When their workday ends, the classes begin

August 17, 2000

When their workday ends, the classes begin

By MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer

After spending weekdays in a cerebral job, Chris Edwards enjoys the creative outlet that craft classes provide.

"It's nice to work with your hands when you work with your head all day," said Edwards, director of federal programs for Berkeley County Schools.

Through the school system's Adult and Community Education program, she has taken several flower-arranging and wreath-making classes. They're only one night, something a busy working woman appreciates.

"I like pretty things, and I don't have a creative bone in my body," said Edwards, 48, of Martinsburg, W.Va. "I've found it to be very relaxing. I don't have to get too wrapped up in something."


She remembers well what it was like to devote weekday evenings to classes after working all day.

Edwards received a master's degree in vocational education from Marshall University in 1985 and a master's in education administration in 1996 from West Virginia University. In 1998, she participated in a program for educational specialists through Marshall, which required carpooling with other students once a week for two years to Flatwoods, W.Va., an eight-hour round-trip commute.

"That was a long haul," Edwards said. "It gets to be a grind."

When did she study for her classes?

"That's what I did on Sunday afternoons," Edwards said.

Along for the ride, literally, was Jacqueline Kuempel, also of Martinsburg, a counselor at South Middle School in Martinsburg who also has a part-time private practice.

Kuempel holds a master's degree in counseling, completed the educational specialist program with Edwards and recently completed a two-year program through Virginia School of Massage to become a licensed and board-certified massage therapist

"Learning is so exciting," Kuempel said.

Since her children were away at college, Kuempel thought it was a good time to expand her knowledge.

The learning is far from over.

This fall, Kuempel is taking a watercolor class and home-repair classes, the skills from which she hopes to use on her rental properties.

"You just pick and choose. You just do it," Kuempel said of juggling her work schedule and classes.

Learning by necessity

When Millville Quarry Inc. got new computers, Susie Miller and some of her co-workers decided classes would help them figure out the new system.

"It's best to just do it yourself," rather than waiting to be trained, said Miller, 49, of Bakerton, W.Va.

The employees took a basic computer class last fall that met once a week, then took a Microsoft Word class twice a week in the spring.

Mary-Ellen Brown, one of Miller's four co-workers who took the class, said she learned skills that help at work and with personal interests, like making labels for Christmas cards.

"We really enjoyed the spring course," said Brown, 41, of Middleway, W.Va.

The classes interfered with Miller's housework and errands a bit, but didn't hurt her family life much.

"It was good to meet new people," Miller said.

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