By HILLARY GEARY
Barton College’s Amanda Maynard incorporates years of working gerontology experience into her courses and helps students work through trying times during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Using empathy and scripture, Maynard’s life’s calling is to teach and also learn from her students.
“I always had this drive to speak to people, and that’s why gerontology fit for me because I could talk to people and I could help them think and work through their problems. This subject is close to my heart; after 13 years of professional work and out in the aging field I feel really connected with older adults. I have had lots of experience talking to groups of people of all types on different committees and serving the public. I like the platform of teaching; if you could describe my teaching in one word it’s learning. I’m a teacher that likes to learn from my students and I like dialogue. I like to ask a question and receive information back. I get into discussions with students where they blow my mind and I’ve learned something new so I never feel like I’m coming in to just be the boss and tell everyone what they need to know, I feel like it’s a give and take sort of opportunity. The dynamic of learning is what I like to bring to the classroom as far as learning from each other. I try to make sure that the content and assignments in my class can be tailored to each person individually so that they can come in and get something from it to take with them in life. I knew teaching was what I wanted to do with my degrees and as soon as I set foot in that classroom; I realized that I had had met my purpose in life so I absolutely enjoy teaching at Barton College.
“It made perfect sense to me to come back to where I came from and I have a kindred spirit with the students because I have sat in the same seat- I think they’re actually still the same seats from 13 years ago! 13 years sounds like a long time, but it really feels like yesterday to me. I remember what it was like to be overwhelmed and I remember what it’s like to be in nursing school and the anxiety I had about switching my major and what was I going to do in this thing called life. I feel very kindred with the students that I talk to and who I teach. I lived in Hilley all five years that I was on campus, so I know what the dorm life is like. I think it’s nice that I can relate so well with students, and I’m also pretty spiritual and religious so a part of my teaching is using scripture to inspire students. In 2017 I rededicated my life to Christ and so I’ve found my purpose and part of that purpose was coming to Barton college and being on your campus and meeting students and teaching. A verse that I have always lived by and that has mattered to me since that point is a scripture, Romans 8:28 ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him’. I’ve been called according to His purpose, so for me teaching isn’t about me it’s about my students first, but it’s also about God’s purpose in my life. Teaching all of you and being on this campus is bigger than me-it’s God’s purpose-so I always like to share that with my students. I’m still open minded and I’m there as a resource for students if they’re going through times that are discouraging or crazy or have anxiety,” said Maynard.
Maynard teaches FYS, Gerontology 101: Aging, the Individual and Society, 240: Ethnic and Cross-Cultural Aging, 440: Family Caregiving in Dementia, 330: The Aging Network, Gen 301: The Silver Tsunami, Gen Capstone, Professional Studies Courses and Freshman Advising. She enjoys teaching students about how Gerontology can be applied to any major or career path.
“I teach everything; I see a different variety of students all day long and I have to transition my brain from working with freshman to working with juniors who have been there and done that. And then I go to my night class and I’m teaching nontraditional students who have issues like childcare and grandparents raising grandchildren and all of those different delicate matters. In the beginning of my courses I always start out with having students share their name and major and that sort of thing but then I also give some information about me.
“I graduated from Barton College in 2007. Dr. Fulks actually started working for Barton College in 2003, I came in 2002 as a potential nursing major and so I was in nursing classes until my first junior year because I had failed by a tenth of a point in nursing. I was also taking gerontology classes at the same time as I was going to be minor in gerontology. I was in the second half of my junior year that I was sitting there and I just up and decided nursing is not for me, I’m going to withdraw passing. So I did, I withdrew from all of my nursing classes which put me below the ability of keeping my financial aid and I was down to taking one extracurricular course. At that point I decided to pick up gerontology and graduated on my fifth year, and I decided to go with gerontology because I was taking gerontology 440 which is the Dementia and Caregiving course and we had a speaker come in who was an occupational therapist doing training with the Alzheimer’s Association. She said some things that really connected with me, and through that class I found out I had five family members who had been diagnosed or passed away with Alzheimer’s disease on my mother’s side, so I knew it was going to be an issue in my family. With gerontology, it’s almost like a social worker social type of field where you can follow up with that person and reconnect with them so you’re not just helping them with making health care choices, but you’re helping older adults with financial options and caregiving and there’s just a multitude of things that you can do with gerontology. I felt better connected to what I was doing with gerontology. So I graduated a year later with a Bachelor of Science in Gerontology, a Minor in Psychology and a Minor in Religion and Philosophy which all worked well because I really wanted to work with caregivers and older adults with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Maynard.
Maynard has experience in Gerontology working as an Alzheimer’s Program Coordinator at Morningview Assisted Living Facility, Access to Services Director of Senior Resources at Guilford, Department Programs Technician for the Family Victims Unit of the Greensboro Police Department and Marketing Coordinator at Roofwerks of Raleigh. She is a Member of the North Carolina Victims Assistance Network, the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and has served on the Guilford County Long-term Care Community Advisory Committee.
Maynard encourages students to keep an open mind about the ways a gerontology course can aid them in the working world.
“Starting in 2035 when older adults outnumber children for the first time in history, there’s no job you’re going to have where you’re not going to see older adults. You’re going to be working with and beside them, and they’re going to be the business owners who will be wanting your skills and needing help with the technology. You’re going to have to know how to work with older adults and nobody can hide from gerontology, it’s important across the board. You’re not going to be surrounded by your age group forever and you’re going to have to be able to work with people that are much older than you and cooperate and be mature,” stated Maynard.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down campus, Maynard sympathizes with students and fellow teachers during trying times.
“COVID-19 is giving lots of students anxiety right now. I keep in mind that students probably have three or four other classes that they’re trying to balance and I’m trying to keep things at a good slow pace. I’ve doubled my work because I want to be as clear as possible on my expectations with my students so I’m making videos to explain things, I’m having discussions on line to explain things, I’m pushing out due dates to make things doable, I’ve done technology trainings as well so that if I’m expecting students to know how to use a particular tool or software I don’t just throw it at them and say ‘here you need to learn this’. The biggest thing for me has been communication. I need students to communicate and let me know if they’re having troubles with their Internet or if it’s something they don’t understand, so I can provide clarification because it’s a give and take environment.
“COVID-19 I think has had a traumatic impact on student learning. I’m really empathetic for all of my students and that Thursday that we heard that Friday started our pause, I sent out emails to all of my classes with ‘don’t worry, relax’. I also included in my email scripture on anxiety and taking their issues to God if that’s something that they want to do. They may have other religious aspirations and that’s great, I just want them to take it to someone. For me, I understand and Jesus Christ and what he can do in someone’s life so I include that as something to help calm people and students and give them something to lean on. Also, I hope it opens the door and let them know that I’m available to communicate about these things and that I don’t shy away from heartbreak or trauma or tears. Teachers are no longer having faculty meetings and so we miss each other. We miss your faces! I don’t realize how much I need my students until they’re gone, and when I’m talking to a screen usually it’s just me doing videos because all of my courses are asynchronous and I don’t meet with them online. COVID-19 has created such a disconnect in learning for our faculty and for each other, so I really feel that this Google Meet and Zoom helps students connect with each other in some sort of way so they can lean on each other. All of us are facing the same thing and if anybody is going to understand it’s going to be your peers and your classmates. I’m definitely keeping everyone in my prayers,” said Maynard.