Tag Archives: students

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

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Theresa loves many different people for many different reasons…

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday, February 14, 2011


I use the word love a lot. I can’t help it. I have grown to love a lot of people.

There is the intense love and passion I have for my husband, the tender and giving love I have for my children, and the amazing respect and heartfelt love I have for my parents.

But then there is also the love I have for a lot of other people.

Love: it's not JUST for family anymore...

My students are a prime example. The love I have for the people in my class consistently sustains me throughout my workday and fills me with a sense of purpose.

I love the way it feels when a student comes to me with an improved radio piece and leaves my office feeling confident they’ve finally ‘gotten’ it.

Recently, when a student confessed their love of making radio – in particular, their passion for sound – I beamed. How can you not love someone who shares your passion?

And then there’s the former student who made me cry last week. She’s been going through a rough time, and she knows I’ve always been in her corner.

She called me to let me know she’s doing better, she’s getting help, and she thanked me for caring. Through my tears, I told her how unbelievably blessed she made me feel with her phone call.

I have to admit that I truly love how I feel when I walk onto the NBCC Woodstock campus. I count my good fortune to be able to work with not only amazing students, but amazing staff as well.

Last fall, while working late one night, I discovered a trades instructor was tutoring former students who didn’t pass their first block exam. He met them at the campus a few times a week for more than a few weeks, trying to get them up-to-speed so they could re-take the big test. He made my heart sing that night.

The fact these young men were no longer his students did not diminish the commitment he felt to their future – even when some may not have originally cared enough to pay attention in his class the first time around. This instructor gave them a second chance. He remembers what it’s like to be young and carefree (and sometimes careless) and wanted to help.

It’s not hard to see why I love the people I work with. There are too many stories like this one to mention here. I am not joking when I say I could fill an entire paper with wonderful stories just like this -stories of beautiful people giving their time and talents easily, even in cases where there is no obligation to do so.

I also have a great deal of love for the wonderful and caring people my children have contact with every day.

There is a lot of love in my heart for the beautiful principal and vice-principal at my son’s school.

These women, together with the guidance counsellor, put a quick end to the bullying my son endured from a group of students. They make me feel better about his education, about my son’s school in particular, just about life in general.  They give me a great feeling of hope that complex problems like this can be rectified.

They alone have given me a real sense that there can be true and positive change in every difficult situation if you have the will to see it through. They also give me a great sense of relief in knowing all students in my son’s school have wonderful people in their corner. They say they were just doing their job – I say they are angels in disguise.

There is the love I have for the people who help out with my daughter’s hockey team. The coach, his helpers, the parents – I cannot express how wonderful it feels to have everyone on the same page.

Everyone involved wants the kids to enjoy the game, wants new players to learn and wants all team members to feel good about their contribution.

There is no favouritism, nor is there a practice of limiting time for those who might not play as well.

All parents cheer for all kids and all parents get excited for every child’s accomplishment. Every adult involved cheers every player on during the game and offers positive comments in the dressing room whether the kids have won or lost.

The thing I love most about this group is that no parent or supporter boos the other team. These wonderful people are just as quick to call out “Great save!” for the opposite goal, as they are to cheer when our goalie has made a great block.

Their beautiful love of the game and love of children fills me every time I step into the rink. It also means my daughter gets excited about each and every practice and game.

She never worries about whether she’s good enough, or whether there’s a chance her team could lose.

Her thoughts are always concentrated on keeping herself upright, her stick on the ice, and getting the puck from the other players (that and keeping herself out of the zone so she isn’t ‘offside’.)

So on this Valentine’s Day, whether you’re with someone or not, I hope you know that there are probably people out there just like me who love you for being you.

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

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My Big Fat Life this week: Sometimes a teacher’s inspiration comes from her students

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday July 5th, 2010

Lisa and her husband after graduation: Lisa is one of the many students who have inspired me at NBCC Woodstock Campus

Anatasha recieving the Principal's Award for Academic Excellence, Leadership and active involvement in the Community and NBCC Woodstock Campus

September marks the beginning of my fifth year teaching at NBCC Woodstock campus.

I’ve learned a lot from students. Sometimes it feels more like they’re the ones teaching me.

Last week my favourite day arrived: Graduation. And while some think my excitement over graduation is all about the fact that the day marks the beginning of my vacation, those who know me understand that my excitement is all about my students.

Many do more for me than I do for them. But I think overall it’s students who are also parents that I learn the most from.

There have been a few new parents in my years here. Tanya, who gave birth to Isaiah and graduated, son in hand, dressed in a little cap and gown I had sewn for him. Tanya got pregnant during her first year of graphics, and her teacher at the time, Steve Morris, made sure she could finish. He had no issue with having a baby in class from time to time. Neither did her classmates.

Come to think of it, many of the instructors on the third floor that year visited Steve’s class often, taking a ‘baby break’ now and then. Many days, frustrations would melt away just by holding that sweet little boy.

Other students more than surprised me. There was the young man in business whose girlfriend had a baby in his first year, but he didn’t miss an assignment at school or a night feeding from what I’ve been told.

There’s also the young woman in carpentry who juggled assignments and block exams with bringing up a sweet little boy.

Then there’s my student Lisa, who took business and taught many staff and classmates the meaning of dedication. Lisa returned to school with some trepidation. She was a ‘mature’ student, and had been out of school for a few years.

But that didn’t dampen her drive or her determination to complete what she started. She was one of the top students in her class, always going the extra mile in assignments.

She scored 100 per cent on more than a few tests, and always had a smile on her face, no matter how bad her day was going. And some days were very bad. In her two years at the campus she dealt with trying to help one of her adult children during a very tough time in her life, she lost her house to an awful fire and her husband almost died, surviving a massive heart attack.

At graduation it was her husband who made me cry. As Lisa walked across the stage to get her diploma (graduating with honours if I remember correctly), her husband made his way to the stage. As she descended the stairs, the love of her life stood at the base of the staircase at the front of the gym, and opened his arms widely. She fell into them and they both cried. There were few dry eyes among classmates and instructors who knew her story.

There’s Brittany who juggled journalism studies and her wedding, the mom of two little girls who made near perfect marks in the practical nurse program (and was our valedictorian) and the guy who juggled two part-time jobs and his studies so he could stay in school and graduate and make his Mom proud.

In telling these stories, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Anatasha MacIntosh. Anatasha is a young, talented Maliseet artist who really wants to start her own business some day. At college she found her voice – the voice of student council president and student president of NBCC across the province.

This mother of a sweet little boy also found her strength. She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer while at the campus and didn’t miss a beat through surgery and chemo. Except for approximately two weeks at the height of her crisis, she was at the college, sitting in on classes, working hard on assignments and maintaining her high grades … all with a two-year-old at home.

She still amazes me with her drive, but also her outlook on life. She looks at every day as a gift and her education as a major stepping-stone in achieving her dreams.

Every time I see her, I can’t help but hug this woman. She makes me proud to be a teacher – to have had the honour of helping her achieve her goals while watching her with a combination of respect, admiration and awe.

I know she and the others I’ve talked about this week are going places … and that makes me smile.

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


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My Big Fat Life: Loving how words can be a gift to others …

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday June 14th, 2010

A long time ago I vowed to tell people who make a difference that they make a difference. People are always quick to share anger, quick to share upset, but not as quick to share thank-yous.

Sharing my thoughts on influential and caring teachers last week was a thank-you to many. When I opened my inbox this week, I was happy to see more than a few emails.

My former Modern World Problems teacher, Ms. Colleen Putt, lives in Dartmouth, N.S. She wrote to say she found the article humbling. She’s now retired but still substitutes from time to time and is enjoying her time with her three grandchildren.

My friend Tom Mugford teaches on the Labrador coast. He wrote to thank me for the column.

“As a teacher, I sometimes wonder if what I do makes a difference. Thanks for helping put things in perspective.”

My Aunt Celine wrote to say that her mom taught school for 35 years. She said it always surprises her when people she grew up with comment on how her mom was their favourite teacher. She taught my Aunt Celine and her siblings in elementary school. In her words, “Now, that was an experience!”

Many of my own former classmates wrote me to remind me of our junior high history and geography teacher, Mr. MacKinnon. He was the king of point form. He would relay the story of a certain person in history – King James for example – and jump around, using gestures, joking about the story – trying to make connections for you – enabling you to understand but also remember. Then he’d get you to copy notes from the blackboard – he’d spend a lot of time dissecting the story for you and putting it into bite-sized pieces.

He was an expert in helping you remember. We were all successful in his classroom because of it.

Doug Abbass works for the Labrador School Board. He wrote to tell me that he passed along the column to James’ former teacher, Mrs. Pauline Edwards. He says she cried, which made me cry.

“You feel you are doing your very best for the children but to have such an article written assures you that the time, care and love that you give to your job is noticed and appreciated,” he wrote.

“You never know the impact you have on other people and it’s obvious Pauline had an impact on James and you. I am sure many other students and parents also have wonderful memories of the impact she had on them.”

My former student, Katelin Dean, wrote to say that she had some wonderful teachers in her life.

Miss Reid who taught in Pembroke, Ont., had an end-of-the-year party at her house that included multiple slip-and-slides for the five-year-olds to splash around on.

Her Grade 6 teacher, Mr. White, inspired Katelin in her love of writing (even though she didn’t realize she was inspired until years later).

Mr. Kane was Katelin’s Grade 11 math teacher. He encouraged her to run for student council even though she wasn’t the most popular girl in school. He told her the experience of running alone was worth it for her confidence; he was right, of course.

And then Katelin wrote about me in her email … and made me cry again.

“In April 2007, I came to Woodstock with a friend of mine to look for an apartment for the following year. I found one quickly, so I thought I’d take a peek at NBCC to maybe catch a glimpse of the cafeteria or library or something. I stopped at the front desk, and the lady from student services called one of the journalism instructors. As she ran down the stairs, her beaming smile and sparkling eyes instantly welcomed this soon-to-be journalism student. By the end of an extensive tour, she was hugging me and telling me how excited she was for the beginning of September.

“My first impression wasn’t wrong, this teacher never stopped caring about our entire class (even the ones who didn’t always deserve it), and inspired a love of journalism, and more specifically, radio.

“In two years, I watched this woman work tirelessly just so we could succeed – not just at journalism, but in life. Her door was always open to hear about our problems – school-related or otherwise.

“She hosted pool parties and turkey dinners at her home. She was quick to bring in a box of granola bars (she knew college students didn’t always have time/money for breakfast), and even if her life was crazy, we always felt important. Now, I’m a year out of school, and have the honour and privilege of calling my favourite teacher of all time – Theresa Blackburn – one of my best friends.”

Now I am humbled … but Katelin was also a very wise teacher … reminding me that you are never too old to learn, and that sometimes you can’t wait for a student to graduate so that you can call them your friend.

My friend Monica Inman-Riley reminded me that not all teaching takes place in the classroom. Some amazing teachers also work around a kitchen table. When I read her message, I couldn’t help but think of my neighbours, the Brockes.

Debbie Brocke (pronounced Brock-ee) home-schooled her two boys. Matthew and Daniel have both completed the high school curriculum. Their older son Matthew is currently at the NBCC Woodstock Campus, enrolled in the practical nurse program.

Being home-schooled here has its challenges. The Brockes moved here from Misson, Texas, a small community along the Mexican border, south of San Antonio.

There they had a community of home-schooled families to work with and a government that encouraged home-schooling. But here, there is little support.

When Matthew wanted to take the practical nurse program at NBCC Woodstock Campus, he had to write a GED test. He passed with flying colours and won a national scholarship through the GED program – the only one awarded in Canada that year.

When I look at what Matthew’s accomplished in his life so far, I know it’s not just a feather in his cap, but his mother’s as well.

He’s now thriving in the practical nurse program.

Daniel passed his GED without problem this year. He’s thinking about becoming a pilot.

Debbie says that home-schooling wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

Her son Matthew agrees.

He says that home-schooling allowed him to pursue passions while he was learning.

“Everything was a learning experience. If we went to the grocery store, my mother would make us do mental math to figure out how much the groceries were going to cost!”

Home-schooling comes in handy when life throws you curveballs, too. A year-and-a-half ago Matthew experienced a health crisis and almost died – twice. His parents were there through it all. When he was healthy again, he was able to pick up his studies right where he left off.

Thanks to everyone who wrote to share this week. I cannot say enough about the beautiful men and women who teach our children and enrich and impact their lives more than they realize.

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

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My Big Fat Life: Some of the most unselfish people she knows are teachers …

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner Monday June 7th, 2010

June is here! I love this time of year. When you work at NBCC, the month of June is a consuming one. It’s all about planning for next year, but it’s also all about planning for graduation.

I have a quote in my daytimer that says, “A good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others.”

The author is unknown but I know it could have been written for many of the teachers I’ve come to know over the years.

Whether they were my own teachers, teachers my children have had, or teachers I’ve worked alongside … for the most part, teachers are a very special breed.

I’m not saying every teacher is amazing, but I think most of them are.

I have wonderful memories of many of my teachers. There was my Grade 3 teacher, Mrs. Kelson, who sat us in a circle so everyone could see each other. She taught us a song for our timetables and showed us how to make bread-bag kites that we took outside to try on a beautiful spring afternoon. There was Mrs. Smith who taught Grade 5 at Alderwood Elementary. She read to us every day after lunch. What a wonderful treat that was.

She read Pippi Longstocking and Charlotte’s Web, among others. She was tough, but sweet and I think I found my love of reading through her.

Mrs. Putt at Sir John A. Macdonald High School outside of Halifax inspired a love of news through her teaching in Modern World Problems.

Mrs. Ginsburg taught shorthand (I took it so I could cover court as a reporter – I knew early on what I wanted to do) and pushed her students to succeed. I will never forget when I spontaneously hugged her in class when I finally got to the 100 words per minute dictation mark. She told me she always knew I could do it. I will never forget the feeling I had that day when I reached my goal.

Fast-forward to my own children, and more wonderful teachers. Cathy James-Cutler in Iqaluit taught my daughter Kristen Grades 2 and 4. She always tried to come up with interesting and fun ways to encourage learning. There were field trips and indoor beach parties, building projects and cooking.

My daughter Kathryn truly loved Mrs. Black during her first year at Woodstock Centennial Elementary.

Kathryn was painfully shy, but Mrs. Black was able to get her to try new things, and bring her out of her shell. We will be forever grateful for her love and patience that year.

And my son James was also blessed with amazing teachers over the years. Right now his favourite teacher is Mrs. Bird at Woodstock Middle School. She’s inspired a love of science in our boy. He loves being in her classroom where she teaches through hands-on learning. One thing my son loves is learning by getting messy.

There was Mrs. Barb Mitchell, who taught Grade 3 at Happy Valley-Goose Bay’s Peacock Elementary. Barb was as patient as they come. She once admitted to feeling awfully guilty for saying James’ name so often in class. Our son has some attention issues.

During one parent-teacher session, Mrs. Mitchell admitted how much she loved him.

“He never gets upset or frustrated with the amount of times I have to tell him to keep on task. One day I apologized for having to say his name so many times and he hugged me and told me that was OK.” She said it made her want to cry. That year at Christmas, she knit James a set of mittens, a hat and a scarf. He loved her so.

But one of the best examples of a beautiful teacher has to be James’ Grade 1 teacher, Mrs. Pauline Edwards.

Mrs. Edwards was also at Peacock Elementary. She noticed James was having some difficulty and quickly got him some extra help both in and out of the classroom that year.

When James continued to have difficulty in Grade 2, she offered to tutor him, but wouldn’t accept any pay.

Twice a week for the entire year James went to her house after school and got reading and writing help. By the end of that year his reading had improved and so did James’ confidence.

I cry when I think of what an amazing, selfless gift she gave my son that year. She was a wonderful role model, giving without receiving.

She taught him that hard work pays off and that reading is fun. And what gets me every time is that she took time for a boy who wasn’t even in her class anymore.

She was a member of our church choir in Goose Bay as well. Every Sunday she was treated to a huge hug from James after church. His eyes lit up every time he saw her.

When I tucked him into bed one night he confided in me that he wanted to marry Mrs. Edwards when he grew up.

I loved him for loving her, and couldn’t help but love her myself … this beautiful woman who was a natural teacher and who truly cared about the children in her classroom – cared for them as her own, worrying about them even after they left her grade. I think of her every time my son picks up a book and thank God for people like Mrs. Edwards.

(Note: If you’d like to share stories of teachers who inspire you, drop me a line at teachers@mybigfatlife.ca and I will again pay tribute to these beautiful people next week. Share and share often. People like Mrs. Edwards need to be recognized for the wonderful and positive impact they make in this world.)

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


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