Learning for a lifetimeMary Kay Versen is using her skills as an educator and corporate trainer to take the lead as coordinator of the Dickinson Adult Learning Center. Versen also serves as the center’s chief GED examiner and a computer instructor. She accepted the position a month ago after Margaret Olheiser retired.
By: Linda Sailer, The Dickinson Press
Mary Kay Versen is using her skills as an educator and corporate trainer to take the lead as coordinator of the Dickinson Adult Learning Center.
Versen also serves as the center’s chief GED examiner and a computer instructor. She accepted the position a month ago after Margaret Olheiser retired.
“I had big shoes to fill,” she said.
Versen moved to Dickinson from Colorado, where she taught in the public school system for 10 years. She also was a corporate trainer for Frontier Airlines and Direct TV.
The experiences honed her skills at staying on top of changing technology, she said.
“It was a never-ending battle, that’s for sure,” she added.
With her son, Mark and family living in Dickinson, Versen thought it was time for a change.
“I decided to sell the big house and downsize — why not move closer to family,” she said. “I came here empty-handed. Education is my passion and Margaret was retiring — it was one of those perfect situations.”
The DALC offers GED diplomas, basic computer skills, English as a second language and other services for adults age 16 and older.
“The adults I’ve met to this point are very dedicated and enthusiastic about what we offer,” she said. “The staff is amazing, so compassionate.”
Versen said the leading challenge of her position is to get the word out about the services the DALC offers.
“Once we get them to walk through the doors, whether it’s for GED diploma, to learn English as a second language, or improve computer skills, they’re here for good,” she said.
Seeing the need for transportation and babysitting services, Versen created a lounge with a bulletin board where students may exchange ideas.
She spends time at the Job Service office, learning about the jobs being offered and the skills necessary to fill them.
“I want to target the specific needs of business — how can we assist the adult learner for their future and also what benefits the community,” she said. “If I were to sticky note my room, it would be wallpapered with all the ideas I have.”
Students may study at the centers in Dickinson and Beulah or through the Internet.
“We basically offer services from here to the borders,” she said.
One of her goals is to open a learning site at Bowman. Down the road, she is looking at Hettinger, Killdeer and Watford City.
Versen points to successes of the learning center. Of 144 students enrolled in the programs, 34 were GED graduates, 72 got employment or improved their employment level, 17 went on to post-secondary education. Another seven reset their goals.
Polish native Helen Roznowska has been studying English as a second language for 14 years.
“I love it — my teachers are so helpful if I have any problems,” she said. “There’s always something to learn — to open my mind. I learn all the time.”
Amy Graves, who volunteers as an instructor, added, “I like helping people who want to better themselves.”
DADL paraprofessional secretary Beth Hurt described Versen as full of fresh ideas and open to the ideas of others.
“There are a lot of exciting changes happening, and she has been putting a lot of energy into making the program grow and change,” she said.
For more information, call 701-456-0008.