happy and feel so productive?”

You know the answer.