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.”
In addition to teaching the program’s core courses, which include classes in medical terminology and coding, Oleski is responsible for ensuring that curriculum meets industry standards and the learning outcomes laid out by the Canadian Health Information Management Association, as well as setting up every student’s six-week practicum.
And while it’s not one of her official duties, Oleski says she feels compelled to make each class lively and enjoyable.
“A lot of [students] will say I make the classroom fun,” she says. “I’m approachable and I ensure that everybody learns. If they don’t, I’ll go back over it again. I think it’s about knowing who your students are, getting to know them and their abilities and sort of adjusting where you need to, making sure everybody is on the same page.”
With retirement on the horizon, Oleski is looking forward to golfing, playing with her two young grandchildren, and visiting with family and friends, including those in her hometown of Gilbert Plains, Manitoba.
However, she hopes her retirement from RRC is less of a “goodbye,” and more of a “see you later.”
“I’m planning to retire in the new year and leaving one of the most rewarding jobs of my entire career is not easy,” Oleski says. “I am so honoured to have had the opportunity to be a part of so many wonderful students’ lives, and I thank them all for making my journey complete with this award.”
Profile by Jared Story (Creative Communications, 2005)