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Learning about topics from genealogy to guitar

New York Teacher
Jonathan Fickies

Birdwatching leader Miriam Rakowski leads retirees on a Central Park birdwatching expedition, one of many Si Beagle Learning Center trips offered.

Estelle Ross has taken dozens of Si Beagle Learning Center courses since retiring as a kindergarten teacher in Brooklyn 12 years ago. She has enrolled in some, such as line dancing and paper flower-making, many times.

“I love the line dancing. I take that every term,” she said. “I’ve even taken it over Zoom, which isn’t as much fun as when you’re with people.”

The Brooklyn resident often takes classes through the Staten Island Si Beagle center and once took art at the Manhattan center. Retirees can take remote or in-person Si Beagle classes, seminars or trips through any location, regardless of where they live.

“You can go to any center as long as it fits in your schedule,” Ross said. “I make myself a little grid and I fill in all the boxes so I don’t have a conflict.”

The Si Beagle Learning Center was founded 35 years ago and is named for the late Si Beagle, who pushed for the union to provide continuing education programs for retirees when he retired in the 1960s.

Thousands of retirees participate in hundreds of courses, seminars, trips and dine-arounds each year. This fall, 8,750 Retired Teachers Chapter members and their spouses explored belly dancing, genealogy, sign language, improvisational theater, stained-glass design, the American Revolution, mahjong, chess, makeup artistry, guitar, Mandarin Chinese, a virtual tour of Antarctica, bird watching, yoga and countless other topics.

The classes are a mixture of in-person (at Si Beagle Learning Centers in New York City, the greater metropolitan area and Florida) and remote. There are three sessions each year. The fall semester is from September to November and the spring semester is from March to May. All the courses in the shorter intersession, which is in January and February, continue to be remote, except for Florida, which has in-person courses and seminars.

The maximum number of courses and seminars a retiree can take is five in a semester. Registration is by mail only, and the cost is $10 per class and $2 per seminar. Members must include a check or money order made out to UFTWF Retiree Programs with their registration coupon and send it to UFTWF Retiree Programs, Si Beagle Learning Centers, 52 Broadway, 17th Floor, New York, NY 10004, Attn: Lynn Lospenuso.

In-person trips and dine-arounds have been returning as the pandemic has waned. RTC members also can register for up to five of those in one semester. Prices vary.

In addition to intersession classes, the Florida Si Beagle Learning Center has four upcoming Day at the University seminars in January, February and early March on topics that include climate change and film noir. That program has a separate registration form.

Most Si Beagle courses are taught by UFT retirees. For example, retired special education and industrial arts teacher Roseann Demers teaches on mindfulness, emotional-freedom technique, wellness and meditation for the Nassau County and Westchester programs. She has also taught classes on jewelry-making and repair.

Demers said she has two core groups of retirees who have been taking her wellness classes since 2020. Their goals have included personal growth, redefining themselves and igniting their passion in retirement.

“It’s been so fulfilling and heartwarming to see how these groups have come together and how they support each other, and how I’ve been a part of that,” she said.

Spouses, domestic partners and AFT, NYSUT and Professional Staff Congress members can take courses if there are spots available.

Related Topics: Retired Teachers