Lifelong educator Helen Gilbart (BAE ’65, MEd ’67) may be a softspoken 82-year-old retiree, but she defies her peers’ stereotypes. This Kindle-sharing, smartphone-toting, iPad mini devotee uses her technology to read and learn about all kinds of new things. Her enthusiasm for learning is infectious, as she often lends her devices to neighbors and book club members. Even the local high school students she mentors get in on the action.
“I just like to see people blossom through the possibilities that are out there,” she says.
Helen, who says she adopted her gentle teaching style from her college professors Hal Lewis and William Purkey, taught English and humanities classes and administered a variety of programs at St. Petersburg College from 1967 to 1997. Her interest in technology skyrocketed in the 1980s when her college purchased 25 Macintosh computers and housed them in her department’s learning center.
“I saw miracles happening with how much students were learning. I said, ‘I’ve got to learn how to use these,’” Helen says.
Helen and her late husband, Donald Gilbart, also a lifelong educator, believed technology could open doors for students and people with physical and learning disabilities. That’s why they supported an educational technology program at UF’s College of Education with a cash gift and later added a provision in their wills to provide for the program’s growth over time.
“The way to get teachers more involved and to use technology in the classroom is to train them while they’re still in school,” Helen says. The Gilbarts’ fund allowed UF to purchase iPads for education students and for K–12 students at the college’s developmental research school, P.K. Yonge.
Helen says creating these learning opportunities through technology is important.
“There’s a feeling out there of, ‘Let someone else do that,’” Helen says. “I feel like we all have something to contribute, and we should do it.”