Retired teacher continues to learn with Extended Education
Find your opportunity for personal and professional development
Thirty years ago when Helen Guenther was working on her Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Manitoba, she noticed an older woman in class next to her and wondered what an older woman was doing in university at her age.
“But now I understand,” says the Extended Education student. “It doesn’t matter what age you are. Life is a journey and it is all about learning.”
As a special needs teacher for 25 years, Guenther could have used the skills she learned in Extended Education’s Applied Counselling program but she has retired from teaching. Now she is applying her learning in her volunteer work with women struggling with mental health and addictions issues. “I would love to become an addictions counsellor. I absolutely love working with people to see where they are coming from and where they are going. We’ll see where this leads me.”
As a young and aspiring teacher, Guenther never thought she would find herself back in school one day, but in her early 50s, there she was.
“If you would have asked me two years ago if I’d go back to school, I would have said no way. It all just kind of fell into place and I was happy to be back.”
Counselling is all about relating to people, she says. “It’s about learning to deal with people in a more effective, empathetic way. There are a lot of people who have additions and mental health issues. I just want to connect with them better and help them, support them in any way I can.”
In her Extended Education program, Guenther enjoyed the personal connection with her instructors.
“I found they were very personable. They empathized with the personal experiences I have been through. All of the courses really spoke to me. I am finding it is everything I was hoping it would be.”
Coming home to the U of M felt comfortable, she says. “The familiarity really made things easier.”
She chose the program because she found herself around a number of family and friends who have some mental health issues. “Being able to understand and help them was important to me. From the first week of classes, I was being a better listener and I was able to communicate with them differently. I didn’t come up with advice right away. I became a better listener.”
Now, she uses what she has learned in both her personal and her professional life.
“I run a mental health wellness group for women. I get people to talk about things they are afraid of.”
For Guenther, coming back to school wasn’t difficult.
“I am a lifelong learner. I love to learn. Many years later, I am feeling very comfortable with my surroundings, with the people, with the programming and the assignments.”
And today, Guenther understands why that older woman was in her class all those years ago, taking a course for personal interest.
“I think it’s important that we have goals. There’s so much opportunity out there to use the skills, knowledge and wisdom you have gained through life and through school.”
She recommends lifelong learning, with Extended Education.
“Give it a chance. Start with one course, see what it’s like. I actually think you’ll like it. Don’t shy away from new opportunities. Don’t be scared. Who knows what life can bring you?”
Fellow Extended Education graduate, Bonnie Murray agrees.
“Yes. It’s very well worth it. Definitely.”
Murray found the Applied Counselling program rewarding both personally and professionally.
“I feel I can apply the skills in my life and work. I have been using the skills already to be more comforting and supportive of those I work with, and I am more knowledgeable now about resources that I can offer for people and different supports that are available out in the community.”
Murray applied to the program to help build her skills and her comfort level in helping others, and she looks forward to being able to use these skills and experiences she has gained in the future.
“It was a long journey, working full-time and going to school, but it was worth it because I learned a lot.”
Learn more about Extended Education programs and courses including several online options.