By: Daniela Olariu, RSJ ’17
Twenty-seven years ago, Sandra Martin sat in a second-year course and learned how to fact-check from the late Cynthia Brouse. After many years of using that knowledge in her magazine career, she has returned to teach Editing Essentials at the Ryerson School of Journalism.
And she’s not alone. This semester, several RSJ alumni have returned to teach courses at the school. Adria Vasil (RSJ ‘03) is teaching Critical and Opinion Writing and Jasmine Pazzano (RSJ ‘14) has come back to teach the second year Producing the News course.
“Coming in as a student, you just kind of strap in for the ride and soak in whatever your instructors tell you. So it’s an interesting experience to come back after 15 years and be on the other side of things,” Vasil says. “At the beginning, it was a little bit bizarre – like time travelling since the Rogers Communications Centre hasn’t changed much.”
After graduation, Vasil was at NOW magazine and started a column called ecoholic which ran for 13 years. It was then picked up by Random House and turned into three Canadian books and one American.
At the time, it never occurred to her that she would return to Ryerson to teach journalism.
“I was in the magazine stream back then and I really enjoyed the program but thought that was the last that I would see Ryerson.”
Vasil adds that she loved all of her instructors but was particularly close to Ivor Shapiro, who is now the Associate Dean at FCAD.
“I remember going to his class on September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Centre collapsed. It definitely left an impression on me and everyone who was in his class that day. We decided to hang in there together and analyze the news coverage while it was happening,” she says. “Ivor and I stayed in touch over the years so it’s neat to come back and have him as a mentor.”
For Martin (RSJ ‘92), it was Brouse and Don Obe who left impressions on her.
“Because of [Brouse]’s training, when I worked for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, as publications editor, my colleagues would tell me their goal was to hand in copy to me and get it back with no editing marks,” she says. “Don Obe was also very influential to me in terms of my thinking of what I could accomplish. He pushed me to want and expect more of myself.”
After graduating, Martin had an extensive journalism career. She freelanced at Toronto Life when instructor Stephen Trumper (RSJ ‘77) was there, Flare, Where Toronto, Toronto Symphony Orchestra as publications editor, MoneySense, Global News, National Post, Today’s Parent, launched and served as editor-in-chief of Walmart Live Better, Canadian Living as editor-in-chief and oversaw content for WE Families – Communications.
Like Vasil, Martin never thought she would come back to teach.
“When I started at Ryerson, I thought if I ended up as a senior editor I would be super happy and that would be living the dream. Never in a million years did I think I would be the editor-in-chief of various magazines or that I was the teacher type.”
The possibility of teaching opened up for her when she presented to a few high school classes who were doing media projects. She loved the experience and how engaged they were.
“I actually started thinking, I don’t think I’ve ever really given back to Ryerson since I had such a busy career, and this place has given me so much,” she says. “I thought maybe I can do this teaching thing so that’s how I’m able to teach this course and I’m really loving it.”
Pazzano, the most recent graduate of the three instructor’s, didn’t think she would be back to teach either, especially so soon.
“I always thought that teaching would be something I would do later but when this opportunity presented itself, I took it,” she says. “It’s an amazing feeling because I had dreamed of being [at Ryerson] for so long and now I have a reason to come back.”
Pazzano had wanted to study journalism at Ryerson since she was 11, and she did. For her internship, she was at Global, The Morning Show and after graduation, she created a YouTube channel called Girl About Toronto, worked for a wearable tech company called eSight and returned to Global to work for Global News Durham as a video journalist.
“When I’m teaching my students, I tell them, “‘I was you not so long ago,” and I can relate to them in so many ways. I always encourage them to reach out for advice,”’ she says. “They have someone who is very fresh, has fought for positions and is working in something that she wants to do, so I encourage them to ask me more questions.”
A memorable lesson she took away from Ryerson is the ability to do multiple jobs – from writing to editing to producing.
“Because the media landscape is changing, Ryerson very well taught me how to do every job and be a well-rounded journalist which is the reason I’m able to do my current job.”
Pazzano also learned that opportunities don’t always present themselves so students have to put themselves out there.
“If you want to be a journalist, grab a camera, become your own brand, separate yourself from the rest and show the world what you want to be so that when they are looking for that one person, you’re right in front of them.
The three instructors hope to continue teaching at RSJ in the future.
This story has been edited and revised since its original appearance.