Teachers walking the province, town by town, meet top doc

·3 min read

Lucette Hachey Laskey and Caroline Benoit, two Dieppe teachers who set a goal of walking at least three kilometres in every city, town or village in New Brunswick this year, walked through Fredericton on Saturday. They were joined on the trek by Dr. Jennifer Russell.

The teachers, who call themselves Les TRIPeuses Trotteuses, began their quest as a way to improve their mental health, said Hachey Laskey. They are also using their online video series documenting their adventures to inspire others to get outside and stay active.

Before visiting a community they often try to find local councillors to join them, Hachey Laskey said. A few weeks ago, they reached out to the province’s chief medical officer to see if she would join them while they were in Fredericton and, to their surprise, she said yes.

“We were a bit star-struck,” said Hachey Laskey, but noted that Russell was very approachable and natural.

Benoit said she asked Russell how she takes care of her own mental health while doing such a demanding job.

Russell told her she is very conscious of the effects both the pandemic and her work have on her mental health and makes sure she takes time to put her work aside, which might mean putting her phone away for a few hours to be with her family or taking time to do something physical.

“She’s really busy, but you can’t see that when you are with her,” said Benoit.

She is an important role model, said Benoit, noting if Russell, who is the face of the province's fight against the pandemic for most New Brunswickers, can put things aside to go on a three kilometre walk, it demonstrates how important it is to pause a busy life no matter what you do for a living.

It doesn’t have to be walking, she said; it could be whatever activity you love. But Russell has been encouraging everyone in videos of her own to get outside and be active, something important to both physical and mental health.

The two Francophone Sud elementary school teachers, who told nobody about who they were meeting before Saturday in case Russell was too busy in the end, were excited to share the news with students when they returned to class on Monday.

Hachey Laskey, a grade one teacher at École Amirault, said she asked her students to guess what she did this weekend. They quickly guessed walking, which is usually the right answer given the pair have now walked through more than 24 communities since their quest began earlier this year. And they eventually figured out it was with Dr. Russell, with one student describing her as "the one who says the COVID numbers on TV."

Benoit, a grade five teacher at École Le Marais, said when she said the walk was with someone very important, her class guessed correctly in a flash.

Hachey Laskey said many viewers are messaging them saying they are inspired to get out and be active by the two teachers, and many are finding a lot of joy in their adventures and their blooper reels.

With almost a quarter of the communities in New Brunswick now checked off their list, the pair are hoping to find a way to successfully use their quest to fundraise for mental health organizations, said Hachey Laskey.

They were also joined by members of L'Association des enseignantes et des enseignants francophones du Nouveau-Brunswick, the French teachers association, while in Fredericton, said Hachey Laskey. Social distancing and masking were maintained during the walk, she said.

The episode featuring Dr. Jennifer Russell will be released next week.

Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal