Living out Childhood Dream Teaching Online Courses at Laurel Springs
“Since I was in 5th grade, I wanted to be a history teacher.” Mary Jane Gilbertson’s childhood aspirations took a circuitous route, but she is living her dream teaching online courses as a Laurel Springs history teacher.
Mary Jane majored in history during college, earned her teaching certificate, and completed her student teaching requirement. However, teaching jobs were hard to find at the time, so Mary Jane spent years working in the telecommunications and finance industries. During this time, Mary Jane earned her Masters of Business Administration degree to further her skills, but knew that “I never wanted to be anything but a teacher.” While she was working in business during the day, Mary Jane was teaching high school for adults at night. “One of my most memorable students was an eighty-year-old woman who was determined to get her high school diploma.” Mary Jane also began teaching online courses in her free time.
The switch to Laurel Springs
After many years of working in corporate business environments, Mary Jane decided to pursue her true love, and began teaching online courses full-time for Laurel Springs. One of her students said that, “Mary Jane Gilbertson is brilliant. She definitely cares about her students and their work. She makes the time to carefully read everything everyone submits. She greets each student individually when they come to her online classes, and takes time to listen to what everyone says.”
Mary’s Approach to Teaching Online Courses
While teaching online courses, Mary Jane said, “we focus almost exclusively on current events. We use a map with a list of countries in turmoil, discuss news items and revolutions, and review political speeches.” Her students are especially interested in how politics and economics intersect. “I pull all that in so that they know it’s all related. I love to open their eyes to connections between human economics and what is happening in the world.”
Mary Jane seeks ways to create meaningful student-teacher relationships and integrate student interests with the subject matter. She gave the example of a student who was extremely interested in photography. Mary Jane suggested that the student think about history during photography excursions, and ask questions such as, “what would ancient man think of this landscape, or in the case of fashion photography, how does history impact fashion?” Mary Jane said that she was able to “take what the student loved, and apply it to history. Everything is affected by history. My students can explore their interests, and at the same time, we make sure that the necessary academic content is covered.”
Mary Jane feels that students are most successful when parents are involved and interested in what their children are doing in class. She encourages regular communication with both students and parents.
When she is not teaching, Mary Jane enjoys gardening, and she also loves to experiment with new recipes in the kitchen. She also likes to read, especially historical fiction, and enjoys learning about the interactions between history and economics. She is the advisor for the Laurel Springs Student Council, and anticipates a very active year for student government.