Pedagogy. I’ve always been curious about this word, starting with how to pronounce it. Pedago-gee (as in gee-whiz)? Pedagogy (with a hard ‘g’ as in girl)? Dictionaries define pedagogy as the art, science or profession of teaching, and when I was little, I had no idea that I would have any part of it. I had actually planned to be a kid’s doctor or a UN translator or to study monkeys. But I realize now that somehow a pedagogue is what I have become, and I couldn’t be happier.
I came to wine via a circuitous route, as most of us do, but when the vinous bug bit me, it chomped savagely. I leapt into every course I could, studying and tasting (and yes, sometimes drinking) like a fiend. Years ago when working at the lovely little Vancouver boutique cooking school known as Dubrulle (since morphing into the Art Institute, but not before graduating a generation of chefs including Rob Feenie, Ned Bell, and Makoto Ono), I had the opportunity to begin teaching the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) and International Sommelier Guild programs to culinary students and budding wine professionals. What followed was almost a decade of relentless traveling to American cities (LA, Las Vegas, Denver, Portland, Seattle, and Phoenix were among my weekly stops) where I met talented and passionate students, shopped from a big world of wine and accumulated millions of air miles.
Teaching teaches you a thing or two: this is where the pedagogy comes into the equation. There is a science to education, and understanding different learning styles is fundamental to being an effective teacher. Never losing sight of the learner’s point of view matters enormously. Trying to experience wine like a beginner keeps you humble, fresh and constantly engaged. Having recently taken over the responsibility for wine education at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, I am thrilled to be reunited with a respected colleague from Dubrulle days, Chef Julian Bond, PICA’s Director. Here I am lucky enough to teach the WSET programmes again, and through every student, whether beginner or expert, I am reminded how thankful I am that I have ended up in the wonderful world of drink. Oops – of course I meant pedagogy, the truly wonderful world of pedagogy.
DJ Kearney is a Vancouver-based wine educator, wine writer, judge, presenter and classically trained chef. Follow her on Twitter at @djwines. Vancouverites can experience DJ’s unique brand of pedagogy by signing up for WSET wine courses (and look online for wine-lover tutored tastings twice a month on Wednesdays) at www.picachef.com. Not in Vancouver? Click here to find WSET courses in your area.