A familiar face on the campus of North Island College is wrapping up his final days as he prepares for retirement. Derek Hanebury has been teaching at the college in various capacities for nearly 29 years and said it is a bitter-sweet occasion as the end draws near.
“It has been an incredible ride,” Derek said. “I feel so blessed to have had the job I had and to be able to have a positive impact on so many people, their careers, and their writing.”
Derek’s passion lies in the written word. His career did not start out that way, however. Born in London, Ontario, Derek got into the forestry industry at the age of 19. He moved to New Brunswick until a position as a Forest Ranger in northern Alberta came up, which he took from 1976-1979. After a short stint starting a business with a few friends, he decided to head to university to follow his calling of writing. He attended both UVIC and UBC, where he completed his Masters, while working at North Island College.
Over the years, Derek has witnessed and has been a part of implementing technological changes. He started on the Knowledge Network, teaching university transfer courses. The program aired on Shaw TV and learners studied the distance education courses from home.
When that ended, he went on to teach Adult Basic Education on contracts.
“It was a time when there were big lay offs at the mill and the workers had the opportunity to take paid upgrading,” Derek said. “After that I did a term of Adult Special Education for a maternity leave.”
University transfer enrollment was growing so he acquired a full-time position in Port Alberni, as well as simultaneously in Courtenay for the past five years. He final classes are online essay, business, and creative writing courses.
“There have been so many changes from when I started to now developing online courses,” Derek said. “There has been a lot of learning to make the shift, and it has been challenging and exciting to see how it fits into so many different lifestyles.”
He also said he strives to replicate the online experience as best as possible to resemble a classroom experience and encourages interaction and feedback among students.
When he decided to retire, he knew he would be filling his time in meaningful ways. He also felt the time was right.
“I will be 63 in the Fall and had a coronary stint a couple of years ago,” he said. “I’ve been working a lot and leading a fairly sedentary life so I’m looking forward to getting active again and having less stress.”
One of the ways Derek reduces stress is through meditation. He started practicing in 1983 and it has helped him through the good and bad times in life.
“I find it to be so profound and helpful to go inside to a place of peace and silence,” he said. “I get rejuvenated, especially when I’m dealing with challenging situations.”
He said it has changed the way he views the world and about 10 years after he started meditating, began offering free group sessions to anyone who wanted to join. He still does on a weekly basis.
“I have always opened it up to the public and always believed it should be free,” Derek said. “I don’t want anyone to have barriers if they want to come.”
To get his fitness back, Derek plans on increasing his exercise by riding his bike on the Log Train Trail, kayaking, and hiking. He also plans on keeping his brain exercised and hopes to offer community workshops on writing, in combination with meditation during his retirement. He also intends to finish writing the novel he has started to pen.
He and his wife, Jocelan Maxell, also have plans to travel, with destinations like Hawaii, Mexico, and India on the horizon.
“Other than that, I’m leaving it open,” Derek said. “I plan on working a bit here and there, too.”