Tag Archives: New Brunswick Community College

My Big Fat Life: Tired of Saying Goodbye

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday, June 18, 2012

I have wished many people well in my career, and have been wished well by many. At the CBC and here at NBCC, I’ve said hello and goodbye more times than I would like to count. People have said ‘so long’ when I’ve moved jobs or locations, and I’ve said ‘see you soon’ to many who have retired or changed jobs.

The difficult farewells happen when someone becomes more of a friend than a co-worker.

It will be hard to say goodbye to Andy Leblanc.

Two years ago Andy was hired to teach television journalism at NBCC Woodstock.

Andy is a powerhouse of knowledge and has an abundance of drive. He’s a lifelong journalist, honing his skills as a young ATV reporter in New Brunswick. Back then Andy was passionate about politics and had a head full of questions and hair. (Sorry Andy, I couldn’t resist!) He went on to manage locations for CTV, and came back to his native New Brunswick a few years ago to allow his wife to pursue her career dreams.

Goofing around in the television lab at NBCC Woodstock. Instructor Andy Leblanc is ready for his close up as journalism student Geoff Stairs captures a candid moment in class.

He was only with us two years, but what a two years it was.

We pushed students to strive for excellence and found more platforms for their work. Andy recreated our website. The students worked hard making www.jschoolnbcc.ca a place where local people came for breaking news they couldn’t get elsewhere. We operated like a newsroom; students created multimedia series, we took trips to Fredericton and Juniper, students produced weekly television shows, covered breaking news, mastered social media, and they shared the news they collected with regional papers and television and radio stations. We tried to mimic the industry as much as possible in our classrooms. I know we succeeded, and provided the best education possible for our young journalists.

Once a reporter, always a reporter – it’s a saying I’ve heard many times from colleagues who have left the business to pursue other avenues. Just because we’re standing in front of a classroom doesn’t mean we’re no longer journalists.

While I worked at starting a magazine, Andy continued to build his “ultra-local” concept. His vision would provide an avenue for small communities to share local news. On more than a few evenings Andy was doing what our students were doing – covering events in his community and publishing stories to his local website. Andy also became president of RTDNA, a national organization representing Canadian Broadcasters, while he was with us. I think we both related to our students better because we were still ‘doing it’ – still chasing, and writing, and working in journalism.

Andy will leave NBCC this month to become the news director for CTV Atlantic.

I will miss him more than he realizes.

We have the same ‘got-to-know’ character flaw that turned us on to reporting in the first place. We love our craft. We respectfully argued about politics and law, we discussed the latest news and current events, and we debated how stories were approached and covered. We both viewed the world differently but similar when it came to the public’s right to know.

We were good for each other – in the teaching sense. His constant drive and work ethic inspired me and made me push my students a little harder. I, in turn, was able to (sometimes) get him to slow things down a bit, getting him to see the need to give students a little more breathing room; reminding him that television was not the only medium they needed to master.

Many (all) students considered him tough (“a hard-ass”), but they also respected him. They understood his ultimate goal was to their advantage – he wanted to see them succeed beyond his classroom.

Working with Andy made me feel like my old, reporter-self again. I have beautiful co-workers at the college, but no one who loves news like I do. For the last few years there were few I could debate politics and news coverage with on the same level as I could with Andy.

Andy was a breath of fresh, overachieving, journalistic air.

In the end I am thankful for his new position at CTV. Our journalism program was cancelled last month and Andy’s lack of seniority would have probably meant a pink slip in June of 2013, just as the last NBCC journalism grads cross the stage.

I can’t talk about the loss of my program just yet. The feelings are still too raw. But I am glad that Andy’s talent will not be lost or misplaced. We can still debate news coverage over the phone, and I will continue to tease him about the hair he used to have via email and Twitter.

While it won’t be the same as having him in our NBCC newsroom, it will make the departure of my co-worker and dear friend a little easier to manage.

Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and New Brunswick Community College instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock. You can email her at theresa@mybigfatlife.ca, or join her group, Big Fat Life, on Facebook.  You can also follow her on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE

1 Comment

Filed under *My Big Fat Life Column

My Big Fat Life: I found exactly what I was looking for at the U2 concert or “U2 for Us2 was 2cool”

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday, August 8, 2011


The first time I heard the music of U2 I was in junior high. I danced to U2’s I Will Follow at a friend’s birthday party. By the end of the night the little 45 was probably played at least a dozen times.

I was instantly smitten.

U2 in their younger years

The year was 1980 and, like the lyrics in that first tune, I fell in love with their music, and it followed me throughout my life.

New Year’s Day, Two Hearts Beat As One, In the Name of Love, With Or Without You, Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Where the Streets Have No Name, Desire, Angel of Harlem, One, The Sweetest Thing, Vertigo, and Sometimes You Can’t Make it on Your Own to name just a few of my favourites. I’ve listened to these songs when I’ve been happy, sad or just indifferent.

U2 makes me think, makes me tap my feet, and most times has the ability to put me in my happy place when I’m feeling down. These songs make up most of the soundtrack of my life.

When I was in college a cover band for U2 came to Nova Scotia. My friend Nancy was as big a fan as I was, so we followed them.

For two nights, in two separate towns, in two separate bars, we paid the cover charge, asked for water at the bar, and danced to the group, Under a Blood Red Sky.

We never sat down until the band took their break between sets. We were two sweaty, giddy and happy young women.

Fast-forward more than 20 years and I was a sweaty, giddy and happy woman once again – minus the young part.

In April, when Moncton announced U2 was going to be performing at Magnetic Hill, my husband and I decided that instead of slipping away for a romantic weekend for our 15th wedding anniversary we would instead buy tickets to see U2.

Knowing we couldn’t bring lawn chairs to this concert, we bought grandstand tickets.

Everything was arranged. My aunt traveled from Halifax to Woodstock to take care of my kids and we were Moncton-bound by 10:30 Saturday morning, excitedly driving through pouring rain.

Theresa Blackburn and her husband Stephen Chisholm, along with their friends Kevin and Michelle Talbot, were excited as they made their way closer to the Magnetic Hill concert grounds. The band's stage, named The Claw, can be seen in the background.

We were going with dear friends we met when we were in Goose Bay. When we arrived at their home in Moncton, it was decided we’d wait until nearly suppertime so we could avoid the rain. Forecasters were predicting things would clear off by then.

They were right.

Friends of our friends dropped us off at the Petro Can at the overpass just after 6 p.m.

We made our way to the grounds, navigated muddy fields, and watched Arcade Fire while we waited in a food line for nearly an hour.

We ate our special ‘anniversary meal’ – two donairs and two bottles of pop costing a whopping $24 – while waiting in another line for about 45 minutes as we tried to get into the grandstand area. By 9:05 we were in our seats waiting for U2 to take the stage.

And magic began at 9:25.

I had goose bumps as the screens showed the band walking on stage.

I was teary eyed at the beginning – finally seeing the group I so adored.

I screamed, video taped some of the concert, danced, took pictures and hugged my husband throughout most of the concert. The band played favourites and sung a few bars of more than a couple surprise tunes. Bono made us think – with talk and video from Burma, songs dedicated to those in Somalia dreaming of the freedom we enjoyed and sometimes take for granted – and reminded us all of how lucky we are.

I know I’m lucky. I have three healthy children, the means to go to the concert, the ability to walk in and out of the field grounds, a home to go back to, a warm bed to sleep in and a beautiful man to share it with.

U2 consistently reminds the world through their actions that we need to strive to make freedom a reality for all.

Sure the concert field was muddy, and at times I was shoved in the lineups. Sure the food at the concessions cost too much and the rain made me question my tickets (only briefly). Sure we waited in lineups far too long, and some of the hill staff didn’t seem to know what they were doing at times. But I have to admit that I didn’t regret my choice once during the evening.

The light show for the concert was spectacular!

Some of my friends vowed never to attend a concert on the hill again because of some of these things, but I can’t look at it that way.

What I take from my brief time on the hill that day are images of 75 thousand relatively well-behaved individuals all there for the same reason. I see thousands of people who were acting very civil despite the rain and mud and frustration.

I also have images of a group of staff trying to do their best in not so perfect circumstances.

The rain came and went and people stayed away, then thousands arrived en masse just before the main show causing more than a few headaches for staff.

But the best thing about the evening was the music, the message and the partner I shared it with.

For me, 12:15 a.m. came all too soon … and in a flash it was over. Thankfully the memories will last much longer.

Happy anniversary, babe …

Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and New Brunswick Community College instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock. You can email her at theresa@mybigfatlife.ca, or join her group, Big Fat Life, on Facebook.  You can also follow her on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE


Filed under *My Big Fat Life Column

My Big Fat Life: A busy life, a busy future … and the realization that this is what life is all about!

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner on Monday, June 6, 2011


Ashley Bent never imagined her life would look like this a few years ago.

In 2007, this young woman was contemplating her future: she was single without any ties; she was thinking about college, looking toward a possible career in business, and she was imagining herself working in a nice, neat clean office.

Ashley and Jonathan pictured with their 'motivators' - son Jake and daughter Sydney.

Fast forward four years and Ashley is now a mother of two, a homeowner, a carpentry apprentice and a woman on a mission. Her partner in crime, Jonathan Dutra, is also a trade apprentice – in bricklaying.

As I write this, the two are separated by geography; Jonathan doing his practicum in Saint John with their soon-to-be two-year-old son Jack in tow, while Ashley tries to finish up her second carpentry block, taking care of their two-and-a-half-month-old girl Sydney, while trying to study for her block exam. These two young people amaze me regularly.

I first met them when they first met – at college – taking business. Both discovered that working in an office might not be right for them.

“That first summer when I got a job working in an office – that taught me a lot. I realized I needed to be outside, I needed to be doing something with my hands.”

Ashley decided not to return and finish her course that fall – opting instead to work and save for a shot at another career.

Ashley returned to NBCC Woodstock campus and took carpentry. And while that in itself is an interesting story, her story becomes much more inspirational when you consider that she did this just two months after giving birth to her son, Jack.

Add to that the fact that Ashley just didn’t complete her year, she graduated at the top of her class, and the story becomes even more compelling.

But the crazy schedules don’t sto

p there. Jonathan enrolled in Bricklaying in January, their daughter Sydney arrived in March, and six weeks later Ashley started her second apprenticeship block at NBCC Woodstock campus.

Ashley says the kids are both the hardest part of this equation and also the easiest part.

“It’s hard, especially when Jack wants to go to the park, and you’re tired and you really need to be doing other things, and then you give in and go and take the kids. Then you realize that’s exactly where you needed to be because all of a sudden you just relax and the only thing you have to worry about is making sure he (Jack) doesn’t fall down when he’s climbing up the slide.”

Will it get easier? Ashley knows probably not for a while yet, but she’s OK with that because she knows how quickly time flies when you have children.

“I think back to Jack and how quickly he grew, so I think I’m going to try and enjoy this busy time with Sydney and Jack.”

Jonathan says he’d like to have more children, but Ashley’s not so sure at this point.

But while they differ on the issue of family planning, they don’t differ on their ideas for business planning.

“We want to start our own company.”

They already have a start on that dream with the recent purchase of a dump truck.

After spending some time with the both of them, I believe they have a great shot at reaching their dreams.

Over the last couple of years, they have proven that they can succeed in anything they put their minds to – no matter their circumstance.

“Oh, yeah, our lives are crazy, but we do it for the kids. I mean they really motivate you! We really want to do what’s best for them,” says Ashley.

I have no doubt that they will.

Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and New Brunswick Community College instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock. You can email her at theresa@mybigfatlife.ca, or join her group, Big Fat Life, on Facebook. You can also follow her on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE


Filed under *My Big Fat Life Column