Sometimes life deals you a good hand. I have the great fortune of having Lenerdene Levesque as my professional mentor. Lenerdene continues to selflessly share her knowledge and skillset with the developing young minds that are the future of our profession. Mentoring with Lenerdene is more than practicing techniques, it is a unique educational experience that is difficult to replicate.
I have always understood that my time with Lenerdene was invaluable, though I found it difficult to articulate why these incredible learning experiences worked so well. Recently I learned the four parts of a perfect cocktail: strong, weak, sour, and sweet. You need equal components of each characteristic to have the perfect cocktail. I think this concept can also be applied to describe why mentoring with Lenerdene was the perfect learning experience.
Lenerdene arranges her mentoring sessions with an actual patient. It doesn’t matter if you are doing one-on-one or small group mentoring, we would work as a team to assess the patient, analyse their presentation, identify patterns, and develop a treatment plan. We learned to never underestimate the power of a group. Each student, with their unique experiences, added value to both that patient and to our bank of clinical patterns. Lenerdene understood this, and humbly turned the floor to the students, so each person could share their thoughts. Though she is always quite obviously the practitioner with the greatest amount of knowledge and clinical expertise, she never imposed or let it interfere with our learning. She was patient, let you reason your way through the problem, helped guide your thought process, and encouraged all participants to give their insight. It taught me to respect other therapists, that everyone has value to offer, and that you can always learn from others. We learned the strength of practicing as a team, to lean on your colleagues for extra insight, or for help when you need it. It’s not admitting weakness, but strengthening the patient experience.
Weak (and sour):
But don’t kid yourself. There were plenty of weaknesses to go around, and Lenerdene has this ‘not so subtle’ way of drawing your attention to them. This is also where the sour comes in. Lenerdene is extremely patient. It was the awkward silences that got to me. She would ask me a question, and when I didn’t know the answer she would just sit there, with this little smile on her face, and let me sweat trying to figure it out. Properly executing this is harder than you’d think. I have since done some mentoring myself, and in these awkward silences it’s tempting to just give the answer and move on, but to what end? What has the student really learned here? It is a true master that empowers a student with their weaknesses, making them realize their limitations in such a way that motivates the student to learn, to grow, and to develop their weaknesses into strengths. The awkward silences in Lenerdene’s mentoring sessions were visceral, and my skin would crawl until I got home that night and could review the topic so the next time she challenged me on it (and she always would), it would be front of mind.
A great mentor exposes their student’s weaknesses, but is never condescending. They validate, inspire, provide vision, and direction. As Lenerdene’s student you read a lot, trying to keep up to her yet never quite getting there. She provides a template, a guide, exposing your weaknesses and challenging you to grow.
The sweet is none other than Lenerdene herself. It baffles me how she could be the endless knowledge bank she is and be such a wonderful human. She’s a pleasure to spend time with. Even the longest mentoring marathons, where everyone is physically and mentally exhausted, she maintained her poise. There just aren’t enough positive adjectives to describe her. She is honest, caring, generous, and approachable. Her laugh is contagious, her positive energy uplifting. She was never intimidating, despite her massive career success. She is an absolute joy to be with both professionally and personally, and I always look forward to spending time with her.
Sir Isaac Newton said “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Lenerdene, though you may lack the physicality of a literal giant, your massive presence on both a national and international stage has not gone unnoticed. Somehow, through all of that career success, you made time for me. I'm not sure I could ever properly express my gratitude for our time together, or how much I have grown because of your push. I'm confident, I strive for more, I reach for the stars. You are the strong female role model I sought as an inspiration. But you are also an ally, a confidant, a friend. I attribute much of my professional success to you, and I know I am not alone here. On behalf of all the young professionals you have mentored, thank you for the hours of selflessness. Thank you for being you.