Meet Our Team

*in alphabetical order

We are delighted to introduce our Program Team who will be ensuring our visiting teachers, students and volunteers have a fun and memorable learning experience at Cheakamus Centre. Joining Conor AKA "Steelhead" and the rest of the core team are new and returning staff members who are multi-talented and bring many years of experience and passion to their positions:

Alex Arboleda

Cultural Program Coordinator

Alex has a strong foundation of knowledge related to local Indigenous history and customs, which he loves sharing with others. Alex enjoys working with people of all ages and believes strongly in educating today's youth in Indigenous cultural practices and values. Alex earned a degree in Archaeology, with a focus on First Nation studies, from Simon Fraser University. Alex brings several years of work experience in customer service and outdoor settings, which includes working as a Nature Guide and Supervisor at Capilano Suspension Bridge. Most recently, Alex worked at the BC Sports Hall of Fame as a research coordinator. This role involved working with many Indigenous athletes and communities to help build the knowledge used in their new Indigenous Sports Gallery. Alex is excited to join the Cheakamus team for a second year and to continue sharing his passion.

Mya Bordeau

Cultural Education Facilitator

Mya was very excited to join Cheakamus Centre last fall as a Cultural Education Facilitator. Last past summer, Mya participated in an intensive four-week Indigenous Youth Cultural Interpreter summer training program held at Cheakamus Centre. She developed many instructional skills through this program and is elated to be able to provide interpretation to students and adults alike. Mya’s Skwxwú7mesh Nation background and knowledge in traditional dancing, drumming, singing, cedar weaving, and other traditional teachings will provide a unique experience for students and guests that visit Cheakamus Centre. Mya has previous experience working as a youth leader for the spring break camp at the Chief Joe Mathias Center and is looking forward to sharing her obtained knowledge; but also feels fortunate to be able to increase and advance her skills as she continues this journey.

Marissa Carlberg

Field School Program Leader

Marissa is thrilled to continue working with the very talented program team at Cheakamus Centre as a Field School Program Leaders. She brings with her an extensive knowledge in guiding in both hiking and star-gazing in New Zealand; in addition to her previous work experience as a snowshoe guide for Whistler Blackcomb Snowmobile. Marissa’s previous work experience as a Counsellor Supervisor and Day Camp Program Coordinator at the YMCA Camp Pine Crest will prove invaluable in her new leadership role at Cheakamus Centre.

Marissa really enjoys exploring nature and expanding her knowledge of the wildlife found in our forests. She hopes that her compassion and positivity will provide a memorable experience for all who visit Cheakamus Centre. She expects to help those she works with see the value in the natural world and guide them in making meaningful connections with not only their peers, but with life outdoors as well. She is excited to inspire students and spark their curiosity, while allowing them to share their voice. Marissa’s ability to identify an individual’s strength, and her capacity to encourage them to lean into those strengths and build confidence in outdoor environments, will all contribute in providing a positive experience for all who visit Cheakamus Centre.

Rosie "Alpine" Dyer

Teacher

Rosie is native to Great Britain and emigrated to Canada in 2012. Since that time, Rosie has followed her passion for the outdoors in roles that encompass; snowshoe guiding, teaching for a forest school and instructing the Wilderness Program at Mount Seymour. In these roles, she was introduced to both experiential and emergent learning. As a life long learner, Rosie went on to complete her teacher training with a minor in Environmental Education, and is currently studying her masters in Nature Based and Place Conscious Practices, both through Simon Fraser University. Rosie has a passion for adventure, and an aspiration to facilitate connections with the natural world in children. When she isn't teaching, you will find Rosie hiking, kayaking, canoeing and snowboarding. Rosie's teaching practices are rooted in Indigenous ways of knowing, and place-based practices.

Erica "Tundra" Ellis

Program Support Specialist

Erica earned a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours in Natural Resources Conservation from the University of British Columbia. Her professional experience includes working as an education guide at the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish, and in a supervisory role with Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver. Erica has detailed knowledge of the region’s flora and fauna, and proven experience in leading and mentoring youth. Erica is a life-long learner and is looking forward to sharing her passion for the natural world with visiting students and teachers.

LJ Fiorita

Environment Education and Leadership Intern (EELI)

Born and raised in the Montana Rockies, LJ has known and loved the outdoors for many years. Her passion for environmental issues led her to complete a bachelor's degree in Global Environmental Systems at Simon Fraser University, and her interest in the field lies in knowledge systems, youth engagement, personal growth, and environmental art. LJ's experience with youth has been spent teaching art classes at Laura Secord Elementary, assisting outdoor excursions with Soaring Eagle Nature School, and coaching ski racing for 4 years with the Discovery Ski Team. She is looking forward to becoming a part of the Cheakamus Centre family, being a positive influence for youth, and lending her creative knowledge to the environmental stewardship programs. LJ believes it is always important to play, which she does by highlining, slacklining, doing acro yoga, skiing, creating art, and dancing.

Emma Frank

Cultural Education Facilitator

Emma was a participant of the 2019 Indigenous Youth Summer Leadership Program at Cheakamus Centre. Through this experience, Emma strengthened her confidence and leadership skills, as well as her ability to be a knowledgeable and supportive role model. Emma’s previous involvement in the Aboriginal Eco-tourism Training Program at Vancouver Island University/North Island College and the Aboriginal Youth Ambassador Training Program at the Squamish Lil'Wat Cultural centre will prove invaluable in her new role at Cultural Education Facilitator for Cheakamus Centre. Her experiential knowledge, strong interpersonal and communication skills, plus her deep interest for sharing her culture will benefit and support an already strong cultural programming team at Cheakamus Centre. She is so looking forward to an incredible year ahead!

Nicolette "Wander" Gagnon

Environmental Program Coordinator

Nicolette is elated to be joining the programming team at Cheakamus Centre! She earned a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science, with a focus on ecosystems at the University of New Hampshire. She has spent much of the last eight years moving between the West Coast and East Coast of the United States eagerly learning as much as possible about the natural world. Her outdoor and experiential education experience varies from trip leading in the White Mountains of New Hampshire to teaching about waterbirds in California. In her previous position, Nicolette was the Assistant Director at the University of Maine 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond. She is so thrilled to share her passion for the outdoors and support the vital student experiences that happen daily at Cheakamus Centre. When not working, Nicolette enjoys trail running with her dog, rock climbing, baking, and wandering in the forest with her plant ID book.

Alice Tsawaysia Spukwus Guss

Cultural Education Facilitator

We are thrilled to have Alice “Tsawaysia Spukwus” join us for another year of programming at the longhouse. Alice is masterful at bringing innovative learning opportunities to all people through workshops, drumming, singing, dancing and storytelling. She is a member of the Squamish First Nation and is actively involved in the preservation of her language, culture and heritage. Alice brings over twenty years of education experience in First Nations communities as a director of education and an employment coordinator, and as an instructor of traditional arts and crafts. She is an avid participant in healing Tribal Journeys, and co-produced several documentaries including Squamish Nation: Stories from the Heart, Tribal Journeys, and Riding with the First Nation’s Snowboard Team . During the 2010 Olympics she coordinated her family’s sea-going canoe display, Pekultn, in honour of her father. Alice is learning something new everyday and keen to share her knowledge with visiting students, teachers, and parents, to continue to have a positive impact.

Harriet "Skye" Haines

Program Leader

Harriet earned a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours in Sport and Exercise Science at Leeds Metropolitan University, in England. She enrolled in elective courses in outdoor education and outdoor adventure activities where a love for outdoor education was inspired through designing and teaching programs in the forest to visiting school children. She has also gained experience leading physical exercise and outdoor activities in a variety of different schools across South West London, as well as led and organized whole-school sports days which included training and coordinating 15 sports leader volunteers from the neighbouring high school. In her returning role as Program Leader for Cheakamus Centre, Harriet hopes to consistently provide a warm, welcoming approach and quickly build positive relationships with students and visitors to ensure their needs are catered for and that their experience is seamless, meaningful and memorable. Harriet is a life-long learner and is looking forward to sharing a love and appreciation for the outdoors/being in nature.

Sam Hoar

Head Counsellor Intern

Sam is excited to be back at Cheakamus Centre to expand on the knowledge and experience he earned as a High School Counsellor for the Outdoor School (ODS) program. Currently, Sam is working at Mr. Pets where he has been learning a lot about animals (which he loves), all while developing his customer service and interpersonal skills.

Sam is very familiar with the ODS program and can assist counsellors, students and guests in providing them with the information and guidance they require. Sam is so looking forward to continuing to build his confidence and leadership skills by taking on new challenges and to become a mentor for other counsellors and youth. He aspires to become a teacher in the future and knows that this experience will get him closer to his dream!

Matt "Rapid" Houston

Program Manager

Matt has worked in the field of outdoor education for over a decade and brings experience from several different organizations. Matt began working primarily in adventure education and progressed to leading expeditions throughout Canada and internationally. Previous work experience includes: YMCA Camps, NOLS, Outward Bound, the Outdoor Education Group and Boreal River. Prior to joining the Cheakamus team, Matt was the Director of Outdoor Education at YMCA Camp Pine Crest in Ontario. Matt's education includes a BSc. in Environmental Science and an MES. in Nature Based Recreation and Tourism. When not at the centre, Matt spends as much time as possible climbing and kayaking in the Sea to Sky corridor. Matt is thrilled to be continuing his role as Program Manager for Cheakamus Centre and looks forward to helping facilitate valuable experiences for everyone that visits the site.

Heidi "Glacier" Lessman Simm

Teacher

Heidi is thrilled to join the Cheakamus Centre Outdoor School program for a third year as a Teacher. Heidi completed her degree in Geography and Natural Resource Management at the University of Northern BC and started her career working with BC Parks and Water Resources. She was introduced to teaching experiential, environmental and outdoor education in New Zealand and the Yukon Territory. These experiences as a teacher were transformative and she has worked with a variety of schools and experiential education programs in BC ever since. Heidi has worked with programs such as the Sea to Sky School for Sustainability Education, the Explore Program at Collingwood School and the Sea to Sky School District. She has also designed and delivered Zero Waste and Sustainability Workshops in the Squamish to Lillooet Region for several years. Heidi recently completed Mindfulness for Educators Training. She believes that spending time in nature is a perfect classroom for mindfulness. When Heidi is not teaching she enjoys spending time in the forest or by the ocean with family and friends.

Aura Ses’emay Lewis

Cultural Support Worker

Aura is excited to be back for another year to support the cultural programs at the longhouse. Aura has a genuine artistic talent, including over ten years experience with wool, and more recently experimenting using plants for Indigenous dyeing techniques with the students . A lifelong learner, she loves sharing with others her knowledge of native wild edible and medicinal plants. She is extremely grateful to have learned from Local Elders and educators about the uses of plant species specific to Paradise Valley, where Cheakamus Centre resides. She is honoured to carry the nickname Ses’emay, which means "bee" in the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) language - it reminds her to help spread traditional knowledge with purpose and gentleness.

Aura is a member of the Métis Nation and is of Cree and Otipemisiwak descent. She is committed to supporting inclusive, authentic, and joyful learning experiences for all students, and helping to instill a deeper understanding and respect for First Nation culture. In addition to her work at the longhouse, Aura contributes in other experiential learning areas; most recently, coordinating the student gardens and the new Cheakamus Centre Farm-to-Plate program. Aura's previous work experience includes leading multi-day hiking, camping and canoeing trips for the YMCA. Aura resides on property with her husband, two young daughters, a dog, and the occasional transient bear.

Emily McDermott

Field School Program Leader

Emily is excited to share her love and knowledge of the natural world with students and visitors of all ages. Emily brings with her a variety of outdoor education knowledge. Her previous experience includes working as a Sea Kayak guide, Raft guide and Canoe Tripper.

Emily is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable leader with excellent communication and organizational skills. She is very keen to contribute and expand on her knowledge of First Peoples culture and history and learn more about farming practices and hatchery procedures at Cheakamus Centre. She is confident that her adoration of nature and the outdoors will encourage a love and respect of the environment to everyone that she works with in her role as Field School Program Leader for Cheakamus Centre.

Teresa "Granite" Rowley

Teacher

We are delighted to welcome back Teresa for a fourth year on the program team. Teresa brings with her a strong background in outdoor experiential and environmental education. She has worked with a diverse group of learners in a variety of education settings beyond the classroom, including outdoor school, day and residential camp programs, wilderness trips, local field studies, and service learning with community organizations. Teresa holds a Masters degree in Environmental Education and Communication, and specializes in curriculum integration. Prior to joining Cheakamus Centre, Teresa most recently served as the department head of the TREK Outdoor Education Program at the Vancouver School Board. Before that, Teresa was a teacher in the Explore program at Collingwood Independent School, camp director at Camp Madawaska, and mountaineering instructor at Outward Bound Canada. Teresa has lived in the Sea to Sky Corridor for over three decades. Her childhood experiences exploring the temperate rainforest and waters of Howe Sound continue to inspire her work today.

Cassandra "Cascade" Storey

Program Administrative Coordinator

Cassandra earned a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources Conservation from the University of British Columbia. Her professional experience includes working as a community engagement coordinator with Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society, and as an aquatic research technician for Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Cassandra brings to her role proven leadership experience in mentoring volunteers and interns, and building strong community relationships.Cassandra is looking forward to using her stellar communications and organizational skills to assist teachers in pre-visit preparation to ensure a seamless and memorable education experience for visiting students and teachers alike. Cassandra is an outdoor enthusiast and can also be found out in the field helping with program delivery, or spending her spare time with the goats, salmon, and other wildlife that call Cheakamus home.

Riley Tait

Counsellor Supervisor

Riley’s past employment experience includes working as an Experiential Learning Coordinator, where he created a dynamic portfolio of programming that ran at various therapeutic group homes throughout the arctic. He also worked as a Residential Care Worker at Wendigo Lake Expeditions, where he provided direct service programming in the intensive therapeutic and behaviour management program; in addition to leading wilderness expeditions and facilitating daily life skills programming. The skills that Riley acquired through these experiences will prove to be an asset in his new role as Counsellor Supervisor for Cheakamus Centre. He is looking forward to implementing the extensive knowledge of safety protocols he has attained and add to those currently in place. He has a positive ‘can do’ attitude towards any task, and as an active listener, he will be flexible and patient with the needs of the counsellors to ensure they are able to provide the best possible experience to students. Riley is thrilled to be joining the Cheakamus Centre team, and can’t wait to learn how an education facility is run – especially from one that specializes and is a leader in it!

Natasha "Mountain" Way

Program Support Specialist

Natasha has extensive experience working in outdoor education and was thrilled to join the Cheakamus Centre programming team in the position of Program Support Specialist. Natasha’s previous work experience as an instructor and guide, include working for North Cascades Institute, The Adventure Group and Stewardship Pemberton Society. In her new role at Cheakamus Centre, Natasha’s knowledge in teaching children in an outdoor setting, as well as local species of flora and fauna, will prove invaluable in providing an unforgettable and positive experience for students and visitors.

Matthew Williams

Cultural Education Facilitator

Matthew Williams has spent much of his childhood at the longhouse at Cheakamus Centre, supporting and teaching the Skw’une-was program since the age of 13. His grandmother, Keek-yik (Ann Billy) first introduced him to Skwxwú7mesh teaching methods and guided him in the development of his practice by learning directly from family members. In addition to his on-going contributions to provide outstanding indigenous cultural education at Cheakamus Centre, Siýám ken was also a key member of the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre project and provided cultural interpretation mentoring to Aboriginal Youth Ambassadors in preparation for the 2010 Olympics. Leading by example, Siýám ken shares singing, drumming, fishing, woodworking, cedar weaving and ancestral language skills with thousands of students ensuring the continuity of these practices and inspiring others to learn more. Siýám ken is an avid road cycler, music curator, and is on the path to become a fluent Skwxwú7mesh language speaker.


Henry Williams

Cultural Education Facilitator

Henry Williams is a key member of the Skw’une-was instructional team. He brings a wealth of knowledge related the history and practices of Skwxwú7mesh people; including a deep understanding of the geography of the region. In addition to teaching activities here at the Cheakamus Centre, Khapquolanogh contributes to archeological, mapping, and historical projects for Skwxwú7mesh Nation in collaboration with a range of post-secondary institutions. His family has lived in this area for centuries and Khapquolanogh frequently shares information about points of significance and family markers. He is a proud father and grandfather who demonstrates through his actions that a life-long commitment to learning, leadership, and community-building has the power to transform and shape a better understanding of the importance of indigenous knowledges. When relaxing, Khapquolanogh is likely to be volunteering at one of a number of organizations he contributes his time and energy to or spending time outdoors.