School’s in session: Faculty, staff in class


Photo credit: Kaitlyn Curry

Most students enrolled in Trinity classes are between the ages of 18 and 22, but there’s no time limit to learning. Several Trinity faculty and staff members are enrolled or have been enrolled in undergraduate classes, with the sole desire to enhance their knowledge of the world.

During her time at Trinity, Sheryl Tynes, vice president of Student Life, has taken more than half a dozen Modern Languages and Literature courses taught by professors Thomas Jenkins, Nina Ekstein and Nanette LeCoat. Tynes said that she relishes bringing her sociological perspective to the study of language.

Tynes cited Ekstein’s French Cinema class as an example of how language study intersects with sociology.

“Dr. Ekstein talked about how — if you think about U.S. cinema — we love happy endings, and she said to us [that] in French cinema it’s not meant to be a feel-good kind of thing, it’s meant to make you think and ponder,” Tynes said. “You learn a lot about history and culture when studying languages.”

Many students struggle with textbook costs. Tynes said that her recent undergraduate experiences have illuminated this issue.

“It was almost 200 dollars for the paperback version of a textbook, and I remember thinking it felt like highway robbery,” Tynes said. “That’s why I love this work that SGA’s doing on affordable textbooks.”

Tynes also said that taking Trinity classes helped her empathize more with students’ workloads.

“I remember one semester in my Latin class there was a student who was in another class that I was teaching, and I jokingly said to her, ‘I can’t believe you’re in this class and my class, too,’ because I was thinking of the workload of those two classes,” Tynes said. “She laughed and said, ‘I’m also in three other classes.’ I just gained some understanding of what it’s like to carry a Trinity load.”

Assistant swim coach Kimberly Jones is currently enrolled in Randy Wallace’s Painting III class to revisit an old passion — studio art. Before becoming a swim coach, Jones graduated from Louisiana State University with an MFA in studio arts and an emphasis in photography. After graduating in 2015, Jones moved to Houston and worked with art nonprofits. However, the experience left Jones drained.

“It was very stressful for me as far as trying to continue my own work. When I came home I didn’t want to be creative at all,” Jones said.

Jones had prior experience with Trinity: Her brother had attended Trinity and had been on the swim team. In addition, Jones knew the previous and current head coaches from her childhood when she swam on a competitive San Antonio club team. When a position opened up for assistant swim coach at Trinity, Jones took it.

“It’s actually been really great because I’m able to have the flexibility to do and continue my own artwork as well as being a swim coach,” Jones said.

Jones said that Wallace’s painting class gives the opportunity to work with new media.

“I’ve been able to do a couple things I’ve never worked with before, in particular a couple of acrylic mediums that you can add, and [it] gives texture to the paint and stuff like that,” Jones said.

While Tynes and Jones have enrolled in classes related to their fields of interest, most undergraduate classes Ekstein takes are in the mathematics department as a break from sabbaticals spent researching literature.

“During a sabbatical, I’m not teaching, I have no responsibilities except to do my scholarship, and I love learning new things,” Ekstein said.

Last semester, Ekstein took Modern Algebra, taught by Brian Miceli, along with Curtis Brown’s Symbolic Logic course, which she found challenging.

“Boy, that ate my lunch. That was tough, but [Brown’s] a marvelous teacher. I really enjoy seeing how good my colleagues are,” Ekstein said.

While most courses Ekstein has taken are math-related, she has had seven sabbaticals since she came to Trinity in 1980 – plenty of time to explore diverse subjects.

The first class Ekstein took at Trinity was beginning Piano, during her 1993 sabbatical.

“I went on to take private piano lessons for 15 and a half years, during which time I never once actually made music. I’m not good at music, but I’ve got a lot out of it,” Ekstein said.

While Ekstein is treated the same way as her younger counterparts in classes, humorous incidents have arisen interacting with students.

“I had five kids in the modern math class who had been my students, so that was kind of fun, and one of them sat next to me the whole semester. He was so thrilled about the one exam [where] he did better than I did,” Ekstein said. “I have no problem with that. I’m happy to be an undergraduate.”