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.

Faculty

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Shindy Pletzer
Kindergarten Co - Teacher

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, 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.

Shindy Pletzer

Kindergarten Co-Teacher

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Erin Barry
Kindergarten Co Teacher
EC Faculty Chair

Ms. Barry originally hails from Edmonton, Alberta.  After some time on the west coast of British Columbia, she relocated to the Vernon/Lumby area in 2006.  Her previous work experience is broad and includes working in the sailboat industry, food service, coffee service, viticulture and silviculture.

Erin did her undergraduate studies at UBC, Vancouver from 1998-2003 and is a Certified Yoga teacher.  She began her Waldorf Early Childhood teacher training in 2015 and completed it in 2017.  In 2020 she completed the Waldorf Post Graduate Birth to Three Certificate.

Erin first came to Cedar Bridge School (now Okanagan Waldorf School) in 2007 when her daughter was one year old.  Shortly after accessing these initial programs for her daughter, Erin became a Board member, then a teacher and eventually she organically grew into her role as the Early Childhood Pedagogical Leader in our Early Years Center and is now co-teaching the kindergarten class.  She is also a member of the Campus Development Committee as well as the Grounds Committee Chair.  When asked what attracted her to begin working at the BES, Erin’s response was inspired and heartfelt:

“I first arrived as a parent, and was attracted by the beauty of the place and the courage and vision of the founders. I was inspired by what was happening here; adults working and learning together to support an intentional environment for children’s learning and health. This is what I experienced on the first day I visited the campus with my first child, and is what still inspires me today.  The more years I spent participating as a parent and board member, the more I learned. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn about Anthroposophy and human development, child development and the Waldorf movement. This led me to Waldorf teacher training and eventually full-time work with the BES. I love living in Lumby, and I feel very fortunate to be working with young children and families here. There are so many aspects of my work that bring me joy, and so much for me still to learn.”

Erin lives with her husband, their children, and their very cool cats Pounce and Chloe.  In her free time Erin delights in all things food such as gardening, cooking, foraging for wild foods, canning, preserving and eating!  She enjoys spending time outdoors camping, swimming, canoeing, exploring trails and visiting different hot springs throughout BC with her family.  

Erin Barry

Kindergarten Co-Teacher & EC Faculty Chair

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Geoff Akins
Kindergarten Classroom Support

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Geoff Akins

Kindergarten Classroom Assistant

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Danielle Westlake
Kindergarten Classroom Support

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Danielle Westlake

Kindergarten Classroom Assistant

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Jenn Carson
Class 1 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.

Jenn Carson

Class 1 Teacher

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Jillian Martin
Class 2/3 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 two three 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.

Jillian Martin

Class 2/3 Teacher

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Robyn Robinson
Class 2/3 Assistant

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Robyn Robinson

Class 2/3 Assistant

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MTanika Solbrandt
Class 4/5 Teacher and Grades Faculty Chair

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.

Tanika Solbrandt

Class 4/5 Teacher & Grades Faculty Chair

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Megan McMillan
Class 4/5 Assistant and School Age Summer Camp Lead

Ms. McMillan was born and raised in rural Ontario before falling in love with the Okanagan and moving here in 2015. She has two degrees – a Bachelor of Science in Ecology & Environmental Biology, and her Bachelor of Education in Primary/Junior Outdoor & Experiential Education from Queen’s University.

Prior to arriving at the BES, Megan worked as an outdoor educator, early childhood educator, teacher, and tutor. She was drawn to our organization after having her son, seeking a place of employment whose values and mission-aligned with her own, both as an educator and a parent. When she first arrived on campus in 2020, she worked as a grades substitute teacher and an early childhood educational assistant. Megan is currently in the process of completing her early childhood education program. In the upcoming year, she will be the grades class assistant with grades 4&5 alongside Ms. Solbrandt.

In the past Ms. McMillan has volunteered with the Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, St. John’s Ambulance therapy dog program with her dog Harvey and run the NatureKids of North Okanagan program.

Megan is happily married with a goofy dog and an energetic toddler. In her spare time, she enjoys playing volleyball, going to the beach, and hosting potlucks.

Megan McMillan

Class 4/5 Assistant & School Age Summer Camp Lead

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Kate Olthof
Class 6-8 Teacher

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’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 and their two sons; their dog, three cats and eight chickens.

Kate Olthof

Class 6-8 Teacher

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LiShan Chu
Class 6-8 Assistant

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LiShan Chu

Class 6-8 Assistant

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Kim Seymour
Class 1-8 PE Teacher
Class 4-8 Handwork Teacher

Mrs. Seymour grew up in Vernon and has lived in Lumby with her husband for the last nine years. They have two children, as well as two dogs and one loveable cat named Mittens. They enjoy caring for their 20+ chickens and will soon be adding a few ducks to their hobby farm.

In highschool, Kim developed a passion for Visual Arts, Woodworking and Earth and Environmental Science. As a teen and young adult she would often volunteer in highschool and elementary classrooms. She worked in child care, the restaurant industry, retail and grocery stores. When she was a University student she worked for the City of Vernon planting and caring for the gardens in Polsen Park for a time, as well as other outdoor jobs.

Mrs. Seymour attended UBCO. She has completed her Bachelor of Arts Majoring in Geography (Earth and Environmental Sciences) and has a Minor in English Literature. She completed her Bachelor of Elementary Education in 2011. Kim was a Kindergarten classroom assistant, then the grades 4&5 teacher at the Okanagan Indian Band Cultural Immersion School from 2011-2015 collectively. She has worked as a substitute teacher for School District #22.

She found her way to our organization when her son began preschool at OWS in 2014 where she immediately loved the forest and farm environment, as well as the homelike warmth of the campus. She began her journey learning about Waldorf Education and the work of Rudolf Steiner. Soon, she was offered an opportunity to teach here. She began her Waldorf Teacher Training in 2015 and felt a connection to the pedagogy and approach that Waldorf education offers. As a teacher at Okanagan Waldorf School she loves being able to share both her scientific and artistic passions for the arts, the forest, the land, native vegetation and gardening with the children, inspiring creativity, curiosity and wonder.

Kim is an active member of the Grounds and Garden Committee on our campus. In her free time she enjoys knitting, hobby farming, hiking, adventuring, camping, fishing, gardening, reading, supporting local markets/events and sometimes she and her mom enter markets with their arts and crafts.

Kim Seymour

Class 1-8 PE Teacher & Class 4-8 Handwork Teacher

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Jana Palmer
Kindergarten - Class 8 Music Teacher

Ms. Palmer was born and raised in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Her father is a professor of Music Composition at the University, and her mother was a Chinese language teacher and translator. She has a sister who is in Early Childhood Education. Jana shares that Zagreb is an amazing city with a thousand year history. The country itself was heavily influenced by the Austro-Hungarian empire in the North, the Ottoman empire in the East and the Venetian Republic on the coast. Each region of Croatia tells the story of that influence, both in the culture and the language which varied greatly from region to region to the point that communication between regions can be challenging and bring a lot of funny situations.

Ms. Palmer was a teenager when Croatia went through a horrible 4 year long war for independence. Her family lived from one air raid/emergency siren to another, hiding in emergency shelters each day and listening to distant airplane bullets every night. Zagreb wasn’t as destroyed as other parts of Croatia, but the city and its outskirts did get bombed and war was a very real and present fear when she was 14. She shares that it feels like she is telling someone else’s story now, all these years later. Aside from the war, she shares that she had a very happy childhood, and grew up on the mountain above Zagreb in nature, surrounded by a very loving family, full of music and art which influenced the direction of her life.

In 2004 Jana received her masters degree in Musicology and Ethnomusicology, in 2006 she received her Croatian Teaching Certificate and in 2021 she received her BC Independent School Teaching Certificate. At University in Croatia she also pursued a strong interest of hers and received a certificate for Music Therapy. Jana has also been a PADI Scuba diving instructor and Emergency First Response instructor since 2007.

She has been teaching music for over 20 years, since she herself was a student. She began as a piano teacher in a private studio, then as a high school teacher. At the high school she taught Music Appreciation classes, Music Therapy classes, led a school choir and rock band, and produced a few major fundraising musicals with children. She also worked for the Croatian National Radio and had a monthly 90 minute show about film music and composers for a couple of years.

After some time, she decided to take a short break from teaching music and relocated to the British Virgin Island to teach scuba diving. She worked for a small diving company and enjoyed daily dive trips, drove boats, soaked in the sun, fought a couple of category 5 hurricanes and when she finally lost a battle with mosquitoes she decided to put her pirate hat down and went back to music. She worked as a K-6 music teacher in the Caribbean for 5 years. During this time she met her husband, and in 2019 they moved to Lumby which is his hometown.

She was drawn to our school because of its location, nature and because of the Waldorf curriculum and philosophy. Currently Ms. Palmer is the Grades Choir teacher and flexibly works where she is needed on our campus. She owns a private music studio through which she teaches piano and music theory in Lumby.

She lives in Lumby with her husband and 7 year old daughter, her in-laws, 3 dogs and a cat. In her free time Jana enjoys camping, reading, playing instruments, swimming and diving.

Jana Palmer

Kindergarten-Class 8 Music Teacher

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Mitsuyo Kaneda
Class 1-5 Japanese Teacher
Kindergarten Class Assistant

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 Arts 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 granddaughter, 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.

Mitsuyo Kaneda

Class 1-5 Japanese Teacher & Kindergarten Class Assistant

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Barbara Articus
Class 1-3 Handwork Teacher
Grade 8 Main Lesson Support

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.

Barbara Articus

Class 1-3 Handwork Teacher & Class 8 Lesson Support

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Isabel Hladych
OWS Classroom Support

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Isabel Hladych

OWS Classroom Support

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Francis Chabot
Eurythmy

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Francis Chabot

Eurythmy

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EveLynn Debusschere
Pedagogical & Student Extra Lesson Support

Ms. Debusschere was born in Saskatchewan. Her family moved to Kelowna when she was 16 years of age where she has resided, for the most part, ever since.

EveLynn has a Bachelor of Arts in Waldorf Education and a Diploma in Remedial Education, both from Rudolf Steiner College in Sacramento, CA. She started her teaching career at the Waldorf School of Santa Barbara, CA and has worked at the Nelson Waldorf School, and Lakeside School Kelowna.

Ms. Debusschere joined the Bridge Educational Society in September of 2021 and provides pedagogical support for both teachers and students. She shares that working one on one to help learning to be easier for students is a passion of hers. She welcomes the opportunity to work here in this capacity, as well as the chance to help teachers strive to be the best teachers they can be.

In her free time EveLynn enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, knitting, cross-stitching, hiking and walking the dog.

EveLynn Debusschere

Pedagogical & Student Extra Lesson Support

Early Childhood Educators

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Lyndsey Byers
Sweet Pea Room Lead

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Lyndsey Byers

Sweet Pea Room Lead

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Johanna Lebo
Marigold Room Lead

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Hana Lebo

Marigold Room Lead

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Dana Hughes
Sweet Pea Room

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Dana Hughes

Sweet Pea Room

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Kim Leach
Honeysuckle Room

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Kim Leach

Honeysuckle  Room

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Lindsay Hannah
Marigold Room

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Lindsay Hannah

Marigold Room

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Shae Webber
Sweet Pea Room

Shae Weber was born in Surrey, BC.  Her parents moved the family to West Kelowna in 1998 due to job relocation and in order to be in a safer environment while raising a family. Currently, she lives with her fiance and their golden retriever, Walter, in Coldstream.

Ms. Weber graduated in 2013 with a Human Service Work Diploma from Okanagan College. Currently, she has been accepted into the ECEC-WIL program through Northern Lights College. She will graduate with her ECE-IT diploma in April 2023!  

She started her career working at the Boys and Girls Club in Leduc, Alberta.  During her time there, her passion for working with children grew immensely.  After a year she landed a job as an education assistant working with individuals with various diversabilities.  This quickly became her full-time career.  She worked as an education assistant in Alberta for four years, and in Thunder Bay, Ontario for 2 years.

Shae joined the BES in September of 2020 and is an ECE Assistant in our Sweet Pea room in the EYC. She had worked in a Waldorf daycare when she was living in Thunder Bay, Ontario so our EYC center seemed like a good fit for her.  She had really enjoyed the environment and the quality of the childcare that was offered to the children and families in the community.  

In her spare time, Shae enjoys yoga, skiing, snowshoeing, hiking with Walter, reading, and cooking/baking.

Shae Webber

Sweet Pea Room

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Vanessa Riddick
Sweet Pea Room

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Vanessa Riddick

Sweet Pea Room

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Lisa Abe
Honeysuckle Room Lead

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Lisa Abe

Honeysuckle Room Lead

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Naomi Strutridge
Marigold Room

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Naomi Strutridge

Marigold Room

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Brittany Bouchard
Honeysuckle Room

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Brittany Bouchard

Honeysuckle Room

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Kristin Remple
Honeysuckle Room

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Kristin Remple

Honeysuckle Room

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Abbey Magnus
Lavender Room

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Abbey Magnus

Lavender Room

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Shalla Lansing
Marigold Room

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Shalla Lansing

Marigold Room

Administration

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Andrea Thiessen
Head of School

Ms. Thiessen, originally from Seattle, made the move to Vancouver BC in 2006. After a few 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 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.

Andrea Thiessen

Head of School

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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 moved to their current home near the school. They have three children.

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.

Jen de Bourcier

Family Engagement Coordinator

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Trish Folland
Admissions Coordinator

Originally from Prince George, BC, Trish was living in Vernon when she learned about Waldorf Education. Her daughter 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 recently graduated from Charles Bloom Secondary. Both her and her husband volunteered extensively during the school’s pioneer stage. After resigning as a board member, she continued to volunteer with The 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.

Trish Folland

Admissions Coordinator

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Sarah McMahon
Accounts Manager

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Sarah McMahon

Accounts Manager

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Nikki Wallace
Business Finance Administrator

Nikki was born in Fort St. John and grew up mostly in Kenora, Ontario.  She moved to Lavington three years ago, from Kelowna.  

In 2002 Nikki completed the Accounting Technician Program at the University of the Cariboo. She has gained considerable business and finance administration experience since then. Before becoming employed at the BES, she worked as the Finance Coordinator for the Kelowna Women’s Shelter for 4.5 years. Ms. Wallace joined the BES in September of 2021 as our Business Financial Administrator. This role includes duties such as preparing and maintaining budgets and forecasts, reconciling accounts, entering invoices/receipts, maintaining the accounts payables, and preparing deposits as well as other various financial reporting for the Society.

Nikki shares that she was attracted to working at The BES because it was close to home and that she had never worked in a school setting before.  She had not experienced Waldorf education, and she welcomed the new and exciting journey.

Nikki lives with her three school-aged children and they share their home with their dogs Buddy, a white lab/rough collie, and Bella, an akita/great pyrenees. In her spare time, Nikki loves to travel, take photos, play with her children and dogs, walk/hike and experience new adventures.

Nikki Wallace

Business Finance Administrator

Q

Michelle Mervyn
Development Coordinator

Michelle is originally from Saskatchewan and moved to BC in 1991. She and her husband moved to Lumby in early 2020. They have two of four children still at home with them.

Before taking employment with The BES in September 2020, she was the General Manager of a not-for-profit Christian thrift store in Kelowna. Through her many years of employment, she came to recognize the desire for ‘intentional’ employment. She has had wonderful positions in her employment years, yet upon leaving her most recent position she felt it important to actively search out an organization that would align with her values-based goals and decisions. Through her current position at The BES, she is satisfied knowing that her contribution will help support and build on an environmentally aware, community-based organization.

Michelle has a Business Management and E-Commerce diploma, and various bookkeeping and Income Tax training certificates. Her role has recently expanded into the Development & Communications Department which serves fundraising, marketing, and social media platform needs as well as a variety of projects as they arise in the organization.

Free time is a new term in her household since moving to Lumby. Together she and her family enjoy fishing/boating and spending time on the water. They like being outdoors and often have a bonfire. They are a family of readers and music lovers. Michelle has always been keen on vegetable gardening and canning, and she really enjoys cooking.

Michelle Mervyn

Development Coordinator

Q

Christie Bachelder
Child Care Operations Manager

Biography- Christie Bachelder

Ms. Christie was born and raised in the Okanagan. She was born in Kelowna and raised in Salmon Arm. After completing her early childhood education on Vancouver Island, she and her husband moved to this area and they currently live in Lavington. They have four wonderful children aged 11-21 years.

Christie completed her Infant and Toddler/ Special Needs Diploma from the College of the Rockies in 2020. She originally came to us in 2014 working as a preschool assistant and kindergarten assistant. At that time Christe also took the first year of Waldorf teacher training through West Coast Institute. In 2017 she moved on and taught preschool for the Village of Lumby where she met many wonderful families and coworkers, some of whom she invited and who came with her when she returned to our campus in 2020 as the Early Years Centre Manager. In this role, Christie has helped to facilitate the childcare programs, hire, train, and support the amazing staff in the EYC, and strives to support the children and their families in our community. 

Christie shares that what attracted her to working for The Bridge Educational Society is the Waldorf pedagogy and the wonder of children learning about themselves and all the amazing things they are capable of. She notes that this location is close to her home which makes for a nice easy commute.

Christie has been and continues to be, a volunteer in many capacities. She has volunteered for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in many leadership and service capacities. She has volunteered for Girl Guides/Boy Scouts of Canada, as well as been active in the Lavington Community Association. Over the years she has participated frequently in School District 22  PAC events and groups.

When asked about her hobbies and interests she shares that her children would say her favorite pastime is sleeping, but she really does enjoy spending her spare time gardening, building, constructing, reading, and hiking.

Christie Bachelder

Child Care Operations Manager

Q

Paul McArdle
Facilities & Grounds Manager

Paul McArdle was born and raised in Liverpool, United Kingdom. He began his working career as a Gamekeeper’s Assistant on Lord Derby’s estate in Liverpool. He always had a working dog, ferrets, and polecats in his life from the age of 10. He shares that animals are what kept him outside, in the woods.  

When he was 16 he moved from England to Wales to join the family business of butchering.  After three months, he was running the butcher shop in a little Welsh village called Llanymynech.

He left the butcher shop at 18 and started life in the building trade. He got his Finishing Carpentry Certification from Uk College. His first reno job was working on Powis Castle in Welshpool. He has worked with wood and other building materials ever since. In June 2012 Paul, his wife, and their two children relocated to Canada from Shropshire. They believed they would all have more opportunities here. Paul has been a self-employed Carpenter for the last 13 years. 

Paul shares that he became employed at our campus by accident when a friend gave his name to Ms. Thiessen as a good candidate for our Facilities Manager position. If you know Paul, you will be able to hear his wit and humor shining through there. He became employed here in September 2019. Paul shares that what attracted him to our campus is the location, the Waldorf school, and that he wishes he had gone to a school like this when he was a boy.

Paul’s role on our Campus covers a broad range of responsibilities. He is a member of the Campus Development Committee and is a point person for the different infrastructure and physical systems on campus including water, septic, HVAC, electrical, alarm system, buildings, roadways, physical development, and much more. He oversees their maintenance, safety, and operational standards. He also repairs all manner of items from chairs, signs, latches, fences, and beyond. 

Paul is a keen Footballer (Soccer) player and supporter of his birthplace team, the Everton Football Club, which was founded in 1878. He and his wife live in Coldstream where he is finishing up an extensive renovation of their home. They have a whippet and a few chickens. In his spare time, Paul loves to enjoy the outdoors, wildlife, fishing, and spending time with his family and friends.

Paul McArdle

Facilities & Grounds Manager

Q

Joe Piercey
Facilities and Grounds Maintenance

Please visit again soon…

Joe Piercey

Facilities & Grounds Maintenance

Board

Q

Max Ruessman
Board Chair

Max earned a Bachelor of Science degree in genetics and cell biology, with a minor in English literature at the University of British Columbia in 2001. After working at a biopharmaceutical company researching therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease, he went on to complete his Law Degree at the UBC Peter Allard School of Law in 2005. Thereafter, he completed his articles and was called to the bar in 2006. Max has been a practicing litigation lawyer since then, advising and advocating for clients in various areas including personal and commercial liability, insurance, construction and property disputes.

Max is a past president of the Vernon Science and Discovery Society (Okanagan Science Centre), a former director of the North Okanagan Parks and Natural Areas Trust, and a past president of the O’Keefe Ranch and Interior Heritage Society. Presently, he is a director at large of the District Parent Advisory Council – School District 22, advising on policy and other matters. In 2016, Max was recognized as one of Vernon’s “Top 20 Under 40” business people.

Max Ruessmann

Board Chair

Q

Roxanne Brierly
Board Vice Chair
Board Treasurer

Roxanne Brierley holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from the University of Victoria as well as a CEBS (Certified Employee Benefits Specialist) designation. Prior to starting her family and moving to Vernon, Roxanne worked as a Consultant for some of the largest group benefit plans in Canada, where most of her time was spent working on spreadsheets, writing reports, and presenting to clients. 

Roxanne has served on The Bridge Educational Society Board since 2015,  she is currently serving as both the Vice-Chair and Treasurer. Prior to joining the Board, she worked with the Board Finance Committee, consistently applying her expertise in business and finance as well as her passion for the school. Roxanne continues to bring her education and business experience to her role as a Trustee, where she is very active in the grant writing, marketing, and financial aspects of our Society. She led the fundraising efforts to build both the 2016 OWS classroom building and the Early Years Centre.

Roxanne has four children that all attend OWS, the youngest in grade 2 and the eldest in grade 8.  Her biggest hobby at the moment is driving children to school and their various sports – however, she does like to hike, ski, and snowshoe in her spare time as well.  And a fun fact, Roxanne used to teach dog agility lessons and competed at a high level in Canada, even beginning a national champ with her dog Bella.

Roxanne Brierly

Board Vice Chair
Board Treasurer

Q

Ashley Hockenhull
Board Secretary

In 2021 Ashley enrolled her daughter at the Early Years Centre after moving to the Coldstream area in order to be closer to the centre. She believes that focusing on a more holistic, environmentally aware education is essential in teaching and guiding children who will be the leaders of tomorrow. She reached out to the Board last spring with a desire to get involved in the school community and has been serving on our Finance Committee since then.

Ashley currently works as an independent contractor doing editing and legal work and has an incredibly diverse background and education. Ashley has experience with finance, accounting, grant writing, fundraising, and project management. In addition to her formal roles, she has headed up a number of committees responsible for organizing large group and fundraising events from golf tournaments, to dinners, and wellness retreats. Ashley also has extensive legal experience in trust/estate accounting and administration, research, drafting, and corresponding with government agencies. She is thrilled to be nominated for a Trustee position and looks forward to serving the Society.

Ashley Hockenhull

Board Secretary

Q

Lorna Church
Board Trustee

Ms. Church grew up across the road from The BES campus on Vale Farms.  As a young adult, she left the area for Edmonton where she attended the University of Alberta to obtain her Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with a focus on Sustainable Agriculture Systems.  Upon completion she happily returned to the Okanagan.  In addition, she has completed training in Basic Accounting I, Cultural Safety Awareness, and an Advanced GIS certificate from Okanagan College.

Lorna became a board member at The BES even before she had children of her own.  She notes that at the time she originally joined the board in 2008, she was inspired to help with a budding organization that was striving to bring a certain beauty and specialness to the education of children.  She didn’t know anything about Waldorf education, but there was just a feeling that she got when she entered the kindergarten at the time that spoke to her. The people who were part of founding the school were such great people, and she thought “I want to be part of this. I want to make this happen for our community.”   She shares that these are the same reasons she continues in her role as a Board member for The BES today.

In her spare time, Lorna enjoys a variety of activities including hiking, biking, skiing, snowshoeing, knitting, and reading-  she notes that sadly, none of these hobbies are conducive to being done simultaneously.

Lorna Church

Board Trustee

Q

Richard Harding
Board Trustee

Richard has a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing, Post Grad Diploma in Advancing Healthcare Practice, and is in his final year of an MBA program. After a 24-year career in the British Army, Richard retired from Military life and along with his family settled in BC and now resides in Lavington. Richard has worked for Interior Health for the past 8 years and is currently the Executive Director for Clinical Operations in the North Okanagan and is responsible for all aspects of healthcare in the region.

 Richard has been a member of the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation Board of Directors for the past 7 years and has supported multiple successful campaigns at the hospital during this time. Richard has extensive experience with both strategic and capital planning having led multiple large-scale initiatives whilst partnering with local and government organizations. Richard is passionate about supporting the future development of the Bridge Education Society as an integral part of our community.

Richard Harding

Board Trustee

Q

Vanessa Colleran
Board Past Chair

Ms. Colleran was born in Vernon but has lived in many places throughout her life. She found herself drawn back to the Okanagan when her children were young, so that they too could enjoy what this area has to offer.  Vanessa lives with her husband, two sons, one a former OWS student who now attends secondary school, and a current OWS student in grade 6. They also have a dog named Rocky, and 4 backyard hens. 

Vanessa has a diploma in Animal Health Technology from Thompson Rivers University, and is an online lecturer for Thompson Rivers University for the Animal Health department. 

She has a certificate in Natural Nutrition from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition.

Vanessa and her husband enrolled their sons at OWS in 2016, and over time she discovered how well she aligned with the Mission and Vision of the Society.  Taking up the work of the board was a very natural fit for her, as she wanted to participate and lend a hand not only to support the growth of the campus, but also to help ensure its sustainability for the next generation of children to come. 

Prior to joining the BES Board, Vanessa would volunteer her time in service of several other worthy causes, but since then has dedicated her volunteer time solely to the work of the BES Board of Trustees. 

She is coming to the end of her fourth and final year as Board Chair for The Bridge Educational Society. Vanessa shares “I am very much looking forward to mentoring and supporting the next person who steps into this role, through the creation of a new board position of ‘Past Board Chair’.  Our board is actively recruiting for many roles for the Board and its committees and I would be happy to answer any questions for anyone that might be curious about this very important and rewarding work.”

In her spare time, Vanessa enjoys the bountiful outdoors of this beautiful valley by hiking, skiing and travelling.  She has a new small garden that she is enjoying learning how to nurture as well. 

Vanessa Colleran

Board Past Chair

Q

Andrea Thiessen
Ex-Oficio Administration Representative

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.

Andrea Thiessen

Ex-Officio Administration Representative

Q

Erin Barry
Ex-Oficio EC Department Representative

Ms. Barry originally hails from Edmonton, Alberta.  After some time on the west coast of British Columbia, she relocated to the Vernon/Lumby area in 2006.  Her previous work experience is broad and includes working in the sailboat industry, food service, coffee service, viticulture and silviculture.

Erin did her undergraduate studies at UBC, Vancouver from 1998-2003 and is a Certified Yoga teacher.  She began her Waldorf Early Childhood teacher training in 2015 and completed it in 2017.  In 2020 she completed the Waldorf Post Graduate Birth to Three Certificate.

Erin first came to Cedar Bridge School (now Okanagan Waldorf School) in 2007 when her daughter was one year old.  Shortly after accessing these initial programs for her daughter, Erin became a Board member, then a teacher and eventually she organically grew into her role as the Early Childhood Pedagogical Leader in our Early Years Center and is now co-teaching the kindergarten class.  She is also a member of the Campus Development Committee as well as the Grounds Committee Chair.  When asked what attracted her to begin working at the BES, Erin’s response was inspired and heartfelt:

“I first arrived as a parent, and was attracted by the beauty of the place and the courage and vision of the founders. I was inspired by what was happening here; adults working and learning together to support an intentional environment for children’s learning and health. This is what I experienced on the first day I visited the campus with my first child, and is what still inspires me today.  The more years I spent participating as a parent and board member, the more I learned. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn about Anthroposophy and human development, child development and the Waldorf movement. This led me to Waldorf teacher training and eventually full-time work with the BES. I love living in Lumby, and I feel very fortunate to be working with young children and families here. There are so many aspects of my work that bring me joy, and so much for me still to learn.”

Erin lives with her husband, their children, and their very cool cats Pounce and Chloe.  In her free time Erin delights in all things food such as gardening, cooking, foraging for wild foods, canning, preserving and eating!  She enjoys spending time outdoors camping, swimming, canoeing, exploring trails and visiting different hot springs throughout BC with her family.  

Erin Barry

Ex-Officio EC Department Representative

Q

Jen de Bourcier
Ex-Oficio Parent Association Representative

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.

Jen de Bourcier

Ex-Officio Parent Association Representative

Q

Tanika Solbrandt
Ex-Oficio Grades Faculty Representative

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.

Tanika Solbrandt

Ex-Officio Grades Faculty Representative

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