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The People Teaching People Podcast Episode 33: Growing, Learning, and Giving with Susan and Brian Plesuk, My Parents!

033: Growing, Learning, and Giving with Susan and Brian Plesuk, My Parents!

In this special episode of The People Teaching People Podcast, we celebrate a significant milestone—four years of podcasting—by welcoming two extraordinary guests, my parents, Susan and Brian Plesuk.

Initially hesitant, with my mom doubting what insight she could possibly contribute and my dad concerned about memorizing lines, they eventually agreed to be on my podcast! I am grateful to my mom and dad not only for being exceptional parents but also for being lifelong teachers of kindness, generosity, community engagement, and the importance of nurturing relationships. These qualities have made them role models and my favourite educators outside of a traditional classroom setting, even though I might not have always seen it that way, especially during my teenage years.

My mom, a retired social worker with an impressive career dedicated to domestic violence issues and community service, and my dad, with a background in community development and public relations, have led lives focused on making a difference. My mom’s work has included various roles at the YWCA and consultancy for the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, alongside volunteering efforts that support causes like the Stephen Lewis Foundation. My dad, after a career in community development and public relations, including significant contributions to the oil and gas industry, now enjoys retirement by travelling, volunteering, and spending time with family. 

Their stories and wisdom are not only a reflection of their professional achievements but also of their personal commitment to family and community, making them the perfect guests for my podcast’s celebration of four years of storytelling and learning.

 

Listen in as we talk about:

[6:19] Pivotal moments and influences that led my parents to their respective careers

[10:25] The motivation for and the impact of pursuing a university education 

[12:02] The importance of mentorship

[16:49] Key insights learned from parenthood and grandparenthood 

[20:00] Core values and life lessons to pass on to children and grandchildren

[23:53] The challenges and joys of retirement

[29:50] Staying curious and always learning

[32:33] My parents’ favourite teachers

[35:14] What my parents are most proud of

[40:35] My parents answer some rapid-fire questions

[45:17] Words of wisdom from my mom and dad

 

Connect with My Mom – Susan Plesuk:

 

Connect with Tiana:

 
THEIR MOTIVATION FOR AND THE IMPACT OF PURSUING UNIVERSITY EDUCATION

When my mom embarked on her university journey, she initially enrolled in sciences due to a late application before discovering her passion for recreation and therapeutic recreation through a high school acquaintance. This pivot was driven by her realization that higher education was crucial for her aspiration to work with people, highlighting a desire for personal and professional growth. My dad’s path to university was shaped by a divergence from family tradition. He was the first in his extended family to attend university. With his family rooted in trades like plumbing and welding, my dad lacked those skills and saw academia as his only alternative. 

 

“There are people out there who can teach us things and touch our lives regardless of their age, social status or education. Being open to that is really, really important.” - Brian Plesuk

THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTORSHIP

“There are people out there who can teach us things and touch our lives regardless of their age, social status or education. Being open to that is really, really important.” – Brian Plesuk

My mom’s journey into mentorship stemmed from her supervisory role within an organization dealing with domestic violence, where she observed firsthand the effects of trauma. Her experience with a previous ineffective supervisor highlighted the importance of creating a supportive environment. This realization prompted her to prioritize open communication and establish a safe space for her team to discuss their feelings and challenges. My mom’s insight into mentorship revolves around the significance of empathy and safety in leadership, ensuring professionals feel competent and supported despite the demanding nature of their work.

My dad’s path to becoming a mentor was influenced by his early career experiences and interactions with seasoned professionals. As a university student, very confident in his knowledge, my dad’s eagerness to share his ideas led him to a pivotal mentorship under a senior city official who valued learning from younger generations. This experience, coupled with his subsequent encounters with mentors throughout his career, taught him the importance of openness and listening to others, regardless of their age or experience level. An Indigenous elder’s perspective on wisdom further shaped my dad’s understanding, emphasizing the value of acknowledging one’s limitations. His mentorship philosophy centers on mutual respect, learning, and the recognition that true wisdom comes from understanding what we do not know.

 
 

Tiana Fech and her parents, Brian and Susan Plesuk, at her first book signing at Indigo Shawnessy in Calgary, Alberta.

CORE VALUES AND LIFE LESSONS TO PASS ON TO CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN

My parents have aspired to instill core values such as kindness, respect, helpfulness, gratitude, and curiosity in their three children, emphasizing the importance of learning from mistakes, nurturing friendships, and volunteering. These values, alongside a sense of wonder and the importance of acknowledging the gifts life offers, form the foundation they hoped would shape their children into thoughtful, engaged adults. The emphasis on doing one’s best, being open to learning, and maintaining relationships underpins their approach to parenting.

Reflecting on the impact of these values, their children (including me! 🙂 ) have grown into individuals who make a positive difference in the world, demonstrating kindness, respect, and a continuous pursuit of personal growth and contribution to their communities. I acknowledge the challenges of self-assessment but take pride in the evident traits of curiosity and generosity in my siblings and myself despite the complexities of life and the constant evolution of personal and professional paths.

 

MY PARENTS’ FAVOURITE TEACHERS

My mom holds a special place in her heart for her mom, who stands out as one of her favourite teachers due to her innate kindness and genuine interest in people. Moreover, my mom feels incredibly fortunate to have crossed paths with remarkable women over the years – individuals whose strength and wisdom have profoundly shaped her journey. Among them, an exceptional supervisor during her time at the YWCA emerges as a highly impactful mentor. This mentor not only facilitated my mom’s professional growth but also imparted crucial skills in trauma work, leaving an indelible mark on her career.

During my dad’s undergraduate years at university, he was fortunate to have an exceptional Sociology Professor named George Kupfer. Their connection went beyond the classroom, extending through undergraduate studies, work, graduate studies, and beyond, maintaining a bond for over 50 years. Even now, in his late 80s, George engages in discussions with my dad about books and readings, reflecting his enduring passion for literature. Remarkably, George still assigns readings to my dad, prompting playful banter about avoiding assignments and book reports. Reflecting on their relationship, my dad cherishes George’s presence in his life as a profound blessing, a constant source of wisdom and camaraderie that has enriched his journey over the decades.

 

RAPID-FIRE QUESTIONS

What is a place that is at the top of your travel bucket list?

  • Bri: Scotch Creek, B.C.
  • Suz: Costa Rica

What is a book, podcast, movie, or TV show that you have enjoyed recently?

  • Bri:  Book: Successful Aging by Daniel Levitin 
  • Suz: Book: The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama

If you could sit down and have a conversation with someone that you would love to learn from, who would it be?

  • Bri: Barack and Michelle Obama
  • Suz: Her mom 

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