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RTC Section Spotlight

Exercise for the brain in Manhattan

New York Teacher

Everyone gets a Si Beagle catalog in the mail, but word of mouth is the reason many retirees find their way into classes offered by the Retired Teachers Chapter’s Manhattan section.

“They hear that their friend took tap dancing or beading or book club, and it whets their appetite, and they figure they’ll try one course,” said Jo-Ann Hauptman, a retired high school English teacher and one of four section coordinators.

Classes are offered online on Mondays through Fridays and in person on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In-person trips and “dine-arounds” have returned, including walking tours and museum trips with a private docent.

Members get hooked, Hauptman said, adding, “We have people who are taking five courses.”

Of the roughly 6,425 retirees in the RTC’s Manhattan section, about 23% left teaching less than five years ago and 22% left five to 10 years ago. Nearly 35% have been retired for 10 to 20 years and 18% for 20 to 30 years, while 194 members left teaching more than 30 years ago.

One Si Beagle student is 104, said William Richardson, a Manhattan section coordinator and retired middle school science teacher. “I see her in all the online classes,” he said.

Richardson confessed that he used to throw away the Si Beagle catalogs without reading them. “But after being in the program, I realized it has such wonderful offerings,” he said.

Retired special education teacher Carolyn Givens-Lambert was a book club instructor before she became a section coordinator for Manhattan. She enjoys crafts and has taken crocheting and bead weaving. At $10 per course for eight to 10 sessions, plus supplies if needed, the courses are a bargain, she said.

“The instructors are experts,” she said. “They do a marvelous job.”

Some of the most popular classes are Italian, film, fitness, card games and art, said Carol Melucci, a Manhattan section coordinator who was a high school business education teacher. The program adjusts schedules based on interest.

“Our wait list for Italian is as long as the actual class, so next term we’ll offer two of those classes,” she said.

The coordinators said they love interacting with fellow retirees and offering opportunities for them to learn and socialize.

“Even through Zoom, they’re socializing, and this is all good for the brain,” Melucci said. “This is what they need.”