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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 →

Rising through the ranks: New Dean’s background brought to bear on design, construction of STTC

September 17, 2018

In both his early career and its latest evolution, Derek Kochenash learned a lot about climbing ladders.

A Red Seal-endorsed Sheet Metal Worker, Kochenash has spent the last decade rising through the ranks at Red River College.

A 2001 Apprenticeship grad, he began working at the College in 2006 as a Related Math and Sciences instructor, and in 2010 became academic coordinator of the Related Math and Sciences Department.

Two years later, Kochenash was named Chair of the Electrical, Math and Sciences Department, and in 2017 took on the role of acting Dean of the School of Transportation, Aviation and Manufacturing.

Now, Kochenash is Dean of the School of Skilled Trades and Technologies, the newly amalgamated entity comprised of the School of Engineering and Construction Technology and the aforementioned School of Transportation, Aviation and Manufacturing.

“I never did have this as a goal. Each time that I’ve taken on new roles and moved up into larger responsibility positions, I’ve never ever predicted the future throughout the process,” says Kochenash, who also holds a M.Ed. from the University of Manitoba

“I’m very humbled and excited about the opportunity to be the Dean of this school, considering I started my career as a sheet metal worker and took my training here at RRC.”

“I’ve always taken on leadership roles. I love working with people to solve problems. I love trying to resolve conflicts. I’m passionate about that kind of work and that’s what drives me to take on these roles. Many people think I’m crazy, my wife included. ‘Why do you like that?’ I don’t know, but I do.” Read More →

Open door policy: Health Information Management instructor nabs Teaching Award of Excellence

May 29, 2018

She’s going out on a high note.

When Eileen Oleski retires next year, she can rest assured she’s had a positive impact on her students. The coordinator of Red River College’s Health Information Management program is the recipient of this year’s RRC Students’ Association Teaching Award of Excellence.

Each spring, the RRCSA recognizes an instructor for their outstanding teaching practices and dedication to students. In the nomination submission that led to this year’s honour, Oleski’s students praise her knowledge of subject material, her fun and flexible style of teaching and her eagerness to go the extra mile.

“Eileen always made sure her door was open to students,” one student wrote. “She often reminded [us] that if we ever needed extra help or guidance, she would always be there to make sure we succeed. I personally have taken her up on this offer and am glad I did. Eileen gave me the boost of confidence I needed.”

Oleski, who has taught at RRC since 2008, says her enthusiasm for the program comes directly from her students.

“They say I inspire them, well, they really inspire me,” she says. “You’re in the classroom, it’s all about them and their future. I always say, ‘I just set the foundation.’ The rest is theirs to build and take to where they want to go. The possibilities are there.”

A certified HIM professional through the Canadian Health Information Management Association, she earned her B.A. in Allied Health Sciences from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, worked in HIM roles at Seven Oaks General Hospital from 1981 to 2003, and was a health record consultant for the Manitoba government before arriving at RRC.

“I still do a lot of networking with a lot of my colleagues from my past, ensuring that the industry standards are being adhered to,” Oleski says. “We’re trying to teach the students what’s currently out there, and with technology changing, we’re constantly changing here, as well.” Read More →