Paul Surette’s journey at Maritime Business College has come full circle.
The Counselling Skills/Social Human Services instructor took the same program in March 2014 at Success College.
That was before the merger between it and Maritime Business College.
Following graduation in April of 2015 he was working at the Searidge Foundation in Annapolis Royal. He then made the move to the Salvation Army from June 2015 until September 2019 as an addictions counsellor supervisor.
He returned to Maritime Business College in September 2019 to prepare for and teach the Community Support Worker program in January 2020.
This past September the intake for the Counselling Skills program was so large MBC was going to have two classes and Surette would its second instructor.
When classes began the nerves associated with starting something new were there, but quickly got over those.
“I don’t feel like I’ve skipped a beat,” says Surette, who was constantly staying in touch with the school after graduating.
He loves teaching the same modules he learned to his students. At the same time he uses the anecdotes and stories gained in the field to anchor the information he teaches in the addictions module or help him deal with an ethical issue.
“I was thinking when I initially came back in September (2019), it’s almost like that was full circle, but when I was moved to the Counselling program that was full circle,” he says.
He teaches all modules in the class except when industry professionals come in as guest speakers or to do certifications. Part way through the program he and Ingram will switch classes so the students receive the opportunity to know both instructors.
Prior to becoming a student in the Counselling Skills program Surette was working in Western Canada. He realized it was time for a change. After unsuccessfully applying for dozens of jobs and being off work for an injury to his shoulder he came home for a visit in January.
One day at church he was speaking to a friend who was going to an open house at Success College. Surette went to and that’s where he met Ingram.
“I said to my wife after, that’s what I want to do,” says Surette.
After tendering his resignation in Alberta and applying for his student loan he was able to enroll for that March.
Ingram says Surette was the ideal student. He worked hard and well with everybody in the class.
“What a student should be in the classroom.”
While Surette was studying he was hoping he would be able to do well in the field. His vision was also to use his education as a thread to connect his life experience to his work.
“I could walk into a room with people that I didn’t know and in about 10 minutes I would have two or three people standing beside me telling me their life stories,” he says. “I didn’t know who they were, but I also didn’t know what to do with that. The course helped learn what to do with that.”
One lessons he hopes to instill in his students is even though the field can sometimes be frustrating when it comes to the population they work with, regulations, attitudes or a section of the community not understanding addiction or mental health they can make a difference. Even if it is for only one person.
“They may have an opportunity, wherever they work to make that change, and create an awareness within the greater population,” says Surette.
As an instructor he’s curious about how to do things in an effective way, willingly takes feedback and asks questions.
“He’s always looking to keep a student’s best interests at heart,” says Ingram. “He’s an excellent coworker. I haven’t had a better coworker for the Counselling program. He generally cares about the students before himself, which is very nice.”
Outside of teaching Surette keeps in contact with people in the field. He plans to maintain a small practice to provide fresh and current information to the students. He also keeps his skills up through certifications with the Canadian Edition of Counsellor Certification Federation. Those include clinical supervisor, certified addictions counsellor and certified indigenous counsellor.
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