Thursday September 12, 2013

This year marks my 15th anniversary as a producer and on-air host with TVOKids, and I couldn’t be happier. I feel as though we’ve accomplished a lot by reaching and teaching a generation of pre-schoolers and preparing them for success in school.

I have so many fond memories from the past 15 years of working at TVO. So since everybody loves a list, here are my TVO top 15 moments:

  1. When I got the job and learned that I was going to be the next TVO pre-school host. I laughed, I cried, my stomach did a back flip. I was so excited! I felt like I had won the lottery. This job is an ideal combination of acting, being able to express larger-than-life characters, and being a teacher. I knew that this was a rare and wonderful opportunity to help prepare kids for success at school, and so I snapped it up. My dream job, indeed!
  2. My kids’ perception of me as host and mother. To my three kids, I’ll always be known as “mama”, but it still makes me smile to think of the time when my young daughter thought that “Big Backyard” was my last name.
  3. Seeing my face on the side of a bus. I was stunned when I first spotted an outdoor advertisement on the side of a city bus promoting Gisèle’s Big Backyard. I was so shocked -- the success of the program suddenly hit me. Thankfully, the bus did not.
  4. Having my family members on the program. I will never forget the time when my mom was on the program and the segment was about canoeing. I said, “Let’s all get in the canoe and row!” And my mother rightfully corrected me: “I think that we paddle a canoe, Gisèle – not row.” Mothers know best!
  5. Walking into the TVOKids department for the first time. It was amazing to me that this was going to be my “office".
  6. Seeing Polkaroo for the first time. One of my childhood favourites, I couldn’t believe that Polkaroo was my new colleague. Did you know that he has his own app now too? And I also get to work with a dog, a skunk, a squirrel and a bird – all pretty great colleagues.
  7. Hanging upside-down as the character, VoVo GoGo while 6-months pregnant. Not a recommended practice for those of you who are expecting!
  8. Travelling across Ontario for TVOKids community-based events including the Read with Gisèle Tour. I’ve been able to meet fans and, hopefully, inspire kids to develop a love of learning. Plus – I feel incredibly proud and fortunate to see so many wonderful cities and towns in this beautiful province of ours!
  9. Working on an award-winning program. I’m super proud to have won a number of awards including a Gemini Award and more recently, the Youth Media Alliance Award of Excellence for Best Television Program, along with several Gemini Award nominations over the years. It’s a thrill to receive praise from your peers for your daily work, and deeply humbling to work with such a talented team.
  10. Helping to spark a love of reading. I love to discover and share great new reads through our Book Club. I know how important it is to read aloud with your kids, not only to build literacy skills but also to create a special bond with your child. I also feel incredibly proud when viewers tell me that our program has helped their family learn English. I’m very touched to know that I’ve played a role in helping families become acclimatized to their new home.
  11. Seeing our first TVOKids app. Technology-enabled learning is enhancing everything that we do on Gisèle’s Big Backyard. Interactive games and apps encourage kids to improve their literacy, science and math skills, while equipping them as successful digital learners. Plus, they are totally fun to play!
  12. Not being afraid to use my voice.  This job and work environment encourages me to sing, and in general, just to be myself and to have fun. What an amazing life lesson! I try to always pass this along to the kids: don’t worry about being perfect, just have fun learning!
  13. Surprising a viewer with a drop-by. After getting a letter from a parent who expressed disappointment that her child’s art wasn’t included on-air, I decided to make it up to the family in-person. I dropped by their house unannounced one Sunday morning.  It was a lot of fun surprising them! I guess that they weren’t expecting me to show up in their backyard!
  14. Viewer mail. I am always blown away to hear people express gratitude for our program. One letter has been particularly poignant for me and always reduces me to tears: it’s from a parent who reminds me that I met her daughter at an event when she was just five years old, and at the time was facing cancer. The child, now 15 years old and blind, still remembers my face when she hears my voice. I am so moved by this story and can only express deep gratitude to this family. I carry this story with me always. I feel a profound attachment to all the children who watch Gisèle’s Big Backyard, and who generously share their stories with me.
  15. Meeting fans. I love it when fans who are now adults come up to me on the street to tell me how much they loved watching the program when they were young. I am always touched to hear that our work at TVO is reaching people, and that in turn we are reaching our goal of helping kids be successful in school and in life.