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OLLI teacher reaches far and wide

By fourth grade, Irv Lubliner knew he wanted to teach math when he grew up. What he didn’t know was that he’d find it so satisfying that he’d still be doing it years after retirement and reaching students all over the U.S.

During his 40-year “formal” career, he taught math at every grade level, kindergarten through graduate school. When he retired from Southern Oregon University in 2014, he had a strong desire to continue teaching but was also determined to never grade another paper.

Fortunately, SOU is one of over 120 colleges with an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. A continuing education program, OLLI promotes lifelong learning primarily among those 50 and older. There he found a new classroom in which to both teach and learn.

Lubliner is passionate about playing harmonica, mostly blues, so his first OLLI gig came in 2015, when he taught “Beginning Blues Harmonica.”

“The first time I taught that class,” he recalled, “I didn’t think there would be enough interest to fill it. Much to my surprise, I turned away three times as many students as I could accommodate and repeated the course seven times.”

A self-proclaimed “math enthusiast,” Lubliner didn’t wait long to share his excitement for the subject. He has taught classes titled “Math for Your Amazement and Amusement,” aiming to give students an enjoyable math experience and instill an appreciation for their own mathematical abilities, and “Probability – You Can Bet on It!”

With the pandemic, OLLI has needed to postpone the move into its remodeled classrooms at SOU and instead moved online. Lubliner’s online offering, “Upgrade Your Toolkit for Solving Math Problems,” premiered last fall. He is now adapting other classes to online learning.

Though not all OLLI instructors choose to become members, Lubliner decided to join right away. “I was delighted to learn from passionate instructors, alongside enthusiastic students with interesting perspectives and insights of their own.”

He has taken classes on music, Spanish, card games, body movement, baseball history, physics, Shakespeare, crossword puzzles, improvisational theater, animal intelligence, the development of human language, and classic movies.

“Though that’s quite a range, I’ve only scratched the surface of the array of courses OLLI offers.”

Looking back, Lubliner mused, “I thought I’d served on enough committees to last a lifetime,” but he surprisingly agreed to serve on OLLI’s Curriculum Committee, screening new courses and supporting instructors. After two years on that committee, he was elected to OLLI’s Council of Directors. He has served on the council for three years, two as treasurer.

“I have found OLLI service to be quite satisfying and encourage other members to volunteer,” he said. “OLLI is a member-driven community, and I’ve enjoyed working with others dedicated to enhancing learning opportunities for people living nearby and expanding offerings to those farther away.”

In 2019, Lubliner’s path as an educator took a significant turn, which led to “some of the most important work of my life.” He created Felabra Press and published his mother’s writings about her experiences in Polish ghettos and Nazi concentration camps. The book, written by Felicia Bornstein Lubliner, is “Only Hope: A Survivor’s Stories of the Holocaust.” Irv contributed the foreword and afterword, putting his mother’s life and writings in the context of his family and shedding light on his experience as a child of Holocaust survivors. As a public speaker, he shares his mother’s stories and promotes the book for use by teachers and book clubs. Before the pandemic, he addressed audiences at libraries, bookstores and civic organizations. In the fall, he offered a four-week course, as well as a 90-minute presentation, on “Only Hope.”

Last October, during a conversation with SOU Assistant Director Rob Casserly, Lubliner mentioned that he would be thrilled to offer that presentation to OLLI programs across the country, now possible with online courses. Casserly’s post about Lubliner’s offer in an online bulletin board led to 27 speaking engagements for OLLI programs in 17 states.

“It’ll be like going on a promotional tour, but without leaving the house,” Lubliner said. “Furthermore, it is satisfying to share with others, mostly retired, who value lifelong learning.”

Lubliner has a final message: “If you have an area of expertise or there is a subject about which you would like to share your passion, or if you simply want to see what’s available for you as a lifelong learner, explore OLLI by visiting inside.sou.edu/olli. I hope that, like so many others, you will ‘come for the classes and stay for the connections!’ Both are likely to delight you!”

Photo by Tom AndersonIrv Lubliner