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Hard work the key to success for baking instructor Barb Ryan

Barb Ryan, left, instructor with the Baking Program at College of the North Atlantic in Stephenville, instructs first-year baking student Dawn Dalley on some the intricate details of decorating cookies during an open house event at the college on Wednesday.
Barb Ryan, left, instructor with the Baking Program at College of the North Atlantic in Stephenville, instructs first-year baking student Dawn Dalley on some the intricate details of decorating cookies during an open house event at the college on Wednesday. - Frank Gale
STEPHENVILLE, N.L. —

Yolande Modica describes Barb Ryan, her former baking instructor, as the “epitome of hard work.”

The successful owner of Top Tier Custom Cakes in Mount Pearl, who graduated from the Baking Program at College of the North Atlantic in Stephenville in 2010, said life is all about learning experiences and she’s learned a lot from Ryan.

Ryan is retiring later this year and experienced her last open house at the college this week, something she’s always taken pride in.

Modica said when Ryan retires it will be well-earned, and the college has been lucky to have had her all these years.

She credits Ryan with being instrumental in her starting up her own business, which provides desserts to a handful of businesses in St. John’s and takes custom orders for different types of cakes.

Modica, originally Yolande Noseworthy from Corner Brook, also just took on the job of sales manager at The Wilds Resort.

She said going back to school in her 30’s, she had some insecurities, but Ryan made them go away by treating each student as if he/she was her own.

“She has integrity and is such a hard-working individual,” Modica said.

She remembers talking to Ryan about things she could have done, only to be given the analogy of a rearview mirror being a lot smaller than the front window of your vehicle.

“There’s so much more to look forward to, so why spend your time looking back?”

Now past the teacher-student relationship, the two are good friends, with Ryan standing as godmother to Modica’s children: eight-year-old Logan and six-year-old Sofia.

Cindy Burt, another graduate of the baking program from seven years ago, said Ryan was a joy to work with, knows her stuff and is very professional.

“She loves what she does and is really good with her students, taking a personal interest in you and wanting you to succeed,” she said.

Since finishing her program, Burt has been working as an assistant manager at Coleman’s Grocery bakery in Stephenville.

It was during a Grade 4 career day Ryan told her teacher she wanted to be a cook and a baker.

Back in the early 70’s she’d help in her mom’s (Betty Ryan) take-out located on the beach in Pasadena.

Ryan and other staff at the college worked day and night following the events of Sept. 11, 2001 when eight planes landed in Stephenville and the college played a lead role in feeding many of the passengers.

She said during the September 2005 flood in Stephenville, they were very busy once again feeding people that needed help.

Summers were especially busy years ago, between people with the Stephenville Theatre Festival housed at their residence, people from Elderhostel being treated to Traditional Newfoundland cooking, soccer teams and NAPE Labour School.

Ryan said it was interesting and entertaining, and she looked forward to it every year no matter what was involved.

Her philosophy: “Anything worth doing is worth doing well and anything done well requires a lot of work.”

Barb Ryan career:

Cook with George Butt (today’s George’s Ski World) in Steady Brook.

Cook with a Pizza place in Pasadena in early 1980’s.

Cook at Strawberry Hill Resort.

Attended college in Stephenville as cooking student at 20 years of age in 1985.

Hired as summer production cook at college in 1986.

Gained red-seal in cooking after two years as production cook.

Came on as instructional cook in 1989.

Went into instructional position teaching cooking in 1994.

Attained red-seal in baking and became baking instructor in mid 2000’s.

Will be 56 years of age with 34 years service when she retires at the end of the year.

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