Leslie Molnar: Cranbrook’s Woman of the Year

A "parent first, then wife and teacher" is exactly what Leslie is and far more.

Leslie Molnar (back row

Leslie Molnar (back row

Cathryn Henley

Have you ever noticed the most successful and centered people are the ones with a broad range of interests and abilities? And, have you realized these same people are usually very actively involved in their community, mentors for others and the kind of people you not only want to be around, but also to emulate? These are the similar traits of the women that have been nominated and selected as CFUW Cranbrook Club Woman of the Year since 1982. It is also very descriptive of Leslie Molnar, Woman of the Year 2015!

Leslie was nominated by her peers with eight well written letters of support which demonstrated how Leslie is known for and dedicated to: education, the advancement of women, inspiring and enriching the lives of those around her, advocating for opportunities for better work choices, creating a respectful and pleasant workplace, balancing her work as a math instructor at the College of the Rockies, her volunteer endeavours and her family with grace.

When Leslie discovered she was Woman of the Year 2015, she was in Vancouver at one of her many meetings as President of the College of the Rockies Faculty Association (CORFA). CORFA is one of the 19 locals of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators (FPSE), and Leslie sits as a Member at Large on its Executive.

A member of the nominating committee had called the President of FPSE, Cindy Oliver, was chairing same meeting and she made an announcement at the meeting. “I was so surprised!” stated Leslie.  “Honoured, astounded and grateful all at once”, she added. What Leslie did not know until this week, is Cindy was one of her 8 nominators for this prestigious award.

Leslie was born in Cranbrook and the youngest daughter of Harry and Evelyn Mathias. Her dad was a teacher in Cranbrook for over 30 years and retired in 1988. Since age seven, Leslie was well known in Cranbrook as a youngster for her musical talent both on the piano and voice. She went to UBC to study music where she worked extremely hard, but despite her struggles, realized although she was a big fish in the pond here, she was a mere minnow in the large pond of talent in the big city. She then switched from music to majoring in Mathematics and chose to finish her degree at the University of Victoria, where there was far less of the “old boy’s club” atmosphere in math. “My studies in music led me to understand what it is like to work hard but still struggle. That taught me how to give more empathy for my students”, said Leslie.

One of her former students, Michael Savarie, said, “Leslie was able to reconnect me with my passion for math and push me to do the very best I could. He went onto say, “Leslie is the style of teacher that goes above and beyond for every student and is willing to put in her free time if the student is also willing. ” Michael said he was able to excel in her classes through her love of teaching. COTR instructor, Sandi Lavery, wrote in her letter of support in the nomination of Leslie Molnar that many students entering her University of Victoria program stated “they would not have been accepted into the program had it not been for Leslie’s teaching. Her patience, perseverance, knowledge of math and her never ending office hours were extremely valued by her past students, who are now teachers themselves.”

Leslie is more than just a teacher. She also works closely with the Student’s Association to make COTR a positive learning environment for all leaners. Linda Olm goes on to say, “Leslie has served in a number of capacities in the College Faculty Association as President. She endeavours to make COTR a fair, healthy and happy place to work. Her involvement with the college’s many committees is proof positive that she has the needs of this learning community in her heart.”

Leslie admits to being a techno geek. She has a website for each of her courses and puts videos of all her classes online so her students can review over and over again what she has taught until they “get” it. She has facilitated a couple of workshops for interested faculty on the way she uses the technology, and loves to get and try new education technology ideas to her co-workers and professional contacts.

Joan Kaun, a long time co-worker and friend for over 20 years wrote, “In addition to Leslie’s dedication to the College of the Rockies, she and her high school sweetheart husband, Mark, have raised three successful and positive children

Kaun goes on to say, “The importance of family has been instilled in each of them throughout their upbringing. Their extended family gathers weekly for Sunday family dinner, a tradition that has been ongoing for many years.”  Leslie is very close to her entire family and sadly lost her dad in 2014 and her father-in-law in 2013.

Gretchen Whetham, who has known Leslie since 1983 when they both worked together at the Cranbrook Energy House on 14th Avenue, wrote “Leslie has a love of music and family, and her influence in the community has developed from them both.

“Reliable” is one of the many qualities that were repeated by the authors of letters of support for Leslie as CFUW Cranbrook Club Woman of the Year. Leslie was a longtime member of the Bisset Singers and joined the Symphony Chorus in 2013. Not only did this require earning lyrics in seven languages, but she also agreed to join the tenor section. She has since become a member of the Sun Valley Song and plans to continue that choir.

Finding time for herself is often a challenge, but Leslie makes the time keeping true to her belief that family is first. With the children off to university, she took up motorcycling and snowmobiling in 2012. She owns her own Honda Shadow 1100 and an Arctic Cat snow mobile. This allows her to have fun adventures with her husband year round. Her sunny living room is filled with collages of family pictures and gatherings.

When asked if she would continue with her role as President of COTR local, she said yes. She enjoys being an advocate to anyone about anything she knows well. However, she is happy in this community and has absolutely no aspirations to get into any form of politics outside of her role as President of the Faculty Association at this College.

All the letters of support stated how deeply they “admire Leslie for many qualities and action, but specifically her strength, leadership and courage to challenge people to have difficult conversations that are important to create a safe and inclusive workplace and to overcome adversary and obstacles. When Leslie encounters bumps in the road, she does not back down or become discouraged. Rather, she perseveres and seeks out creative alternative approaches to meet the objectives. Her ability to communicate effectively, respectively and confidently while seeming to never offend or harm someone is admirable.”

This “parent first, then wife and teacher” is exactly what Leslie is and far more. CFUW Cranbrook Club is very pleased to present Leslie Molnar as Woman of the Year 2015 on Thursday, March 5th 4pm sharp at the Manual Training School attached to the Cranbrook library. Family, friends, students, co-workers and all former CFUW Cranbrook Club Woman of the Year recipients are cordially invited to join us. Refreshments will be served after the ceremony.