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Faculty Profiles

Careers in communication: New skills, work ethics take grads in unexpected directions

March 14, 2022

Portrait of Doug Darling, CEO of Tripwire Media Group

It’s a common story: a graduate of RRC Polytech’s Creative Communications program enters the program expecting their path to go one way. Then something — an instructor, a course, a project — points them somewhere new.

“RRC Polytech basically shaped my life in every way,” says Doug Darling, Creative Communications grad, instructor, and CEO of local video production agency Tripwire Media Group, which has worked with companies like Scotiabank, Tabasco and TikTok.

“As a young adult with a failing music career, I had no idea what I wanted to do. After going into Creative Communications, I found my passion for what would become my creative outlet and career.

“It very much culminated in one project — I had to make a three-minute video montage and I wasn’t taking it too seriously. Through that project, though, I found my calling. I realized that video was the culmination of art, and that editing was my new musicianship.”

Examples like Darling’s are something James Turner, instructor of journalism, photography and photojournalism at RRC Polytech, sees quite a bit across all four of CreComm’s specialization areas.

“Something usually strikes students along the way that triggers their desire to want to pursue that,” says Turner. “I’ve heard of various media production assignments that students have found valuable. For journalism, it’s often Remembrance Day assignments where students understand the human impact of journalism and what it means to put a face to a story.”

Read More →

From here to chair: Ellowyn Nadeau becomes first woman to head Winnipeg Construction Association board

March 8, 2022

It’s an announcement 118 years in the making: in February, the Winnipeg Construction Association (WCA) named RRC Polytech instructor Ellowyn Nadeau the first woman board chair in its history.

“This is about women in general — it shows we have a place in this industry,” says Nadeau. “We’re finally achieving an understanding that women can contribute in this field, and we want to. It’s an honour and a privilege.

Nadeau has a long history in construction. She’s been a Construction Management instructor at RRC Polytech since 2015, a Supply Chain Management Professional since 2010, and a professional civil engineer since 2000. Engineering runs in her family — her dad was a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Manitoba — but for many women and girls, construction has not been considered a viable option.

“There weren’t a lot of women in the industry in the 1990s,” says Nadeau. “Even now, there are more women in offices than in the field. The field is less welcoming to women — you’re constantly transitioning from crew to crew, job to job, and you have to prove yourself every time. As an industry, we have to work on that.”

Proving herself is something Nadeau has done. She is past chair of Manitoba Women in Construction, a member of the Committee for Increasing Participation of Women in Engineering, and a member of PEO International, a philanthropic organization providing educational opportunities for women. She joined the WCA board in 2015.

“The WCA has been very supportive, respectful, open and encouraging,” says Nadeau. “This is a culmination of the last couple years, but it’s just the start.” Read More →

Instructors partner with local makers and hobbyists to fight COVID-19

May 8, 2020

Faculty at Red River College have stepped up to help produce ‘ear savers’ for Manitoba’s frontline workers.

Rob Ataman, Serge Broeska, Jesse Jamison and Nino Caldarola — all instructors in RRC’s Mechanical Engineering Technology and Manufacturing Technician programs — each volunteered to bring home one of the College’s four 3D printers, which are capable of producing the pieces. Ear savers are plastic adapters worn at the back of the head to hold medical masks in place and eliminate strain, irritation and blisters caused by elastic straps.

“When I got the call to make these ear savers, I jumped at the opportunity,” says Broeska, whose wife works as a physician at Health Sciences Centre. “As a technical college with a stellar reputation in the community, RRC is ideally suited to do its part and is contributing in so many ways. I felt this project was a no-brainer — a way to contribute while having to stay at home during this period of social isolation.”

The College has partnered with Winnipeg Fighting Covid, a group of local hobbyists and makers who are using their personal 3D printers to create, sanitize and deliver the ear savers, and other protective equipment (PPE). The group has received approval and guidelines from Shared Health Manitoba to create and distribute the ear savers, and currently has 121 printers signed on to help with the cause.

“We are Manitobans and when there is a need, Manitobans jump in to help,” says Marc Hache, a Winnipeg Fighting Covid volunteer. “Prior to our group’s formation, individual makers had — on their own initiative — sought out those in need, and printed and delivered well over 10,000 units.”

Hache says every partner approached has responded enthusiastically, and he is proud to be part of the worldwide maker community’s response to the crisis.

The RRC crew estimated they would be able to produce approximately 800 units per week, but wound up making more than 1,200 in the first seven days with the help of some friendly competition.

“There’s actually a bit of a competition going on among the instructors to print as many ear savers as possible,” Broeska says. “This project has really brought us together, where we can share ideas and have a bit of fun while we fight this pandemic.” Read More →

Trades and Technologies programs shift to online delivery

April 23, 2020

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Red River College’s trades and technologies programs have had to come up with new strategies for helping their students achieve learning objectives.

On March 13, the College made the decision to close its campuses and transition all courses online, in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus in Manitoba. For programs that relied heavily on hands-on, applied learning, that meant being resourceful and finding creative ways of teaching remotely.

“The students in these programs tend to come to the College because they are looking for hands-on experience,” says Evan Himelstein, program coordinator for Mechanical Engineering Technology. “What we’re trying to do is find ways to incorporate different technologies, so the students are still getting as close to the same experience we would normally provide.”

Simulated CNC milling

Glen Hawker, an instructor of Manufacturing Technician and Precision Metal Machining programs, has been able to deliver a near-identical machine learning experience to his students through simulation software licenses provided by Haas Automation.

The software carries all of the College’s lathe and milling machines, and allows students to explore the corresponding control panels from their homes. They can still complete assignments and create programs to run virtually — the only difference is they’re not creating a physical piece, or handling the machine’s tools.

“They have to follow all the steps: turning the power on, allowing it to power up, resetting and loading the program. And they have to do it safely,” says Hawker. “If they don’t follow the safety protocols, the simulation jams the same way the machine would.” Read More →

Masonry master named Apprenticeship Manitoba’s Instructor of the Year

December 9, 2019

The office of Brian Gebhardt, a Masonry instructor at Red River College, is reminiscent of the classrooms adjacent to it: surrounded by projects and artwork made of bricks, with a layer of dust on every surface.

Gebhardt is everything one would expect from a mason — covered in the same dust that cakes his office, with calloused hands hardened from almost 45 years in the trade.

For 30 of those years, that dust has been a byproduct of his work at RRC, and this year he received the highest honour an apprenticeship instructor can achieve when he was named Instructor of the Year by Apprenticeship Manitoba.

Gebhardt doesn’t let a little dust bother him; after all, he’s been working with bricks since his first construction job right out of high school, where time spent watching and talking with masonry veterans sold him on the trade.

“They seemed to enjoy what they were doing, and wage-wise it was what I was looking for,” he says.

To get a foot in the door, Gebhardt cold-called as many masonry contractors as he could to ask for a job, which he eventually landed — through what he’s convinced was a real-life game of Telephone.

“I phoned them and said, ‘I want to be a bricklayer,’ and I think he thought I said, ‘I am a bricklayer.’ And he said, ‘Have your tools tomorrow at 1700 Taylor,’” Gebhardt recalls with a smile.

“I picked up some tools — I had none — and I showed up at the job.” Read More →

Making learning fun: Instructor caps off RRC career with Teaching Award of Excellence

May 29, 2019

Cathy Skene, Red River CollegeAt 65 and close to retirement, Cathy Skene is the 2019 recipient of Red River College’s Students’ Association Teaching Award of Excellence.

A Certified Professional Accountant, Skene began her career at RRC in 1981 as an evening instructor of Financial Accounting. Since then she’s taught in the Accounting, Teacher Education and Continuing Education departments and is currently winding down her career as an online instructor in the Certificate in Adult Education program.

In their award submission, Skene’s students praised her knowledge of the subject material, her inspirational teaching style and her availability in and outside of class.

Skene says her enthusiasm for teaching comes directly from her students.

“They bring out the best in me,” she says. “I feel so lucky to have been a small part of their lives, and I’m so very happy that they enjoyed having me.”

In their submission, many of her students wrote that she makes learning fun. Skene says she strives to make the classroom an enjoyable atmosphere.

“Most people learn better when they’re relaxed, and enjoying the process,” she says. “The learning objectives of each course are essential, but there are also ways to add to the experience, by talking about what the students want to learn.

“And as adult learners, they bring a great deal of knowledge with them. It’s necessary to acknowledge and incorporate what they already know. We all learn from one another. A cooperative and supportive atmosphere means everyone can be a winner.”

Technical support: Interlake instructor gives Computer Skills course an upgrade

April 11, 2019

Dr. Kasongo Kalanda began his journey with technology and education at a time — and in a place — where few people had even heard of computers.

Originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kalanda’s options for post-secondary education were similarly limited as a young man, but he managed to find an opening at a private university, where he was among the first students to register for Computer Studies.

“It was the only available opportunity,” says Kalanda, now a Computer Skills instructor at Red River College’s Interlake and Peguis – Fisher River Campus. “I took things seriously from there and told myself it was this or nothing.”

Kalanda earned a bachelor’s degree in Science and a master’s in Computer Science from L’Institut supérieur d’informatique programmation et analyse (L’I.S.I.P.A.), before moving to pursue both a second master’s and a doctorate in Computing Education from the University of South Africa.

While there, he ran into a problem when his master’s thesis was required in English, a language he’d never had the opportunity to learn. Kalanda asked for three months to figure out how to read and write in English. He says it wasn’t easy, and compared it to a “do-or-die” situation.

In 2008, he was invited to participate in a Microsoft-sponsored program that trained teachers in how to integrate technology into education. During a brainstorming workshop, Kalanda helped come up with the idea to create a classroom technology integration competition for teachers using a World Cup Soccer model.

The end results were called School Technology Innovation Centres, an initiative for which Kalanda became manager for Africa and the Middle East, eventually travelling to more than 50 countries between 2008 and 2013. Read More →

Interlake Campus business instructor makes marketing a ‘family’ affair

January 10, 2019

When it comes to career, Carmen Kaethler always accounts for family.

Kaethler is the lead instructor of the Business, Accounting and Management certificate program at Red River College’s Interlake Campus in Selkirk.

A mother to two young daughters, she also works part-time from home as an accountant for Elite Sports Injury, a network of physiotherapy clinics in Winnipeg.

Kaethler began instructing at RRC in 2017, and now spends about 12 hours a week teaching such courses as Financial Accounting 1 and Introduction to Canadian Business.

“I like the flexibility because it allows me to continue to give real-world experience to the students,” says Kaethler, who’s been a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) since 2013. “I’m still practising in a current local business, so I can give relevant examples to [my students] in class, instead of just talking about my past.”

Kaethler brings approximately 17 years (and counting) of office- and business-related experience to her classrooms.

“I love teaching and I love business, so being able to show that to students — to help them understand accounting, and make them see that it’s not that scary — I find it enjoying and quite rewarding,” she says.

In addition to accounting, Kaethler also has an entrepreneurial side. She’s a local publisher for Macaroni Kid, a website that publishes “hyper-local” e-newsletters and websites promoting products, events, activities and destinations for moms, kids and families.” A Transcona resident, Kaethler focuses on family events in east Winnipeg. Read More →

All systems go: Aircraft maintenance mentor named Instructor of the Year

November 20, 2018

A Red River College instructor is flying high after being honoured for his efforts by Apprenticeship Manitoba.

Gary van der Zweep is the academic coordinator of the Apprentice Aircraft Maintenance Journeyperson (AMJ) program at RRC’s Stevenson Campus in Southport, just south of Portage la Prairie.

Earlier this month, he was named Instructor of the Year at Apprenticeship Manitoba’s Awards of Distinction gala, held at RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg.

“It’s nice to get kudos here and there,” says van der Zweep. “I’ve been told by other teachers that you take it when you can get it, because it doesn’t come around all that much.

“It’s a great honour and it’s a nice recognition for both myself and the school, for all that we do.”

The AMJ program provides students who are already employed in the aviation and aerospace industries with the training they need to acquire their Transport Canada aircraft maintenance engineer (AME) license. It’s the only Transport Canada-approved AME apprenticeship program in Canada.

Though van der Zweep has taught at Stevenson for almost 18 years, his time there actually predates RRC’s involvement with the training centre. In 2002, Stevenson Aviation merged with RRC to form the Stevenson Campus.

“I’m working with some of the students that I taught,” van der Zweep says. “It just shows how old I am. I’ve been around so long they’re already teachers themselves.

“It’s a lifestyle. It’s fulfilling when you can see the lights going on in a student’s eyes, when they’re finally getting certain theory they were struggling with. It’s just like getting an airplane ready to fly. You’re doing the same thing with the students. You’re getting them fixed up and ready to go.” Read More →

Police academy: Veteran cop to head new course after ‘writing the book’ on modern law enforcement

October 24, 2018

Staff Sgt. Bob Chrismas, a 30-year veteran of the Winnipeg Police Service, is the newly appointed instructor of RRC’s Justice and Public Safety program, available via part-time or online delivery.

“They (the College) reached out to me. They said they needed an instructor for a course called Policing in the 21stCentury,” says Chrismas, now 56.

“I called back and said ‘Are you kidding? I literally wrote the book.’”

He’s not joking. In 2013, McGill-Queen’s University Press published Chrismas’ book Canadian Policing in the 21st Century: A Frontline Officer on Challenges and Changes. It was the runner up for best non-fiction at the 2014 Manitoba Book Awards.

Like the book, RRC’s Policing in the 21st Century course will examine the history of policing and changes in policing philosophy, while also exploring what law enforcement may look like in the future.

“Some major issues are how we engage technology, centralizing versus decentralizing, and being proactive as opposed to reactive — community-oriented rather than just reacting to issues,” Chrismas explains.

“My passion that’s developed within the police service is trying to be more proactive and preventative. You get a much better bang for your buck out of crime prevention in the long run. With reacting, you’re often not addressing the root of the problem. You’re just reacting and arresting people.” Read More →