Our Team Members
The team members at The Bridge Educational Society work throughout several departments including the Okanagan Waldorf School Faculty, the Early Years Centre early childhood educators, the Administration offices, support staff, and the Board.
Ms. Jillian Martin
Class 1/2 Teacher
Ms. Martin was born in Calgary, Alberta, then lived in the Lower Mainland until the summer of 2015. She worked in the Natural Health Food Industry for 13 years, where she spent considerable time working in and managing the Vitamin Departments of several stores in both Calgary and Vancouver.
Ms. Martin lives with her husband and two daughters. She began her teaching career by homeschooling her eldest daughter for Kindergarten and Grade One. Her family decided to make the move to the Okanagan to enroll their children at Cedar Bridge School (now Okanagan Waldorf School). Jillian then decided to continue her educational journey to become a Waldorf Teacher because of her dedication and commitment to Waldorf Education.
Ms. Martin first joined the BES faculty in the spring of 2016 as a class assistant and then continued on as Kindergarten Assistant for several years. The 2019/2020 school year was the first year that she took on the role as lead teacher, where she taught the Grade Three and Four class. She is currently the grade one and two lead teacher at OWS.
Jillian has completed her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from the University of Calgary and her Waldorf Grades Certificate through West Coast Institute. She is currently working to be a Waldorf Learning Support Teacher, through Waldorf Learning Support.
In her free time, Jillian loves hiking, snowboarding, paddle boarding, gardening and caring for her family’s chickens.
Ms. Barbara Articus
Parent & Child facilitator
Grade 7 Main Lesson Support
1/2 Handwork Teacher
Ms. Barbara has worn many hats over the years at our little school, and has been a beloved member of our organization since 2005 when Cedar Bridge School (Okanagan Waldorf School) was only an inspired idea. She found her way to us when her daughter saw a notice looking for people who may be interested in supporting a Waldorf initiative in the Lumby area, and she replied. She has been part of the community ever since. Ms. Barbara shares that she was drawn to being a part of this initiative because of her love for the Waldorf world with it’s wonderful curriculum, as well as Anthroposophy. She developed a deep connection to both while she still resided in Europe, and it lives in her to this day. Ms. Barbara enjoys the way the faculty work together here and the way the children and human beings are seen and held within the light of Anthroposophy.
Barbara grew up in a village in the Southern part of Germany, near the Black Forest region. She and her family moved to the Lumby area in 1991. While still living in Germany, she completed a degree in Art Therapy with an Anthroposophical/Waldorf background (B.A. equivalent in Canada) which she has since studied continually. Upon graduation she worked with individuals and groups as an Art Therapist. She and her family moved to Canada when her oldest child was a toddler, where she and her husband bought an acreage outside of Lumby and began farming. She raised and homeschooled both her children with Waldorf curriculum.
Barbara and her husband continue to live on the farm with their family which now includes her daughter who is in university, her son with his wife and three daughters as well as a cat, dogs, chickens, alpacas and sheep.
In her free time Barbara enjoys working with fibres of all sorts, particularly spinning, weaving, toy making, felting, dyeing, knitting and more. She offers some of her toys, ornaments, and garments in our school store. She enjoys working in her garden, walks with friends in nature, reading, baking and playing with her grandchildren.
Class 5 Main Lesson Teacher
Class 5-8 Educational Assistant
Ms. Olthof was born in Terrace, and raised in Abbotsford, BC. She lived in Victoria and Vancouver, then settled in Vernon in 2005. Her husband Max’s family is from the area. He grew up minutes from OWS on the property where they now live. Her husband was keen to move back after finishing university.
Ms. Olthof has a B.A. and a B.Ed. from UBC. After completing her teaching degree in 2003, Kate worked for eight years as a teacher in Mission and Vernon. She taught French, English and Social Studies. Kate had also worked as a substitute teacher.
Currently, Kate is taking the Explorations in Anthroposophy course through Antioch University. It is a certificate program that runs September to June.
After her second son was born, she stayed home to care for their children. She first engaged with our organization when she joined the Okanagan Waldorf School Community Garden in Spring of 2018. Through this endeavour she met members of the OWS community. She had been home for eight years caring for her children, and was looking for new challenges as her children had started school. She originally became employed as an EA at our school in the fall of 2019.
She loved the beautiful location of the school and the focus on learning in a natural environment. After the craziness of having young children had subsided, she realized how much she missed helping students.
Kate is a self-proclaimed tinkerer who enjoys many hobbies. She loves vegetable gardening, reading, painting and drawing, knitting, hiking, air hockey, jigsaw puzzles, swimming in lakes, geocaching, card games, snowshoeing, exploring, paddle boarding, biking and camping. She
lives with her husband Max and their two sons, Alex (12) and Owen (9); their dog Riggs, three cats and eight chickens.
Kindergarten Educational Assistant
Alex was born in Victoria. Since then she has lived all over B.C; including Mackenzie, Prince George, Nanaimo, and Quesnel. She even spent a year living in Prince Edward Island, where much of her extended family is located. Along with her spouse Stuart, two children Feryn and Avery and their blue heeler, she moved to Lumby from Quesnel in late August, 2019.
Before working at the BES, she had the opportunity to stay home with her children for 6 years. Prior to starting a family she worked in a sawmill and a Forestry Nursery.
After attending the job fair hosted by the EYC, (where she met some staff members and saw the campus for the first time), she knew this would be a beautiful place to work every day. She was excited by the idea of growing her experience and educational scope through a Waldorf Pedagogical lens; something that was completely new to her at the time.
In late February, 2020, she started in the EYC as an ECE Assistant as she worked toward her Education Assistant Certificate through the College of the Rockies. After working in the EYC for roughly 6 months, she accepted a great opportunity to work as a Classroom Assistant at OWS. She began her current role as an EA in Ms. Shindy’s Kindergarten classroom where she supports the teacher and students. She is happy to be working in her field as she continues with her EA program.
Alex and her family are lovers of the outdoors and enjoy camping, hiking, snowboarding and exploring. She also enjoys art, and learning to garden in her backyard with her daughters.
Ms. Shindy was born in Vernon and raised in Lavington with her family. After high school she attended UBC in Vancouver where she received her Teaching Degree. She lived on campus in family housing for several years.
Before returning to the area she lived and worked in different locations over the years. She was employed by the Point Grey Academy as a summer camp teacher, The Sikh Academy in Surrey as a Kindergarten teacher, SD 27 in Bridge Lake School as the K-4 class teacher, SD 73 Sundre as Primary Teacher and also in Red Deer Public School as a grade 5 teacher.
It seemed serendipitous to her when she returned to the Vernon area and discovered that Cedar Bridge School was looking for a Kindergarten teacher. The more she learned about the school, the more the vision and philosophies resonated with her. It seemed like the right place for her to be.
Shindy has three grown children, Tyler, Emily and Jane who are all in their mid-twenties. From time to time one or another moves back in with her for a while. In her spare time Miss Shindy loves to cautiously ski the blue runs at Silver Star in the winter, and kayak and hike in the summer. She is very happy to be back in the Okanagan where the winters are wonderful, and the summers are even better.
Ms. Shindy is so pleased to have found this little gem of a school. She finds working with the BES community to be such a joy.
Ms. Tanika Solbrandt
Class 3/4 Teacher
Ms. Solbrandt is originally from Newcastle, Australia where she grew up with her family. Prior to beginning university, Tanika spent a year living and working in London, England.
Before becoming a teacher, Tanika worked various positions in hospitality and retail. She also volunteered for a number of years with a children’s program run by a Tibetan Buddhist group.
Tanika has her Bachelor of Teaching(Primary) /Early Childhood Studies from the University of Newcastle, Australia. She completed her Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy from the Rudolf Steiner College, Toronto. She completed her Waldorf Grades Teacher Training through the West Coast Institute and she is currently training to be a Waldorf Learning Support Teacher, through Waldorf Learning Support.
After completing University in 2015, Tanika moved to Canada and began teaching at the Okanagan Waldorf School that same year. Tanika has taught various grades at the Okanagan Waldorf School, and spent the 2019/2020 school year teaching at the Shambhala School, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
What first attracted her to OWS was that it was a Waldorf School, however, she notes that the community, the setting, (and the cats) are what she loves most about the school.
Tanika loves to cook dishes inspired by cuisines from all over the world. In her free time she enjoys tap dancing, travelling, volunteering at the Monashee Community Co-op, and spending time with friends, family, and her cat, Rumi.
Class 5,6,7,8 Teacher
Ms. Taylor is originally from Montreal. She moved to BC when she was in her twenties, and to Vernon in 2018 when she was offered the class 4 teaching position at Okanagan Waldorf school.
Before becoming a full-time teacher Ms. Taylor tried many different things. She lived on a sailboat, sailing around various islands in the Straight of Georgia. She and her partner were clam diggers and sailed to different clam beds to dig clams during the low tides in the summer. Her oldest daughter, Tilikum, was born on the boat in False Bay at Lasqueti Island. The little family settled for some years on Lasqueti, first living in a tiny squatter’s shack while rebuilding the decks of the boat, later staying in a float house in Scotty Bay. There is no power grid on Lasqueti Island still to this day and the people who live there create their own electricity or live without electricity. Ms Taylor did all the growing family’s laundry by hand most of the time. She one time calculated that she must have washed about 10,000 diapers by hand! Crazy or what?!! A second daughter, Chloe, was born a couple of years after the first and nine years later the third daughter, Quinn, was born in a cabin in Mine Bay on the property the family had finally purchased.
During her time on Lasqueti Island, while her first two daughters were in elementary school, Ms Taylor taught French and Art in False Bay School. This experience prompted her to obtain a BC Teaching Certificate and when the family moved off the island to Qualicum Beach for high school Ms Taylor began her adventures as a Waldorf teacher.
Ms. Taylor received her bachelor of Education from McGill University in Montreal. She completed her Waldorf Teacher Training Certificate at the Rudolf Steiner College in Sacramento, California, and a Master of Education in Counselling Psychology from UBC. Ms. Taylor also has a certificate for Anthroposophic Counselling Psychology from the Association for Anthroposophic Psychology in North America.
Prior to arriving at our school Ms. Taylor spent two years teaching basic high school math and science in various indigenius communities in North Eastern Alberta. She has also worked as a middle school teacher and was the principal of the Kelowna Waldorf School for many years.
She is presently an associate with the Association for Anthroposophic Psychology in North America and helps to deliver programs. Ms. Taylor has three grown children and she lives on her own. In her free time she enjoys painting, reading, studying Anthroposophy, and writing articles. She has enjoyed her many years as a classroom teacher.
Class 1/2 Educational Assistant
Grade 5-8 French Teacher
Ms. Carson is originally from Temagami, Ontario and moved around during her childhood before settling down in Kenora, Ontario. She lived there until she was 18 years of age, when she moved to Halifax for University. She lived there the longest and as a result, Halifax feels like home to her.
She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (Halifax) and studied and practiced the Foundations of Enki Education. Enki is similar to Waldorf, but focuses on Shambhala Buddhism as the philosophical base to the education. Currently, Ms. Carson is enrolled in the West Coast Institute’s Waldorf Teacher training program.
After graduating from University, she worked as a freelance music journalist, assisted in several art studios and taught art at various schools throughout Halifax. She was a Primary Class (Kindergarten) Assistant at the Shambhala School of Halifax, Junior Primary Assistant at the Sacred Heart School of Halifax, as well as their after-school program and extracurricular coordinator. Prior to working in education she was a coffee roaster/barista for a time.
While living in Nova Scotia, Ms. Carson worked with Soil Mates Farm (formerly Abundance Cooperative). She pioneered the NSCAD mural project, hosted art shows and music performances. Currently, she is working with Little & Sage to create educational activities based on play and art for children and their parents at home.
After moving to BC from the East Coast, she knew that she wanted to stay in B.C. as there are more opportunities to practice Waldorf Education. She saw the opening at OWS and started to look into the background of the school and noticed that it originated as a farm school. Having worked on a farm in Nova Scotia for four years, this was the biggest draw for her; combining mindful education in a beautiful setting created with intention, and fostering a strong community. Her parents now live in B.C. as well and she notes that it is wonderful to be in the same province with them again.
Since moving to Vernon, she has been exploring the area through hiking and biking. In the summer she enjoys paddle boarding, creating art installations for festivals using the landscape/setting to inspire what is created, and loves yoga. Ms. Carson does a lot of music collaborations with friends, enjoys reading for both pleasure and learning, being active, studying herbs and plant medicines and making salves, soaps and lotions for varying health and body needs.
Ms. Mitsuyo Kaneda
Grade 1-4 Japanese Teacher
Ms. Kaneda grew up in a rural area of the Niigata prefecture in Japan, located between the ocean and the mountains. She comes from a family of Shinto priests who are entrusted to maintain the relationship between humans and nature. She has been fascinated with finding out that many views and principles are shared between Shintoism and Waldorf Education principles and would like to introduce many cultural activities to students that serve artistic, social, benevolent, and integrated environmental purposes.
Ms. Kaneda shares that Okanagan Waldorf School reminds her of the fond memories she has of the rural school she attended as a child. She enjoys teaching at our school and is very excited to be able to share her culture and her language with people who appreciate learning something new and different.
Ms. Kaneda has been involved in the Vernon Japanese Cultural Society where she has taught Japanese language and culture to children at the Vernon Heritage School and to high school students and adults in recent years.
Ms. Kaneda has a BA major in Woodcut Print and Art Education from Musashino Art University in Tokyo. She has completed Educational courses in Assessment for learning in the Secondary Classroom as well as Culture of the School at UBC. In Japan she taught Fine Art and English in junior and high school. In Canada she has taught the Japanese language course at Okanagan College, University of British Columbia and Thompson Rivers University.
When she is not at work, Ms. Kaneda really enjoys caring for her two year old granddaughter twice a week, and admits that her dog and two cats are the best babysitters. She enjoys being outdoors – hiking, running, biking, lake swimming and cross country and backcountry skiing. Her goal in 2021 is to participate in a 50 km trail running race in September and a Honolulu full marathon in December. She also loves to sing, and is a member of the Aura Chamber Choir and Ancora Women’s Ensemble.
Early Childhood Educators
Jenny Rae Wilder
Head of School
Ms. Thiessen, originally from Seattle, made the move to Vancouver BC in 2006. After a few more moves over the years, including seven years in Grand Prairie AB, she most recently landed in the Okanagan in 2013. She originally came to The BES as a parent where she and her daughter Xyla participated in Ms. Barbara’s Parent Preschool program. She immediately felt at home and In 2015 she became the first paid office staff in our organization. She soon added holding handwork classes for grades 1-5.
Through her years of working with children in early childhood and community family support programs, she grew more aware that children cannot be educated as islands separate from their family culture and structure. She found that Waldorf schools work with dedicated principles to bridge that gap between school and home, taking the ‘whole’ child into context and she felt compelled to focus solely on this way of ‘seeing’ children. She was first introduced to Waldorf Education when she attended a parent and child program with her oldest child in Port Townsend Washington in 1999. Through her continued involvement with multiple Waldorf Schools since that time, her love and connection for the foundations that sit at the base of Waldorf Education have only continued to grow. She shares that she loves the organization and all that it stands for, and feels honoured to support the children and families that we serve. She thrives on working someplace that she can not only find herself immersed in policy and paperwork in the administration office but also can then head out for recess supervision, step into the Early Years Centre, or teach/assist in one of the grades classrooms, all in the same day! Each and every interaction with the children on campus brings her great joy.
She holds a Diploma in Early Childhood Education, dual B.A. in Human Development and Psychology, and an M.Sc. in Child and Family Studies. Andrea has also completed a Certificate in Waldorf Leadership and Administration, a Certificate in Management of Canadian Non-Profits, and a Certificate in Anthroposophic Psychology. She also holds a BC Independent Schools Teaching Certificate.
Before working at The BES, she had been involved with children and family support/education since 1992; working in various organizations including coaching recreation and competitive gymnastics, preschool, daycare, family support agencies, and schools. Her most recent employment prior to the BES was teaching early childhood education at the post-secondary level.
Currently she lives with her two children, two dogs and two cats. Andrea is also an active foster parent. When she prioritizes free time in her busy schedule, she enjoys camping, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, cooking, knitting, woodwork, board games with her children, growing food, outdoor music festivals, reading, and remaining open to learning new things.
Jennifer (Jen) de Bourcier
Family Engagement Coordinator
Jen grew up on a family farm in the Nicola Valley, just outside of Merritt, BC. She moved to the Lower Mainland to attend University, then to Victoria where she lived for 10 years. When their oldest child was three, she and her husband Bob moved to their current home near the school. They have three children, Hayden, Grace and Patrick.
Jen’s family first came to Cedar Bridge School (recently renamed Okanagan Waldorf School) in 2006, when her oldest child began attending preschool. The Waldorf approach resonated with her, and she was drawn to working alongside the other families involved, to create a school with a unique vision. She and her husband were involved in many aspects of developing and building the school in the early years. Jen became a board member a couple years in.
Currently, Jen is the Family Engagement Coordinator in the Administration office, a Board member and the Parent Association chair. In her role in the office she puts together the newsletter, coordinates volunteers, organizes certain events including some fundraisers, and more. She is dedicated to offering parents avenues to engage in meaningful ways, which develops and enriches both the organization itself, and ultimately the families it serves. She is excited about the developing Parent Association and looks forward to connecting parents to unique learning opportunities that are in line with The Bridge Educational Society’s Founding Principles and Mission.
In the summers, Jen has a large garden where she loves to grow dahlias and cut flowers, fruit and vegetables. Her garden is a source of joy. She also enjoys reading, fiber art, swimming, harp, painting, caring for animals, and raising her family. She is on a lifelong journey to discover how to create a balanced life which includes physical, spiritual, emotional, mental, social and creative wellness.
Administrative Assistant, Business Department
Originally from Prince George, BC, Trish was living in Vernon when she learned about Waldorf Education. Her daughter Sarah was three in 2006 when she heard of a family on an organic farm near Lumby that was starting a Waldorf School. Trish attended the first public meeting and joined the board at that time.
Trish was a parent, board member, and volunteer during the years that her daughter attended Cedar Bridge School (now Okanagan Waldorf School) from preschool through grade 6. Her daugher is currently in grade 12 at Charles Bloom Secondary. Both her and her husband Ray volunteered extensively during the school’s pioneer stage. After resigning as a board member, she continued to volunteer with BES as a member of the Tuition Adjustment Committee.
Trish completed a diploma in Graphic Design and was on the Kamloops Art Council for 3 years. She owned and operated an Art Gallery and Picture Framing Store in Kamloops. When she moved to Vernon she was a store manager, then corporate director for The Good Feet Stores. Following that Trish worked in sales, shipping, and receiving for Vale Farms Grassroots Ltd.
In her current position at The BES she is the person you see taking attendance at drop off in the morning and usually the voice at the end of the phone when you call the school. She’s that persistent person that is asking you to fill in necessary documents and sign forms in order to keep the student files in good standing and in compliance with the BC Ministry Education – Independent Schools Branch.
Trish’s history with the school and experience with Waldorf education helps to inform her position at the front desk of our Administration office for our parent body, and in representation of The Bridge Educational Society.