Carmacks Tests Team Approach to Leadership Learning

Learning online can be challenging at times—trying to stay motivated, on schedule, and completing assignments while working to provide recreation opportunities to your community is no easy task. But when you are new to a job, or your job or workplace changes, it can be even harder to keep up. The Carmacks Recreation Department has faced a great deal of change in the recent past. When the Recreation North Training Program became available, CAO Tracy Thomas encouraged Sherry Whittle, the Acting Recreation Director at the time, to enroll in the online leadership training alongside staff members Jamie Birckel, Recreation Assistant, and Trisha Johnnie, After School Program Coordinator. The flexibility of the design and the focus on leadership skills that would be immediately useful in Northern communities made the training a great fit.

Sherry was delighted to take part in the training. “It was just the right answer for our team and the timing of it was just perfect.”  The team (Jamie, Sherry, and Trisha) used the weekly, one-hour teleconferences and materials from each learning event to energize and inform planning for upcoming tasks and events.  An added benefit was that they didn’t have to travel out for training or try to develop their own courses. Sherry noticed that her team soon “found their comfort zone” with online learning and began participating in the weekly discussions, applying new language and ideas with increasing confidence.

The success of the learning team also began to spill over to benefit two new student workers, which Carmacks Recreation hires each year to participate in an after school program that involves them in the delivery of events. As the leadership training progressed, Trisha and Jamie shared what they were learning with the students. Sherry explained the flow of learning, “What Caroline (the Trainer) was doing for me, I was doing with them (Trisha and Jamie), and they were passing it along to the students.”

The team changed again by the end of the summer—Sherry Whittle relocated to Newfoundland, two new student workers started, and new Acting Recreation Director Ray Lafreniere joined the Rec North Training Program. Ray’s enthusiasm and interest made him part of the team immediately.  He found value in weekly meetings focused on the ongoing Rec North learning events. “We start at different times of the day, so I try to work ahead so I can explain the materials and how they relate to what we’re doing in our work,” he explained. The team often finds it challenging to gather for weekly teleconferences, but they try as they recognize the value of the online discussions and sharing of ideas.

Jamie and Trisha are key members of the Carmacks learning team and are on track to earn the Certificate in Northern Recreation Leadership soon. As a Recreation Assistant, Jamie enjoys working with youth and is an active, though quiet, participant in the online training. He enjoys hearing other people’s stories during teleconferences and finds the weekly sharing of ideas about recreation gets everyone excited and “pumped up.”  Trisha found the training helpful when she began her role as After School Coordinator. She finds the opportunity to generate ideas and try them out very rewarding and enjoys connecting with other communities during the teleconferences for each learning event.

The upcoming opening of the 2,500 square metre arena in Carmacks will provide new community spaces and link to the existing recreation centre. The Carmacks Recreation Department’s learning team (and the student workers) are developing new skills and knowledge through the Recreation North training to meet any challenge and provide even more great recreation opportunities for individuals and families in Carmacks.