When I first signed up for KIN 101, I had no idea what to expect, I just knew that it was something I wanted to do. I even dropped some of my major courses just to fit it in my schedule. I was not required to take it, but I am so glad I took that class. Out of my four years at WCU, the most vivid memories of class I can remember were spent in the Introduction to Adventure course.
Introduction to Adventure was the best class I have ever taken out of my four years at WCU. Between the people, the coursework and the games played, I have made unforgettable memories and learned many life lessons. However, the most distinguishing part of this class was definitely the professor, John Helion.
John Helion has been a professor at WCU for the past 27 years and has been in the field for 46 years. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree at SUNY Cortland, he went on to Columbia University to get his doctorate. Not only does Helion teach KIN 101, he also teaches Self Awareness in the Honors College, a course Helion created himself 20 years ago.
Helion knew he wanted to be a physical education teacher since he was a teenager.
“I wanted to get into physical education because I liked sports and physical education. It seemed like a fun way to spend my life. When I got into my PE program, I realized that it was also a good way to impact people and change the world. A lot of the things that take place in sports parallel decisions we have to make in life such as playing fair, following rules, communication, cooperation and trying your best in order to achieve a goal. I just wanted to help people become better and learn more about themselves.”
Helion’s course follows the Outward Bound Model, a model that was created in 1976 by Victor Walsh and Gerald Golins. According to Wilderdom.com, the outward bound model takes a “motivated and ready learner and places them into prescribed physical and social environments. They are then given a characteristic set of problem-solving tasks, which creates a state of adaptive dissonance leading to mastery or competence. This, in turn, leads to reorganization of the meaning and direction of the experience. In this way, the learner continues to be oriented toward living and learning.”
Helion praises this model for its effectiveness in teaching self awareness. “The Outward Bound model is based on self awareness and learning more about yourself. The beauty of experiential education is that you learn by doing. I give you different experiences where you have to work through problems in a group, and in the end you develop a lot of Fortune 500 skills. You become better communicators, better problem solvers, more efficient at life and you look at your value system. It becomes a very neat way of examining where you come from.”
“A lot of the reasons we act the way we do is because of our history and how we were raised, who we were raised by and our life experiences and we don’t even think about them. They form our lives and they shape our behaviors. Sometimes we develop behaviors that are not as useful to us as other behaviors until we actually see them and think about them. The whole thing about adventure education is about self discovery and that’s why I gravitated towards it.”
After retiring, Helion looks forward to traveling with his wife. Until then, he is continuing to teach until the end of the spring semester. Helion looks forward to retirement, as much as he will miss teaching his West Chester students.
“I’m not done yet. I’m not done changing people’s lives. I’m not done with everything I want to do. I enjoy it. I’m at a point now where, as much as I would miss it, there’s other things I want to do. My wife and I want to travel. There just comes a point in your life where you sit down and you say, okay, it’s time. It’s time to move on and let someone else take over.”
Amanda Saleh is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at AS821872@wcupa.edu.