Retired educator enjoys lifelong learning

July 28, 2021

Bertha-Rose Park wearing her regalia for the Red Hat Society.

Loving lifelong learning has been the key to Bertha-Rose Park’s success inside and outside the classroom.

The retired teacher has continued her education in both formal and informal settings throughout her life, leading her to earn multiple degrees.

Park’s continuing education journey began while she was teaching. After becoming a certified teacher at London Normal School in 1951-52, Park studied at Western for her bachelor’s degree. She took two continuing education courses during the winter term and then she took two more courses on campus during the summer until she completed her program.

However, she wasn’t finished with her formal education as Park successfully completed a Master of Education and Master of Arts in Teaching degrees.

Being a student while teaching influenced her work in the classroom, Park said. She still remembers fondly meeting and sharing experiences with other students as well as her professors.

“I still recall their lessons and what they taught, and I certainly applied them to my teaching and in my everyday life,” she said.

Today, Park continues to learn. She enrolled in women’s studies courses after retiring and she currently participates in webinars from Western. In addition, she’s involved with the Red Hat Society and Crown Jewels. These social organizations allow her to socialize with other women and create education experiences from field trips as well as from local and national conventions.

“We go out and have a good time with lots of laughs and lots of jokes and lots of fun. We don’t talk about troubles or worries, only happy things,” she said.

What’s more, Park has been doing experiential learning through social media. Due to lockdowns, she has increased her online presence. In fact, she has created a social media schedule so she can communicate to people around the world on a regular basis.

Park’s love of learning started during her post-secondary training at London Normal School. There was a significant demand for teachers in the early 1950s and if a student’s grades were high enough, the government would pay the student $500 to go to school, Park said. She added the government’s money covered her tuition for London Normal School.

“It was wonderful. Coming from a rural area to the city was a great experience,” she said.

Park’s time at the London Normal School shaped her career. She found practical lessons valuable, such as planning a daybook, how to organize lessons and how to deal with school superintendent visits. In addition, her practice teaching experience prepared her well for the classroom. She had her practicum in large schools in London and in one-room schools in the surrounding rural areas.

Outside of her lessons, she also remembers the building where the London Normal School was located.

“The architecture and the whole building, the staircase and all the rooms and the outside grounds were all beautiful,” she said.

Park’s interest in education has continued during the pandemic. She believes online courses should continue in some capacity after education recovers from COVID-19. While all students learn differently, some students can benefit with online instruction. For example, Park said students can continue to work virtually if they’re ill or if they can’t get to school due to a snowstorm.