Teaching a Community Education class is easier than you think

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January 20, 2003 // UPDATED 1:03 pm - April 30, 2007
By: sue rich
sue rich

No paperwork, just passion, says local educator -- even if prospective teachers can't quite believe it

When Tom Neiman, a Minneapolis Community Education coordinator, answers a call from a neighbor interested in teaching a course, he expects a tussle.

"They always ask: 'What do you want me to teach?'" said Neiman. "Then I ask, 'Well, what would you like to teach?'"

The caller invariably responds with something along the lines of "Well, I work on computers for a living," causing Neiman to force the issue: "That's nice. What would you like to teach?'"

This tango can continue for some time, as Neiman reassures the prospect that it really is easy for them -- and you -- to become a community ed teacher.

After the caller opens up and confesses their love of and proficiency in watercolor painting or sustainable gardening, the next round begins: "But I don't have a degree." "It's okay, you don't need one," answers Neiman, calmly.

Bewildered the caller repeats, "But...."

Next, Neiman has to help the inquirer face the fact that they won't have to do much paperwork. "Just what it takes to get your paychecks," says Neiman, who founded Community Education in southwest Minneapolis some 28 years ago.

This leads to the next hurdle: yes, teachers get paid to share a favorite activity with their neighbors, typically $14-21 per hour of class time.

Teaching a class can also help build a business or career. Many people have established a private business to work with students outside of classes, or with those who can't meet at a scheduled time but will pay a little extra for a one-on-one consultation on how to, for example, de-clutter their lives.

Perhaps more important than the financial and other benefits is the camaraderie or sense of community from surrounding yourself with like-minded people. The personal impact of teaching or taking these courses should not be underestimated, Neiman said; he has personally known about 30 couples who met and married through community ed.

Such benefits draw teachers to Minneapolis from throughout the metro area. Neiman is quick to brag about countless teachers and students alike; author Charles Huver, for example, has driven once a week since 1987 from Forest Lake to south Minneapolis to teach courses in American or World Literature.

Such dedication underscores the effectiveness of Neiman's approach and credo: "The most powerful program is self-directed," he said.

And those curiously resistant callers? Said Neiman, "They're not trying to convince me, they're trying to convince themselves."

Information on free "How to Become a Community Education Teacher" workshops is peppered throughout the course catalog. Or, go to http://mpls.k12.mn.us/commed/Instructors/instructors.html to download an application and instructor information. Or, call the Community Education office at the location you're interested in teaching at. (See the listings on page 19.)