Renaissance Woman Shares Love of Tech & Books with Students of all Ages

With one foot in the Old World of books and another in the New World of technology, Dawn Tolchinsky is a walking Renaissance woman who can relate to young and old souls in equal measure.

Adjunct Professor Dawn Tolchinsky
As Adjunct Professor of Information Technology at Kent State University Geauga Campus, Tolchinsky’s classes in IT 11000 (Intro to Apps) and IT 12000 (Intermediate Apps) appeal to students of all demographics, including retirees in the Senior Guest Program.

Designed to encourage older adults to attend classes, senior guests aged 60 or older can attend classes for free on a noncredit, space-available basis. Tolchinsky says, “I enjoy my senior guests; they are eager to learn. I once had a 90+ year old man who just wanted to be able to read his email and the Wall Street Journal. The kids in the class loved him! The students assist them if they see them struggling.”

In fact, retired Geauga County administrator David Lair took one of Tolchinsky’s IT classes with his granddaughter. After 30-plus years working in technology and sales, and 24 years as the elected fiscal officer for Newbury Township, Lair worked with Geauga County commissioners on tech issues for 15 years.

“This is the first time I have had a grandfather and granddaughter together in a class,” Tolchinsky says. “It’s kind of fun. They help each other and Dave offers shortcuts that he has used during his various jobs.”

Tolchinsky graduated from Ohio University in 1969 with a BS in Elementary Education. She taught at Crestwood public schools (3rd grade and 7th grade math), and Cardinal (first grade and Learning Disabilities tutor). She received her Master’s in Instructional Computing in 1989 (now called Instructional Technology). She started working at Kent State Geauga in 2002 and has been teaching there for 18 years.

“I love teaching!,” Tolchinsky enthuses. “My style is very casual. The small classes make it easy to get to know the students. I also teach online, which is a little more challenging. I encourage my online students to contact me with questions and concerns. Unfortunately, it’s hard to ‘read’ a student through email. However, I think I’m successful with most — some students are not good with online classes.”

Ironically, coming from an IT expert, Tolchinsky adds, “I try to keep up to date on the latest technology, but it is impossible. My students help keep me current.”

By teaching Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint, Tolchinsky’s courses are applicable to everyone. “I try to relate the applications to the workplace as much as possible. The best part is, I learn something new every semester and so do the students.”

Aside from her teaching, Tolchinsky also serves on the Board of Trustees for the Burton Public Library. She started serving on the BPL Board of Trustees in 1999 and her current seven-year term expires in 2024.

“I love teaching and reading books is second on my list of favorites, Tolchinsky explains. “I have a tablet, but holding a book makes me happy.”

Books, reading and teaching are simply a part of Tolchinsky’s daily life. She reads to her brother — a quadriplegic at Heather Hill — three times a week. In addition, she helps her 10-year-old grandson after school each day with his homework.

She also participates in the Learning for a Lifetime program at the Geauga Campus. In partnership with the Department on Aging, Kent State Geauga hosts this special annual event for senior citizens in Geauga County. Since 2008, Learning for a Lifetime has been a popular opportunity for seniors to go back to college, where they enjoy being students for a day.

“I participated in Learning for a Lifetime last year and had a wonderful time,” Tolchinsky shares.

Her students may be younger or older, but whether Tolchinsky is teaching at Kent State Geauga or out in the community, she enjoys sharing her love of technology, books and lifelong learning. She recognizes that education is a two-way street.

“Education has always been a vital part of my life,” she says. “I love seeing the ‘aha’ moments on a student’s face. I continue to try to broaden my horizons to keep my mind sharp. So far, it seems to be working.”

POSTED: Wednesday, September 23, 2020 - 11:47am
UPDATED: Wednesday, September 23, 2020 - 11:47am
Estelle R. Brown