Student Spotlight: How the TELOS Program for Active Retirees Enhanced My Life

telos program

In 2012, I started cutting back on my work. I was looking for something to do, and I knew I wanted to keep learning. I never was able to go to college, I put my husband through college, and worked my entire life as bookkeeper/accountant. Finally, I wanted to have my chance.

I looked at options around the Puget Sound, but most didn’t sound appealing because I wasn’t looking to get a degree to better myself or find a different job. I had heard about adult education programs, and I had heard my cousin talk about “OSHER,” so I began to research. Retirement programs came up, and TELOS came up. I learned that TELOS is part of BCCE, and I knew I had a BCCE catalog, so I looked it up and found the TELOS program.

The catalog announced the class preview, so I thought, “That will be perfect for me. I can listen to some of the instructors and pick a class.” I listened to a variety and picked two classes that sounded interesting. They were also reasonably priced.

Exploring Unexpected Classes

During my first quarter with TELOS, I took a science class on carbon dating and a social science class on philosophy. Both were way out of my field and depth. I remember commenting to friends in both classes that they were speaking a language I didn’t understand. I had never heard words like, “Egalitarian” or “Carbon dating.” I thought, “Oh Edie, you are way out of your depth. This will never make sense to you. You’ve made a big mistake.” But, I just kept listening and took masses of notes. Soon the information started to click. I thought, now I know all of this stuff – I was so excited!

I’m still that way – excited about learning. I have found myself in classes that, at first, were way over my head. Now I know it’s just that the concepts are all new to me and, eventually, I will understand. The TELOS classes teach me how to think. I’ve taken a lot of history and enjoy it very much. I love when I learn how something new fits together with what I’ve learned in another class. When you fit two topics together it gives you a better global view.

I like history because it’s about storytelling, and scientific classes because of how things come together; probably because I didn’t take much in high school. Science classes have been particularly challenging and exciting. The science of music in the class “Hooks, Riffs, and Earworms” was about how to engineer and pull apart notes and music, and how the brain works. I had never thought about music that way. After my husband passed away, I actually gave up music. Now, I understand it was because it takes me back to very deep memories.

Getting More Connected

I got involved with the TELOS Student Organization (TSO) early on. I think the program is very important and spent a year with a focused group of longtime Telos members developing committees, putting together a board, and later served as president (now in my third year). I take 3-4 classes per quarter and arrange TSO meetings on class days. I’m not usually a joiner, so I never thought I would be the person to step-in and help run a program like this. At our age, it’s nice to know we can learn something new because it really does make you feel empowered.

Making good friendships at this age is not something you expect, either. I never expected to find a cache of good, real friendships. The important parts of what I’ve gained have little to do with classes – though I love taking them – and more to do with meeting people of similar minds. We don’t talk about our aches and pains and the troubles of the world, although we do talk about politics! We’re more apt to talk about something we are learning in class.

This program has made me realize how much I truly love to learn; it’s intoxicating. I didn’t know I would love these things that much. Lots of people don’t realize I wasn’t a college grad, so I feel like I’m getting my college education through TELOS. It’s great because I get to only take the classes that I want to. I have some very smart friends, so the program has given me more interesting things to talk about with them. The classes also make you a broader person. I do wish I would have gone sooner; it would have made me a broader person earlier in life.

Meaningful Life Benefits

Baby boomers are retiring, so there’s nothing but growth here. All areas are being expanded. The program is always looking for people who have been instructors. A lot are so thrilled to get in front of us because it’s the first time they’ve really been listened to. We want to hear what they have to say, which is important for instructors. They get a lot of joy from teaching these classes.

Education is not just about learning a trade, it’s about expanding horizons in your mind. I also feel as though I’ve become more of a well-rounded person. I have a rich history and am blessed in many areas with an interesting life. TELOS has added another dimension, and made it more colorful. I’m grateful to the program and the people who have done this before me.


Edythe Heppler,

Student, TELOS Program


Last Updated August 1, 2017