Instructor Doug Pichette helps Evelyne Turner with her computer skills. Pritchett recently retired as the Penticton Seniors Computer Club instructor after 19 years. Mark Brett/Western News

Teaching the hard way Okanagan seniors computer instructor’s key to success

After 19 years of teaching seniors computer skills Doug Pritchett has “retired”

For most of his adult life, Doug Pichette, has been a teacher — just not always in a traditional classroom setting.

That included 20 years in the military, 25 years in the rock blasting and drilling industry and his third and likely last “career,” 19 years as the Penticton Seniors’ Computer Club instructor.

“I learned how to run computers from two very good friends in Ucluelet and when I moved here I was absconded to help with the computer club,” said Pichette, who turns 85 on Dec. 1. “What I like about teaching are the people you meet, they are absolutely great. Everyone is different, some are impossible to teach and others learn very, very quickly.”

He believes his success in helping others comes from his no-nonsense, direct approach with his students, seniors included.

“Absolutely you have to be tough,” said Pichette. “I gave people at the club homework to do and I told them the first day in class; ‘You’re going to be doing homework every night and if you don’t do it, there’s the damn door.’ And, I only ever had to kick one person out of class because he didn’t do his damn homework. He was above doing homework.

“But you just do the best you can and sometimes you just have to tell them plain out that, ‘I’m sorry I can’t help you any more.’”

Related: Seniors get with the program

One of his many students in the club, Evelyne Turner, said Pichette’s style made her feel a little like being back in the classroom in elementary school.

“He is quite a task master. I remember one time sitting in his class and there was a lady who wouldn’t quit talking and she kept her finger on a key,” she recalled. “You know what happens when you put your finger on a key, you get about 26 pages of nothing and he just got up and he told her to put her hands in her lap and keep her mouth shut.

“So that’s the kind of guy he is. People would say; ‘I don’t like him he’s too rough, too bossy,’ but he’s a good teacher. You know when you’re finished that you’ve got some knowledge in your head and actually, he’s quite a delight.”

For his part, Pichette, who is an active ham radio operator, talked about the satisfaction at the end of the day seeing “the lights come” when people “clicked in” to what he was teaching.

Plans for his latest “retirement” include continuing with the fun of talking to people around the world on the ham radio and spending time with his wife at their residence in Charles Manor.



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