Jerilyn Olson

Jerilyn Olson

Quintilian Fellow: Jerilyn Olson
by Annie Stepek, Braniff Student Assistant

Jerilyn OlsonJerilyn Olson is on track to finish her Master’s degree from the University of Dallas this coming summer. Currently, she serves as the Vice President of Professional Development for Great Hearts, a network of classical charter schools in Arizona and Texas. She hopes to remain in her current position with Great Hearts for the foreseeable future and use her experience from UD both to improve her work within her own role and to encourage other students to apply to UD. She discovered UD’s unique Classical Education program because of the strong relationship between Great Hearts and University of Dallas, and she helped other teachers connect with the program before she herself decided to take advantage of this opportunity. She describes how “it was nice to know that I could trust this institution for a strong curriculum centered on the Great Books, and I can trust those who were in the program to provide a good balance of like-mindedness and unique perspectives that would challenge my thinking.”

Jerilyn was homeschooled until the eighth grade. When she began attending a classically oriented high school, she discovered what classical education was. She then continued her classical education by attending Claremont McKenna College, a liberal arts college in Southern California, where she double-majored in Literature and Government. The University of Dallas’ Classical Education program was a natural next step, especially with the encouragement of her fellow teachers at Great Hearts. UD’s program is especially adaptable to teachers who desire to continue teaching while furthering their education. Jerilyn notes particularly that this program is a great fit because “having served for 6 years as a teacher and coach for one of our schools, the only reason I could leave the classroom was for the chance to serve other teachers more broadly!”

In the program so far, Jerilyn has taken the "Trivium" course, "Philosophy of Education," "The Ancient World," "Classical Pedagogy: Ancient and Modern," "Teaching Classical Children's Literature," and two semesters of Practicum; this semester, she is taking "Great Works of the Renaissance and Baroque." She hopes to finish out her program with a summer at UD's Rome Campus. As far as extending what she has learned to professional life, Jerilyn says, “There is not a week that goes by where I do not filter something that is happening personally or professionally through the lens of a work that I am reading—connections are to be had all the time, and I am grateful to be able to draw on the wisdom gained through this course of study. On a practical level, engaging in formal study of writers from Plato to Erasmus to Lewis has allowed me to think about the work of education more deeply—to support and challenge previous ideas I had about classical education and to reignite the passion I have around its importance. Classical education has never been monolithic, and it is helpful to understand more clearly how the various threads of thinking work together to influence our understanding of education today.”

Jerilyn would advises those thinking about the program: “If you can make the commitment to put in extra hours of reading and writing, do it. This program will work to deepen your understanding and enliven your soul.  It will not always feel very practical, but it is the deep intellectual work that is so important for all of us as teachers.”