WBU community venture gets new name, focus and leader

PLAINVIEW – A longtime component of the Wayland Baptist University program is getting a facelift, a new name and a new leader. Longtime local educator Debbie Stennett is the new director of the Community Classroom, formerly known as the Lifelong Learning Center.

The new name is indicative of the new focus and overhaul in the programming at the center, which is located on the west edge of the Wayland campus at 7th and Yonkers Streets. Based on research gathered from community leaders and businesses, Community Classroom will cater to all ages of citizens and varying interests.

“We wanted to reflect the diversity of learning needs in our community, from growing a bigger tomato to discussing literature,” Stennett said. “We want to be able to serve the learning needs of the companies in our area as well by offering continuing education classes such as English as a Second Language or technology courses.”

Community Classroom will offer short-term courses, ranging from 2-4 weeks, as well as some single evening workshops, and has plans to include special events such as educational field trips to area points of interest. Offerings will be held during evenings to accommodate working residents as well as throughout the day, using Wayland faculty and other local professionals as instructors.

The program’s emphasis will be on growing minds by offering various educational opportunities based on community interests. Topics can range from the arts and hobbies such as gardening or photography to technology classes that help individuals raise their skill levels. Unlike traditional college coursework that involves lectures, tests and papers, Community Classroom offerings will be geared toward hands-on learning experiences that broaden an individual’s knowledge base without stressful testing measures. Course offerings will eventually be posted online and in the newspaper.

A new emphasis will be placed on serving children and youth through the Academy of Fine Arts and Kids Kollege, which will provide a variety of short courses and camps for children.

Drawing on Stennett’s own experiences, Community Classroom will offer staff development for teachers and school districts as well. Stennett also wants community organizations to know they are welcome to use meeting rooms at the facility. Residents are also encouraged to contact Stennett with any suggestions for course topics so offerings can be planned to meet needs.

Stennett began her duties officially on July 1, coming to Wayland from a position as education specialist with the Region 17 Education Service Center in Lubbock. In that role, she provided staff development and technical assistance to school districts within the region. Prior to that, Stennett was a classroom teacher in Plainview for 24 years, pulling double duty for the last 16 of that as elementary gifted and talented program coordinator for the Plainview I.S.D. as well.

“We really want to do a better job of reaching out and meeting needs in the community,” said Dr. Glenn Saul, VP for academic services. “There are so many things we can help with, and we’re making a new commitment to using our resources to do that.

“We feel that someone with Debbie’s background and qualifications will certainly make a big impact as we revise what we’re planning to do in the community. Debbie’s expertise and training in educating in poverty areas will help us plan how to reach those areas in our community and provide things that might not otherwise be available to them.”

A native of Lockney, Stennett holds a bachelor’s degree in education and a Master of Education degree from Wayland. She and husband Gary, an insurance agent with Morgan-Eaves, have two grown children, Brandye and Tucker, and a granddaughter, Ashlyn.

Stennett can be reached at the Community Classroom at 291-3650.