Our history has left us with a long list of incredible educators who worked many seasons at Sea to Sky and have since moved on to other pursuits. Unique, legendary and leaving an imperishable legacy, some on occasion when circumstances allow, come back to work their magic in the outdoor classroom. As sustainability educators at Outdoor School these other 'islanders' represent a rich diversity of characters, talents and skill. With island names the likes of Wolfie, Fungi, Forest, Monsoon, Ocean, Ivy, Flow, Lichen, Osprey, Seal, Shadow, Chute, Mica, Oso, Driftwood, Taiga, Rainbow, Pika, Squall, Oregano, Otter, Moondust, Coyote, Owl, Bufflehead, Tuckamore, Madawaska, Huckleberry, Cricket and River, these talented educators from the past 25 years of Sea to Sky programming are fondly remembered by students and teachers throughout the Vancouver region. A few of their dated 'stories' appear below.
Amy Blanding, aka Oregano, was born in the grassy foothills of the American Rockies, and raised on the red shores of Epekwitk (PEI). Known for her undying spirit and keen spontaneity, Amy has worked as a youth facilitator and educator from coast to coast. With a bachelor degree from Dalhousie University and the University of King's College in Nova Scotia, Amy is a passionate educator, sailor, soccer player, and bodhran player. Always ardent to learn more about the Earth and how to live on it, Amy finds peace and balance in her life through the universal languages of laughter, music, nature and sport. In the recent past, 'Oregano' called the Salish Sea home, living on a Haida sloop with her partner.
Sheena Careless, aka Otter, is a native Sunshine Coaster having spent much of her childhood exploring the precious wild spaces of British Columbia and beyond. Out of this has come a passion for the conservation of this province's spectacular wilderness endowment. Sheena is a University of Victoria graduate in Geography and a Queen's graduate in Education. She is a high energy, all weather educator with a twinkle in her eye, at least four funny bones in her body and a lightness and a laughter that ripples out to all in her company. She is a highly respected educator on the Sunshine Coast where she lives with her husband and young son.
Liz Gesner, aka MoonDust, is a story seeker & smile-sharer whose love of the natural world has taken her from woodland trails to museums to science classrooms and back outside again. Growing up through summers of experiential environmental learning on the east coast, MoonDust has over a decade of earth education experience in four provinces, as well as a BEd directed towards Senior Science from SFU's PDP program. Sea To Sky's approach to education being real, relevant, & revolutionary speaks to her passion for validating youth & creating healthy communities. Her appreciation for small wonders is boundless and her enthusiasm to share laughter & help discover new talents on outdoor adventures throughout the seasons keeps her heart dancing & her mind expanding.
Jenny Groves, aka Coyote, came west from Ontario with a BEd from Queens University in Outdoor & Experiential Education and a passion for learning and teaching. An avid paddler, musician and artist, Jenny has a strong background working with youth and adults in the outdoors. "I am a musician and an artist with a love for costumes and drama and have made these passions of mine an integral part of my teaching." Jenny also teaches with the Sunshine Coast School District and was a lead educator with the Pearson Seminar on Youth Leadership based at Pearson College. Recently she served as the Canada World Youth coordinator in China. She plays a sweet bass cello with Sweet Cascadia.
Simon Hocking, aka Owl, is a graduate of Sociology and Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria and completed his teaching degree in the Outdoor and Experiential Education program at Queens University. He is a talented musician and is often heard 'belting' out Sea To Sky's favorite tunes at campus fire. Simon is a lead vocalist and guitar / mandolin player for the bands The Rakish Angles and Sweet Cascadia. He has a passion for the 3R's of sustainability education. Simon is an avid ocean kayaker, gardener, traveler and keen soccer player in the Sunshine Coast Men's Soccer league.
Mark Lebbell, aka Bufflehead, spent his childhood in the Laurentian Shield country of Quebec and Ontario that left him a 'canoe head' for life. A former classroom teacher, Mark now spends his time as a sustainability educator at Sea to Sky Outdoor School. He has been a lead educator with the Pearson College Summer Leadership Seminar as well as the Wild Ed program based in Vancouver. Mark has played a pivotal role in creating a culture of music and promoting songs for sustainability at Sea to Sky. Mark lives in the 'Gumboot Nation' of Roberts Creek with his partner and two children. He is an active member of the Sunshine Coast Home Schoolers group and lead vocal and guitar of the band Sweet Cascadia.
Laura Magrath, aka Madawaska, spent her early years in Ontario canoeing, hiking and whitewater kayaking. She is a graduate of the Concurrent Education program at Queen's University and is currently completing a Masters of Arts in Environmental Education and Communication at Royal Roads University. She has been a classroom educator for the past 14 years taking kids into the backcountry and integrating sustainability into all areas of school life. Madawaska is passionate about instilling hope and inspiring people of all ages to take steps to reduce our footprints and live as a part of nature. She is working on a children's book “H is for Hope”.
Damien McCombs, aka Huckleberry, is an educator and adventurer who grew up on the edge of Sasquatch Provincial Park. His childhood was spent enveloped and dazzled by huckleberries, fawns, and the miracles of nature. His connection with the wonders of the natural world inspired him to travel all over British Columbia and around the world leaving him rich in experience and stories. 'Huck' is an experienced back-country guide, artist and youth instructor. He is excited about inspiring and engaging young people in environmental leadership, ethics, hiking, rock-climbing, skiing, sustainability education, and even stilt building. If you spot him in his natural habitat, the cliff faces and alpine lakes of BC's Coast Mountains, ask him about the Sasquatch.
Allison Prime, aka Cricket, migrated to the West Coast from Ontario where she spent her childhood summers paddling on the lakes of Algonquin Park. She graduated with a BA in International Development Studies from McGill University and completed her teaching degree in the Outdoor Experiential and Ecological Education program at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. Since then, she has been dedicated to using the outdoor classroom to foster self-confidence in students, as well as a love for each other and the earth. She strives to enable students to make connections between their choices and how they affect the ecological systems that support life on this planet. She spends her free time singing in a choir, learning to play the guitar and exploring local forests.
Nick Townley, aka River, is an avid adventurer and sustainability crusader. He feeds his sense of wonder by self propelling through the magnificent rivers, lakes, oceans and wild spaces of Earth Island. He graduated from the University of King's College with a BA in Classics, Otago University with a Graduate Diploma in Teaching and UBC with a Diploma in Outdoor Environmental Education. When he is not at Sea to Sky, Nick is a Coordinator with the Pearson Seminar on Youth Leadership, and a WildEDucator with WildED. In 2005, Nick volunteered with the Otesha Project Coast2Coast Bicycle Tour. For five and half months Nick bicycled and lived communally with a group of 15 other youth. They bicycled 8,500 kilometers, from Vancouver to Corner Brook, Newfoundland, and presented environmental and social justice workshops to over 10,000 people of all ages. In the summer of 2009, Nick spent six weeks braving the rain and black flies of Northern Ontario, canoeing from Sioux Lookout to Hudson Bay.
Stefanie Block, aka Alpenglow, is an enthusiast for all things wild. Growing up on BC's coast, the smell of moss and cedars is the smell of home. Brought into the world of outdoor education through 100 Mile House's Educo Adventure School, Stef has worked with a diverse range of students from many areas around BC. Stef is an educator for the classroom beside a pond, on the edge of a cliff or deep in the forest, believing in the wisdom from the student's experience and the environment around us. Learning from and with the natural world is a journey that continues to nourish Stef and her way of being in the world. Stef is currently a Master's of Education student at SFU, with a focus on nature's role in spiritual and emotional development. On her days off you may find her hunting mushrooms or honing her tree climbing skills.
Karen Dallimore, aka Breeze, grew up in Chelsea, Quebec, a rural community where she fostered her love of the natural world. Since moving to southern Vancouver Island in 2001 Breeze has spent most of her free time in the forest or on the ocean coaching sailing, paddling and exploring the coast. Karen graduated with a BA in History and Geography, followed by a degree in Education from the University of Victoria. She is thrilled to be an Islander and have the opportunity to help facilitate students while they explore concepts of sustainability, develop leadership skills and challenge themselves in the wild.
Jen Freele, aka Polaris, was raised in a small town just outside Ottawa, Ontario, where the forests and the ponds were her playground. She earned her BA in History and English from Trent University and went on to receive her B.Ed from Queen's University. Jen has worked and volunteered in several outdoor education centers and summer camps over the past 6 summers, and loves nothing more than connecting students and children with the natural world around them. She likes to live by the mantra "Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart", which has guided her on many international journeys and, most recently, to Turkey for a year of teaching abroad. Still, there is nowhere that Jen would rather be than in the Canadian wilderness, exploring and finding new opportunities for discovery, connection, and authentic learning.
Robin Friesen, aka Yarrow, spent her childhood rambling among the sage brush and pine forests of the Okanagan Valley. She is an adventure seeker, a musician, a giver of smiles, a lover of fresh air and a life enthusiast. Her fondness of the natural world and of wild spaces have seen her traipsing all over the mountains of northern BC and the Yukon for the past several years, doing geological fieldwork and finding all sorts of plants, animals, views, skills and friends along the way. She holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of Victoria, a B.Ed. from UBC, and has teaching experience in both Montessori and Waldorf schools. Robin cares deeply about offering youth the opportunity to learn to love the outside world as she does, and in addition to teaching she sits on a national panel brought together by the Canadian Parks Council to discuss Canada's best practices for keeping today's youth connected to nature. When she's not working with students, Robin can be found with friends having dance parties on the porch, back country skiing, singing loud, wandering from peak to peak, riding her bike, playing her fiddle, or making scones.
Natalie Gerum, aka Wombat, grew up among the sassafras trees of the Carolinian forests of southern Ontario. Since then, she has worked in classrooms and communities across Canada, and brings diverse experiences in curriculum development, facilitation and creative community building to Sea to Sky. A graduate of Pearson United World College, Natalie holds an M.Ed in climate change education from Lakehead University. When not at outdoor school, Natalie works as the director of the Pearson Seminar for Youth Leadership. A community member of Roberts Creek, Natalie loves to grow gardens, dance in her gumboots and watch for whales in the Salish Sea. She is committed to building a joyful community around challenging ideas and believes in the transformative capacity of sustainability education. For Natalie, Sea-to-Sky continues to be a place to create a community that reflects the way the world can be - in all of its muddy, messy and unexpected glory!
Heather McGinty, aka Fire, grew up with the windswept pines and sparkling waters of Georgian Bay. Seeking adventures with her family throughout the Provincial Parks and wilderness of Ontario, she became immersed in wilderness exploration and the earth sciences at a young age. This curiosity led her to Lakehead University in Thunder Bay where she completed a Bachelor of Outdoor Recreation, Parks & Tourism and Bachelor of Education. Here, she gained more insight on how to be a more ecologically literate citizen of our world, as well as a true appreciation for traditional first nations knowledge. Wonderment and adventure led her to all parts of BC where there were forests to be replanted and new bio-regional knowledge to be learned and shared. When she is not at S2S, she can be found working part time at the Vancouver Waldorf School or climbing the rocky crags in Squamish. Fire loves working for S2S as it is here where she is able to share her passions for the outdoor world and facilitate a sense of wonderment & adventure in others.
Andrew Smith, aka Monkey, spent his childhood growing up in the tropics of Thailand and Malaysia. An outdoor enthusiast, Monkey's career in education followed in the footsteps of his parents when he was certified as a rock climbing instructor while living in Kuala Lumpur. Since relocating to BC's West Coast, Monkey has continued to enjoy the wilderness and thrives in the Pacific NorthWest's rain forests. A graduate of UVic's Visual Arts program, Monkey has recently completed his Bachelor of Education through UBC and hopes to further his knowledge of building shelters, creating FART (Forest Art) and looks forward to exploring more of BC's pristine landscapes. An avid photographer and visual artist, Monkey continues to find the beauty in the natural world and BC's Sunshine Coast!
Tim Turner, aka Wings, has shared the wonder and wisdom of the 'big outside' with students of all ages. A classroom teacher for ten years, Tim's lifetime of back country adventuring has left him with a contagious enthusiasm, respect and concern for the wild world. This is the source of his passion for sustainability education and the wisdom of less. Tim is encouraged by the dramatic shifts underway within the faith communities, NGO's, local, provincial and federal governments and hopes the same soon for schools who have an unprecedented opportunity to assist society in the tough transition to a post fossil fuel world. As both an educator and director with Sea to Sky Outdoor School 'Wings' can't get enough of the Salish Sea's Howe Sound archipelago as a classroom, playground and sanctuary. Here is a vital place with much to teach us all.
Jay Wade, aka Dragonfly, is an experienced outdoor educator, researcher, and naturalist through and through. Growing up in Ontario, Jay spent his childhood summers tromping along the river at his grandparent's farm. Nature has always been a thread running through Jay's life and after leaving university with an Environmental Studies and Biology degree he traveled the continent studying birds and mammals in such places as Alaska and the Yukon. Since moving to British Columbia, Jay continues to pursue his passion of engaging youth in experiences where they can explore themselves, others, and the natural world. When not being inspired by students in the outdoors, you can find Jay back country camping, birding, or working on some of the many wilderness skills that encourage him to lead a more sustainable life.
Lisa Weitendorf, aka Ember, grew up exploring along the shores of Georgian Bay in Owen Sound, Ontario. To this day, those chilly waters, trails and limestone caves along the Bruce Peninsula are some of her favorite wild places. Since she graduated from Western University's B.Ed program, she has worked with conservation areas, museums, youth centers and outdoor classrooms around Ontario. When she is not at outdoor school, she is getting to know her new habitat by biking, kayaking, hiking and camping along the Sunshine Coast and north shore mountains. For Ember, outdoor school is a place for educators and students to connect with wild places and with each other; a place to explore the connection between personal and environmental well-being. She is thrilled to be teaching and learning along the shores of the Salish Sea this fall! At present, Ember would like to bring new flare to her storytelling skills, as well as learn more about growing her own food and fixing her own bike.