Jewel Harris gets “absolute joy” out of being a Connections class instructor

Jewel Harris delights when students in her OASIS Connections computer classes share stories about finding a job just weeks after completing the class or impressing a loved-one by learning to send an email.

In a little more than one year of teaching Connections classes at St. Philips School and Community Center in Dallas, Texas, Jewel has watched multiple students secure employment, learn to communicate with far-flung loved ones via email, do research on family lineage and even become volunteer instructors themselves.

Jewel is an instructor with the AARP Foundation, and all of the students in her classes are Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) participants who need job search and workplace technology skills. But Jewel finds her students are receiving much more than those skills in the Connections Class.

“There have been MANY rewards for me instructing the classes,” Jewel says. “As they progress, I start to hear students answering each other’s questions and helping their peers during an exercise. One student shared with me that she really misses class because the group bonded as a family.”

Students have thanked Jewel for being patient with them. Having come to the class with no computer skills, they are leaving with a newfound confidence in themselves and their ability to use technology.

“Many of my students felt ‘left behind’ in the technology age,” she says. “But the skills we cover in the classes are introduced slowly. The curriculum is designed to accommodate their learning styles, with each session building on the previous one. Generally, by the end of the second session, the students’ fears are subsiding and many are becoming more comfortable with the computer.”

One of Jewel’s students, Mary Ann Gomillion, credits the Connections Class and Jewel, with the fact that she was hired as the office manager for a local pest control company in Dallas, Texas. And, Mary Ann went on to become a Connections instructor, as well.

“Jewel was wonderful and even after the class was over, I could still call her and ask her questions,” Mary Ann says. “I learned everything from ground zero in the Connections Class. I learned how to search and apply for jobs on the computer and how to change the format of a document, and then I learned how to navigate around the Internet and do research.”

Jewel appreciates the enthusiasm of her students. “It’s an absolute joy to be part of these classes – to see how much people can accomplish when given the chance.”