Changing styles: Why design entrepreneur Cobi Ladner pursued teaching.

By: Matthew McGrath

The first day of school

It’s early September at the Humber College Lakeshore campus. School has just begun. In room B301 of the B building, a diverse group of 28 young men and women are waiting for their research class to begin.

It’s the end of their first week of the Professional Writing and Communications program. It’s a program they all hope will teach them essential communications skills and help them jumpstart their careers.

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Humber College Lakeshore campus.

At 12:35 pm, a confident, 6-foot tall, red haired woman walks into the classroom. Suddenly, all eyes are on her.

“Hi everyone, my name is Cobi Ladner and I’ll be your instructor for this course,” she says. “Now since this is a research class, why don’t you learn more about me by looking up my name on Google? Just shout out some facts about me.”

Fingertips descend upon keyboards; eyes scan webpages; one hand shoots up.

“You were the editor of Canadian House and Home magazine,” says one student.

A young woman at the back of the class also raises her hand: “It says here you have a degree from Ryerson University in Radio and Television.”

Ladner nods.

A young man at the front of the class pulls up the website Cobistyle on his computer screen, Ladner’s lifestyle brand and company.

The class continues to list off Ladner’s resume. But there’s one thing they won’t find about her on the Internet: Today is her first day as a teacher.

Like the students she is about to teach, Ladner is beginning a new chapter of her life. Over the course of her 26-year career, she has learned that you’re never too old to try something new.

H&H and Cobistyle

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An issue of H&H Magazine published the year Ladner left the organization.

 

Ladner’s first major challenge came in 1990 when she joined Canadian House and Home Magazine as its design editor. At the time, the modest magazine sported an editorial team of five people and a readership of 600,000.

It was a respectable organization, but it wasn’t getting much public attention.

Within three years, Ladner was promoted to editor-in-chief of the magazine and, over the course of 15 years, she grew the magazine into one of the top five monthly publications in Canada with a circulation of 2.5 million readers.

In 2008, Ladner left H&H to pursue another personal challenge – building her own brand. Using her status as one of the top décor experts in Canada, Ladner launched Cobistyle, her own website, blog, business and décor brand.

With Cobistyle, Ladner has been building and pursuing her vision for eight years. But in 2015, she found she was not fully satisfied with the venture.

The problem with having a vision is that you often have to rely on other people to execute it. And when you have to compromise that vision to get something done, what do you do?

“The vision that I bring to something ends up very watered down by the time it actually comes out the other end,” says Ladner. “I get paid for my work, but I’m not getting a lot back in any way other than monetarily. It’s a bit of a grind.”

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Cobistyle: Ladner’s personal brand and company she established in 2008.

A change in direction

Ladner asked friends and family for advice. The consensus was – if it’s not making you happy, then why are you doing it? Try something new.

So she did.

“What can I do that would honour all this work that I had done over my career?” says Ladner. “I thought about the idea of teaching.”

Not accustomed to the world of post-secondary education, Ladner researched local educational institutions and sent out her resume (the first resume she had created in 26 years) to several schools. Humber College was the first to respond.

Ladner has been teaching since September 2016. In that time, she has taught classes such as research and project management at Humber College.

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Teaching has presented her with a whole new set of challenges. Everyday, just like her students, she is learning something new.

The biggest lesson she’s learned, and a challenge she is still trying to overcome, is how to present the material she’s teaching in an engaging way.

“I think if you’re a really skilled teacher who’s been a professor your whole life, you can take on a course that’s outside of your expertise,” says Ladner. “That is an art and a profession in and of itself, and I’ve got to give myself a bit of time on that.”

But Ladner is the first person to admit she can be impatient. She’s still trying to find her perfect fit: a course that is within her professional field, so she can pass on what she’s learned during her career to her students.

Learning how to do this

Back in room B301, Ladner approaches the podium, turns on the overhead projector and displays her PowerPoint presentation.

This one-hour lecture has taken her hours of work to prepare (something she still finds unbelievable).

“All right guys, today we are going to learn how to make a preliminary research report.”

The class sits back and listens.

Ladner is still unsure if she will pursue this career choice. She’s weighing her options and will make a decision at the end of the semester.

“I’ve found it challenging but not in a bad way, I think I would be bored if it wasn’t challenging. As I go, I’m just learning how to do this.”

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