How to Do Anything: The Best Continuing Education Classes to Take in Milwaukee

Here’s a resolution worth keeping: Learn something new this year. Taking up an activity or course of study can strengthen the connectivity between different parts of the brain – helping deter memory loss and maintain large-scale brain networks. Plus, it’s fun! We’ve rounded up the most interesting classes offered in the area, so find one that intrigues you and sign up now.

Learn a Language

American Sign Language

Class: ASL Beginner Class – Wisconsin Association of the Deaf
Cost: $75 for six 2-hour classes


Class: Arabic I – UWM School of Continuing Education
Cost: $154 for six 2½-hour classes


Class: French 101 – Alliance Francaise
Cost: $335 for 12 2-hour classes, plus $65 for textbook


Class: Italian I – Italian Community Center
Cost: $125 for 10 1¾-hour classes, plus $30-$40 for textbook

Italian teacher Enrica Tarantino Woytal was once named Wisconsin’s Italian Teacher of the Year.


Class: Adult Mandarin Classes – North American Chinese School
Cost: Varies


Class: Russian I – UWM School of Continuing Education
Cost: $154 for six 2½-hour classes


Class: Spanish 1 – UWM School of Continuing Education
Cost: $154 for six 2½-hour classes

Challenge Your Biases

Tag lined “the most segregated city in America,” Milwaukee has a lot to learn when it comes to unlearning racism. The YWCA is helping raise people’s consciousness by educating them on the institutional racism and racial biases that underlie the city’s segregation.

Unlearning Racism, a six-part workshop, utilizes discussions facilitated by instructors to help its participants identify and ultimately shed their own personal racial biases. This can be a difficult undertaking for participants, according to Jamaal Smith, a member of the racial justice team at the YWCA.

“It’s a very challenging class, and I would honestly say that it’s particularly difficult for white people who are taking it,” says Smith. “A lot of it is information that we, people of color, have been living, having to be concerned about race every day. Many whites have not. So, when you are finally confronted with this reality, it’s difficult.”

Smith has attended the class as a participant and has witnessed people enter the class with frustration, anger and no desire to be there. The same people, Smith says, left the class saying, “This class should be mandated.” What can get rid of the frustration and anger in being confronted with the realities of racism? Time and knowledge, says Smith.

The workshop series is spread over several months, allowing time for participants to mull over ideas and engage in conversations with those closest to them about what they are learning. A primary goal of the class is to help participants learn how to transfer the ideas they are learning into action and start tearing down the walls that divide this city.

“A major thing people can do is have those dialogues with their own communities,” says Smith. “There are a lot of conversations … in predominantly white communities that a person of color can’t facilitate. Someone within those neighborhoods can have conversations about how we need to make sure everything lines up with what this country is supposed to be: everyone having the same opportunities and freedoms.”

Class: Unlearning Racism – YWCA
Date/Time: Wednesday afternoons, starting 2/7
Cost: Varies

Master Classes

It’s all about the teacher

Michael Gaffney

Milwaukee native Michael Gaffney runs the American School of Flower Design, with locations across the world, the newest one in Paris. But the famous floral design master still finds time to teach in Downtown Milwaukee, where he uses engineering and design techniques to help his students build perfect bouquets.

Class: Intro to Flower Design – Flower School 101
Cost: $495 for a three-day course

Judy Bridges

Judy Bridges literally wrote the no-nonsense guide to creative writing – Shut Up & Write! – and is here to help you do just that in her monthly master classes. Usually attracting a capped group of nine people, these sessions are held in Bridges’ Bay View abode and help with projects from poems to novels.

Class: Writing Master Class – Road Oak
Dates/times: Second Sunday every month
Cost: $90 for three classes

Jack Beyler

Local master guitarist Jack Beyler – part of the local rock band Rocket Paloma, among others – has moved away from the bright lights to teach basic guitar practices to the public. You’ll learn plucking exercises, practice habits and various performance techniques that can get you on your way to Summerfest stages, just like Jack. 

Class: Guitar Master Class – Wisconsin Conservatory of Music
Dates/times: Saturday, January 13th, at 12:30 p.m.
Cost: Free


Hit the Road

Satisfy your thirst for knowledge and your wanderlust, all at once.

Take a Canadian adventure to Quebec and Montreal, where you’ll find some European flavor without leaving North America, in the French-tinged architecture, food and culture. Designed for Milwaukeeans over 50, this trip offers boat excursions, historical walking tours, kinship and French cuisine. Act quickly – registration opens onTuesday, January9, and spots will go fast.

Class/trip: Montreal and Quebec City – UWM School of Continuing Education
Dates/times: Sept. 16-23, 2018
Cost: Double $2,500, Single $3,100

Cooking, Brewing, Drinking, Enjoying

African and Jamaican Cooking

Irie Zulu’s chef and owner Yollande Deacon leads these intimate sessions, demonstrating how to make delicious and healthy African and Jamaican meals.

Class: Cooking – Irie Zulu
Cost: $30 for a 90-minute class 

Romantic Hands-On Cooking

If the way to one’s heart is through the stomach, then how better to spend Valentine’s Day than improving your
cooking? You’ll learn to craft a chocolate and caramel tart and enjoy a three-course meal (prepared for you) with a complimentary bottle of wine as your dessert bakes.

Class: Valentine’s Day Date Night Cooking – Braise Culinary School
Cost: $250 per couple 

Expand Your Culinary Horizons

Find out how to cook anything from Indian food to paella via demonstrations by a variety of chefs and culinary experts. Tastings included!

Class: Cooking demonstrations – Milwaukee Public Market
Cost: Varies, typically around $30 for a 90-minute class

Make a Pie

Learn the entire pie-making process, from rolling out the dough to proper oven practices. Taught by Honeypie owner Valeri Lucks, the classes are so popular there’s typically a wait list. Plus, you leave with your own pie.

Class: Pie Lessons – Honeypie
Cost: $45 

Become a Wine Connoisseur

Ever wonder how to choose the right wine to complement a particular dish? You’ll learn that, plus the identifying characteristics of a variety of grapes, in this workshop. With six pours, you are certain to enjoy yourself while gaining new knowledge.

Class: Wine 101: Tasting and Workshop Course – Vino University
Cost: $55.55 for a 2-hour workshop

Be a Brewmaster

Start your path to perfecting your own brew with this introduction to beer brewing class. You’ll get an overview of malt extract brewing, siphoning and bottling in this workshop –and you’ll also get a free pint glass to take home.

Class: Intro to Brewing – Northern Brewer
Cost: Free for a 3-hour class

Master Another Type of Brewing

Learn the importance of hitting the precise right temperature(205 degrees Fahrenheit) and more in this three-hour coffee seminar. You’ll experiment with different brewing methods and leave with skills that will brighten your morning.

Class: Home Brewing Methods – Stone Creek Coffee
Cost: $50 per person for a 3-hour class

Study Mixology

Book a specialty cocktail class with a group of up to 12 friends and learn how to mix drinks, ranging from simple to super trendy.

Class: Craft Cocktails – Free Pour
Cost: $45 for a 90-minute class

Get Cheesey

Learn the miracle of how cream turns into cheddar, the process that creates Wisconsin cheese curds and more in this lecture.

Class: Cheesemaking – Northern Brewer
Cost: Free for a 2-hour class 

How to Cut an Onion

Learn how to mince, dice, julienne and yes, chop an onion at Sur La Table’s knife skills class.

Step 1

Cut off the stem end (but don’t peel!).

Step 2

Slice onion in half vertically.

Step 3

Remove peel.

Step 4

Chop vertically, starting from the root end. (Keep the pieces together!)

Step 5

Chop horizontally.

Class: Knife Skills 101 – Sur La Table
Cost: $59 for a one-time workshop

I Tried It Myself

Our culture editor gives pole dancing a whirl, and finds a compelling reason to keep at it.

By Lindsey Anderson

I realized a few weeks ago, while struggling to button an old pair of pants, that I should probably be working out more. So, for the sake of this feature (as well as my waistline), I decided to sign up for a pole dancing class. I’m a fan of exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise, and perfecting a pole dancing routine sounded fun.

A little Googling led me to Blush, a West Allis studio with classes for women of all ability levels. I signed up for a four-week Saturday morning group session geared toward beginners, and mentally prepared for the first class by blasting “Dancing Queen” on the way there.

The other students had already arrived and fanned out around the room. Like me, they wore long pants to prevent chafing and nervous expressions. Our instructor, Maureen, wore a fitted shirt, a pair of barely-there camo-print boy shorts and a confident smile.

Before launching into the routine we’d be working on, Maureen had us warm up with some stretches, strength training and “sexy pushups.” To do these, we lowered ourselves onto the floor of the studio (sexily), then pushed ourselves backwards (also sexily) while keeping our lower backs arched and our butts out. I’m afraid I looked more like the girl from The Ring, crawling across the floor with a curtain of hair covering my face, than a professional dancer. But I could tell from the tightness in my abs and shoulders that I was at least getting a good workout. After warming up, Maureen slipped into a pair of staggeringly high platform heels – embellished with a skull-and-crossbones print – to teach us how dancers walk in heels. Very carefully, we learned, struggling to mimic the way she swiveled her hips while sashaying from side to side, even without heels. “I’m too old for this,” a woman who looked about 35 muttered. My 29-year-old muscles were telling me the same thing. “Don’t talk to me about being old, honey,” Maureen said, pivoting gracefully on her heels. “I’m 58.” She looked at least 10 years younger. And her legs were far more toned than mine. Suddenly, I was paying very close attention. It began simply enough. We walked to our poles, then launched into a fairly strenuous, but straightforward, dance routine. After that came the first of the spins.

Maureen showed us how to plant one foot and hook the other on the pole before propelling ourselves into a dizzying spin, around and around, until eventually settling on the ground. My first attempt was bad. My second a little better. My third better still – I built up momentum as I spun, until I felt almost like I was flying.

When Maureen finally called for us to step away from our poles, I was surprised to see that a full hour had passed. My shoulders, abs and legs were all sore, and I’d worked up a sweat. I’d also worked up a healthy appreciation for pole dancing.

I doubt I’ll be attempting any of the moves I learned on a dance floor soon (certainly not those pushups!), but I’d recommend Blush to anyone looking for a fun aerobic workout, regardless of whether they’re interested in amping up their sex appeal.

Class: Level 1 – Blush Pole Fitness and Dance
Cost: $70 for four 1-hour classes

Let’s Get Physical


A mix of ping pong, badminton and tennis, pickleball allows you to break a sweat while still carrying on a conversation with your opponent. The fact that it’s easy to learn has made it a fast-growing trend nationwide.

Class: Adult Pickleball Skills Classes – YMCA
Cost: $20 (resident), $27 (non-resident) for a 90-minute class


Made for those just beginning their rock climbing journey, this class will teach you how to navigate hand holds, two-person climbing skills and other fundamentals. A six-week Adventure Rock membership is included, so you can practice climbing the wall in between classes.

Class: Climbing 101 – Adventure Rock
Cost: $125 for six 2½-hour classes 


Stretch your limbs and your limits in this exhilarating take on yoga. Suspended above the floor in a harness, you’ll build strength and flexibility, and have fun, too.

Class: Aerial Yoga Basics – ZenZen Yoga Arts
Dates/times: every Wednesday (starting Jan. 3), from 6:30-7:30pm
Cost: $22 for one class 


Express yourself through movement while toning your muscles and building strength in these classes, where you’ll learn choreography similar to what DanceWorks MKE uses in performances.

Class: Contemporary – Dance Works MKE
Cost: $15 for a 75-minute class; eight classes, $100 


Whether you’re a first-timer or a former ballerina, you’ll be welcomed at River East Dance, where the focus is on adult students. Even if you don’t harbor dreams of performing Swan Lake, studying ballet has many benefits, including building core strength, developing grace and improving posture.

Class: Ballet I – Artistic Webworks
Cost: $15 for 1-hour class; nine classes, $117 


Developing confidence is the No. 1 goal at J.K. Lee Black Belt Academy. Along the way, you’ll also improve muscle tone, get a cardiovascular workout and reduce stress levels. If you stick with it, you’ll even learn to break a board. Many of the adult classes allow you to bring your kid.

Class: Adult and Family – J.K. Lee Black Belt Academy
Cost: Introductory special, $69 for 1 month, including outfit (classes last 1 hour)


Baseball may be America’s pastime, but cricket has more fans worldwide. Twob11-player teams race across a field (pitch), driving a ball toward a target (wicket) in matches that can last three to five days. These classes prepare you for practice games.

Class: A Crack at Cricket – Milwaukee Recreation
Cost: $20 (resident), $35 (non-resident) for three 90-minute sessions 

How to Salsa Dance

Every Saturday at 8 p.m., Hot Water Wherehouse offers a free salsa class. Afterwards, you’re free to stay and dance the night away.

Class: Salsa Class – Milwaukee Salsa
Cost: Free

Step 1

Feet together

Step 2

Step your left foot forward

Step 3

Step your right foot in place

Step 4

Step your left foot back to center

Step 5

Pause in place

Step 6

Step your right foot back

Step 7

Step your left foot back

Step 8 

Step your right foot back to center

Fun Fact! Because it involves both memory and aerobic exercise, learning to dance provides a triad of benefits: improved cognitive flexibility, mental health and coordination.

What’s Going On Here??

At Delaware House, it’s everything from salsa dancing to acupuncture.

In 2007, longtime Bay View resident and physical therapist Kathy Howell decided to marry her profession with her lifelong ballroom dancing hobby, founding the Delaware House, 2499 S. Delaware Ave. To call it a dance studio would be far too simplistic, as in addition to salsa dancing and samba lessons, there are yoga and martial arts courses. Delaware House also hosts Howell’s physical therapy practice, acupuncture and massage therapy. One of the coolest things about the space, however, is the fact that all of its 15 instructors are independent business owners, running classes out of the house rather than being employed by Howell, which brings a unique approach and perspective to each of the different offerings.

Classes: Salsa, Yoga, Ballroom Dancing, Samba, Swing Dancing, Group Exercise
Costs: Vary

The Arts



There’s more to taking a good picture than just hitting the button. You’ll leave this class knowing about lens adjustments, lighting, shutter speeds and camera angles.

Class: Photography Course – Art’s Cameras Plus 
Cost: $169 for five 2½-hour classes 


Learn to paint landscapes fit for the Milwaukee Art Museum or, at the very least, the walls of your home.

Class: Introduction to Acrylic Painting – Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts
Cost: $70 for four classes



Learn basic acting skills  like body language and vocal expression – from some of the best stage actors in the city.

Class: Basic Acting I: Introduction to Performance – The Milwaukee Repertory Theater
Cost: $150 for six classes


With Mojo Dojo, you’ll learn long-form improv and how to remain in character for characters you created you created in a series of “Yes, and…”s.

Class: Way of the Crane: Introductory Improv – Mojo Dojo Comedy
Cost: $160 for eight sessions and a performance



Piano lessons as an adult at the finest Wisconsin music conservatory are sure to be more fun than classes you were forced into as a kid.

Class: Group Piano for Adults – Wisconsin Conservatory of Music 
Cost: $300 for 15 classes


Earn finger calluses and serenade your family and friends with the newfound guitar skills that you’ll gain after learning from these instructors.

Class: Guitar Lessons – Top Shelf Guitar Shop
Cost: $17 per half-hour


Picking up the ukulele isn’t as difficult as guitar, but the tunes it can play are just as delightful.

Class: Ukelele Just for Fun
Cost: $87.70 for six 85-minute classes



Writers of any genre or ability level are welcome at this workshop-style class. where, in addition to peer review, students receive line-by-line instructor critique.

Class: Monday Night Writing Workshop – All Writers Workshop
Cost: $70



Want to make old furniture look brand new?

Class: Wood Finishing – Woodcraft
Cost: $85


Giving you the knowledge of how to beautify your favorite photographs and greeting cards, this class is the gift that keeps on giving.

Class: Decorative Picture Matting – Waukesha County Technical College
Cost: $130


Play with clay as an adult and make yourself all of the mugs and vases you’ll ever need with this all-supplies-included pottery introduction.

Class: Beginning Wheel – Murray Hill Pottery
Cost: $175


Light up your home with the small stained glass sun-catcher you’ll make at this comprehensive, hands-on seminar.

Class: Stained Glass Seminar – Lemon Street Gallery
Cost: $50 


Master the skills necessary to combine words and ideas using Adobe and Photoshop, and get this – no experience is necessary.

Class: Intro to Graphic Design – Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design
Cost: $225 for six 3-hour classes

Express Yourself

If you’re looking to explore your creativity, there’s no better place to start than Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design’s Continuing Education program.

Each semester, the school offers a wide selection of reasonably priced classes, including drawing, painting and photography. New for this spring is an Introduction to Graphic Design class, and also Make/Believe: Draw! which explores the process of drawing, rather than the results. Register before Jan. 28 to receive a discounted rate. 

Consciousness Raising to a Hip-Hop Beat

It’s not just dancing. Christopher DeAngelo Gilbert builds each class around a concept, like embracing individuality or renewing confidence. You’ll leave with a few new moves, plus a raised consciousness. Oh, yeah – and you’ll definitely break a sweat. Milwaukee native Gilbert’s Tuesday night classes attract 15 to 20 people, ranging from kids to senior citizens.

“I’m a 414 kid through and through,” says Gilbert with a soft laugh, sitting on a bench inside Daync, one of five studios where Gilbert teaches hip-hop in the Milwaukee area. “I want to use my voice to inspire self-respect and positivity in my students. My goal is help create better people, not just better dancers.”

And Gilbert has done just that, as former competitive dancer Charisse Giangreco contends. Giangreco has taken Gilbert’s classes for over a year; he even choreographed her wedding. Gilbert has helped her regain her footing as she came back from years away from dance.

“I love Chris’ classes because it’s not just regimented choreography – there’s always a storytelling component,” Giangreco says. “Because of that, I’m not scared to dance again … and I know I can open up and be vulnerable.”

In addition to inspiring students at his dance classes, Gilbert is a member of the popular band New Age Narcissism and a life coach, while also working with Milwaukee Public Schools students to help show them their potential. For him, hip-hop is far more than a dance form – it’s a means of instilling confidence and opening up his students’ potential, especially for his younger pupils.

“It was once right in their spot, living in a neighborhood where no one expects you to live past 18,” Gilbert says. “I can show them that that doesn’t [have to] be their path. And I think the work I’m doing … in Milwaukee really shows that you don’t have to go somewhere else like L.A. to make it big – you can build a legacy right here in this city.”

Choose Your Own Adventure!

If you want to…


Class: Gardening Classes – Victory Garden
Cost: Varies, depending on class 


Class: Sewing with Avis – Shorewood Recreation
Cost: $75 for 14 2½-hour classes (resident) or $85


Class: Bridge Class Upon Request – Greater Milwaukee Bridge Association
Cost: Free


Class: Reiki Session – Milwaukee Medium
Cost: $75 for 45 minutes; $90 for 60 minutes 


Class: Coding program – devCodeCamp
Cost: $12,800


Class: Heartsaver First Aid – Waukesha County Technical College
Cost: $35.22 for a four-hour workshop 


Class: Celebrate Recovery – Elmbrook
Dates/times: every Monday, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Cost: Free


Class: Science on Tap – Milwaukee Public Museum
Cost: Free 


Class: Hubble’s Cosmic Quest – UW-Milwaukee Manfred Olson Planetarium
Cost: $5 for one hour


Class: Soto Zen Meditation Beginners’ Instruction – Milwaukee Zen Center
Cost: Free  

How to Meditate

Mindfulness meditation is growing in popularity as a tool for living a less stressful, more enjoyable life.

Class: Wednesday Evening Meditation – Milwaukee Mindfulness Practice Center
Cost: Free, 90 minutes

Step 1

Find a peaceful spot. Sit up straight in a comfortable position.

Step 2

Observe your thought patterns and detach from them.

Step 3

Focus on taking deep breaths.

Step 4

Let your thoughts pass without latching onto them.

Step 5

Continue to focus on inhaling and exhaling deeply.

Fun Fact! Taking up a challenging new activity can strengthen the connectivity between different parts of the brain – helping deter memory loss and maintain large scale brain networks more effectively than brain games or puzzles. Source: SAGE Journals, Journal of Neuroscience

‘Get Smart!’ appears in the January 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning January 1, or buy a copy at

Be the first to get every new issue. Subscribe.



Since interning for the magazine in spring of 2017, Anna has contributed to both the print publication and website. She has covered topics from women in the workplace to communal gardens and also writes guides to life in Milwaukee. Outside of writing for the magazine, Anna is going back to school at UW-Milwaukee to work towards a career in genetic counseling.