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Making connections count with technology

Tom Weaver found a meaningful way for students to practice their new skills

Author: Amy VanDeVelde/Tuesday, May 24, 2016/Categories: Lifelong learning, Technology, National, San Antonio shared

Tom Weaver with two students in computer class“I found Oasis or it found me,” says Tom Weaver.

“Before I retired, people would ask me what I planned to do. I would half-jokingly say, ‘Maybe I can find a job teaching seniors about computers.’”

Maybe so. A former sales manager who spent his career flying all over the country to teach thousands of salespeople how to use computers effectively, Tom is a classroom natural. He figured that out pretty quickly after retiring and moving with his wife, Diana, from Pennsylvania to San Antonio in 2011. He became a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteer and an Oasis tutor at his grandchildren's school attend, but still found himself restless. Then he saw an ad for Connections technology instructors in San Antonio. It was just what he was looking for.

“We may be retired, but we are still smart, capable people,” he says. “I am inspired by my students, some in their late eighties, buying new computers, phones and tablets; posting on Facebook, sending text messages and emails. Sharing in their success, and seeing the smiles when they figure out how to do something—that is priceless to me.”

Tom has taught over 500 participants since 2012. These days he teaches Connections classes every Tuesday and Thursday in San Antonio. He also has drop-in help sessions every other Friday.

A red light. A curve in the road. A new direction.

Not long after he started as a Connections instructor, Tom was thrown a curve ball. He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, and needed to discontinue volunteering to begin treatment.

Like many cancer survivors, Tom came away from his experience with a different perspective. Once he was back on his feet, he felt a renewed calling to continue all of his volunteer work and he added a new commitment as an active member of a cancer support group. He was really glad to be back in the Connections groove, too. He’d missed the interactions with his students, which often extended beyond the classroom.

Tom Weaver's students“Many of my students are eager to learn email but they don’t always have someone to email,” says Tom, who gladly bats emails back and forth with students who need the practice. As a result, his email address book has over 400 contacts.

With one piece of his heart in technology training and the other in cancer support, he had an idea to meld the two. Why not ask his students to reach out via email to patients in cancer treatment, who could really benefit from some encouragement? Tom got buy-in immediately.

Each week he coordinates with an oncology coordinator to select a patient in need of a boost. Then Tom directs a cascade of messages through an oncology coordinator from his class participants to inspire and cheer on that patient. At least 50 patients in cancer treatment have received email blasts from Tom’s classes.

A cancer survivor herself, Jean Hall knows how much those receiving her emails really appreciate hearing from someone, even if it’s a stranger.

“I tell them that I’m lifting them up in prayer,” she says. "We’ve learned how to send cartoons that will help them laugh a little. Tom tells us that the patients really look forward to it and lets us know that we’re helping. One man I reached out to was really at one of his lowest moments. I was able to follow up with a text, another thing I learned from Tom.”

When she started the technology classes, Jean was experiencing a low point of her own. She’d recently lost her husband. Staying connected with her family was more important that ever. She credits Tom with helping her do this in a number of ways, including Facebook.

“Tom is never too busy, and he’s always very patient,” Jean says. “I’ve learned so much.”

Visit San Antonio Oasis

Tom is featured in the 2015 Oasis Annual Report
 

 
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