Traveling Teacher

Every year, from January through June, I give art workshops in schools across Quebec. I feel like a missionary, traveling from village to village, spreading the good word about printmaking. From Thedford Mines to Asbestos to Lac-Megantic, I’ve been there. Sometimes I want to plaster a Quebec map with red dots, representing all the towns where I’ve taught. It would have to be a big map and it would end up looking tacky but it would be something interesting to do on a rainy day.

Today and tomorrow I’m teaching at École Dominque-Savio, in Saint-Catherine-de-Hatley, eight kilometers east of Magog, in the Eastern Townships. This is the third school I’m visiting in the area since April.

I always stay at La Maison Verte, in Magog, on Merry Street, across from the church and a hop away from rue Principale. This charming house, originally owned by a doctor, belongs to Monsieur and Madame Tremblay. Their bed and breakfast should really be called a breakfast and bed, because the petit déjeuner here is a serious three-course affair and if truth be told, it’s what keeps me coming back. The crêpes are delectable, as much for the eye as for the palette. Madame T sprinkles powdered sugar on the rim of the plate and presses a butterfly mold into it. The printmaker in me can’t help but being impressed by this detail.

This morning, after savoring my crêpes, I drive through the rolling hills, along the 108, to Saint-Catherine. The school is located across a barn and overlooks the valley.

I teach three classes today. After I demonstrate how to print a linocut with a spoon, the students are eager to engrave into their Styrofoam plates and print them onto paper. Grades five and six work on the theme of Inuit art. Grade three makes prints of animals.

Prints inspired by Inuit art

Whenever I present the animal theme I ask the students if anyone has a pet. Since my family doesn’t even own a goldfish, I’m always surprised to see ninety percent of the children raise their hands. I ask them what animal they own. In Montreal this query elicits the usual cat-dog-hamster-guinea-pig answer. It’s a whole other ball game here with answers ranging from frogs to horses. One girl proudly announced that she has two roosters, five laying hens, and twenty-two chicks.

A boy says he wants to draw a wolf but doesn’t know how. I tell him to take it step by step and to start with the body. On his desk I trace the oblong shape of a wolf’s body with my finger. The boy gets to work. He periodically states that he cannot draw the other parts of the animal’s body– the legs, the tail, the head… Each time I inject a dose of confidence with a few choice words or with my finger-tracing method. When he announces, “I messed up the head,” I suggest that he add another line to enlarge the profile. It is only when he sees his printed image that he admits, with a beaming smile, that his work is good.

Wolf print

After the class leaves he stays behind to print his second copy. As I wipe the tables I detect self-confidence and joy in his movements. He says something remarkable to me,
“My teacher Guylaine is good, isn’t she?” I agree that he has a very good teacher and suggest that he tell her that.

I like to think that his positive experience with his wolf print made him connect to that good thought. Undoubtedly she too has been encouraging him throughout the year. Teaching is such a human enterprise. It’s not just the transmission of knowledge. Ultimately, and at its best, it is helping people discover themselves.

Teaching is a wonderful way to connect to people, whether the students are children or adults. When I teach on the road it also gives me the opportunity to discover new places. After my day at Dominique-Savio, I return to Magog and roam in the village.

I discover the Olivier soapery, an ecomuseum, on rue Principale. Guylaine (seems to be a popular name here) gives me a tour. The soaps’ main ingredients are olive oil, bee’s wax, and coconut butter. I buy honey soap, shaped like a honeycomb with a bee on it. According to the label it is a “soul soothing sweet tension reliever,” just what I need after a day of teaching.


Guylaine is happy to pose for this photo, especially when I ask her I if I can post it on my blog. She wants you to know that she’s much younger than she looks in the photo!

I go to Boutique Eq’Estrie, my favorite store in Magog, not that I’ve been in any of the others apart from Rossy, where I like to go because it reminds me of loitering in Woolworths when I was a tween, back when the word tween did not exist. At Eq’Estrie you can buy everything you need for your horse. My students probably shop here for pet supplies.


They have a wall full of halters, displayed according to horse size, weanling to draft. A fluorescent- rainbow halter catches my eye but I think I have to buy the horse first, you know, so that I can purchase the correct sized halter.

On a bulletin board I look at ads for horses for sale. Prices started at 600$ for a twenty-month-old pony, which is a lot cheaper than the 3000$ used saddle that’s advertised. But I think I’m too big to ride a pony. There’s a five-year-old gelding available for 2700$ but I think I need to buy the farm first.

For the moment a farm is out of my price range so I settle for a pair of ultra funky cowgirl shoes. They look like something Jane Birkin would wear.

I browse through the horse beauty products. I discover Mane ‘n Tail detangler , Cowboy Magic Super Bodyshine, and Rio Vista Color Enhancing Shampoo with chestnut extract. I’m tempted to buy a sponge attached to a purple plastic handle — “Wash, groom and massage in one easy step.” Who needs a horse? I can use this on my own body, with my soul soothing honey soap from Olivier. Instead I buy a round paintbrush used to apply oil on hooves. Should be fun to use for art projects.

On my way out I spot crocheted ear protectors, with gold trim! I feel like a woman who gawks at knitted baby booties and yearns for a baby. Sometimes I get this vision of living on a farm, painting in my studio in the woods, writing in the attic of a quaint farmhouse, and riding my horse over the open glades between chapters in progress. For now the western shoes will have to do. Now all I need are the Jane Birkin legs.


I walk with my own legs through the night to La Maison Verte. On the way I spot the Saloon, down on Bullard Street. Looks like a Lucky Luke hangout. Would be an appropriate place to try out my new shoes. I can practically hear Shanaya Twain calling me. But this woman needs to get back to the green house on Merry Street to get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow I have a hundred more students to convert.

Talleen Hacikyan

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