Leading by example
The SelfDesign® Learning Foundation is led by a passionate Board of Directors and Leadership Team who strive to make a difference in the lives of our learners and families.
Our board of directors
Devon has a long and varied history with SelfDesign. He is an alumni of the Wondertree and Virtual High programs (predecessors to SelfDesign) and has roots in natural learning principles and practices.
Devon brings 25 years of experience in software development – a curiosity first discovered at Wondertree, which continued into a career. Devon is passionate about the intensifying confluence of knowledge, technology and culture that is opening so many directions in learning.
David Tait is a professor emeritus from the Faculty of Forestry at UBC where he teaches systems theory, computer technology and statistics. He has been affiliated with SelfDesign for almost 25 years — first as a father to a learner in Virtual High, and then serving as a board member 20 years ago and again four years ago.
At an early age, David lucked into being attracted to the ‘aha’ experience and he nurtured this ‘addiction’ into a passion for math. He was able to capitalize the skills of abstracting, puzzle solving and reflecting into the domain of systems analysis —which later led to his academic career at UBC. According to David, the simplest way to summarize his experience would be to describe himself is as “a grandfather” which gives him three generations of experience with ‘just growing up’.
Ken Banister joins the SelfDesign Board of Directors inspired by the difference SelfDesign makes in the lives and learning of kids who don’t thrive in traditional school settings. He cites the experience of one of his own children who thrived once in university and able to direct their own learning.
Ken is a retired Senior Advisor for the Alberta Energy Regulator and Indian Oil and Gas Canada. With decades of regulatory and overall work experience, and a master’s degree in Science in Environment and Management from Royal Roads University, he has also guided the development and review of environmental curriculums at Royal Roads and Mount Royal universities and delivered in-class education. In addition to providing governance and oversight to SelfDesign, Ken is developing a program for young professionals about how complex dynamic systems relate to the workforce and the tools that can be used to manage the day-to-day complexity of today’s work lives.
He also loves to read, cycle, golf and travel.
Enid Elliot has known about SelfDesign for more than 30 years and used to discuss the ideas behind SelfDesign’s approach to learning with SelfDesign’s late-founder Brent Cameron. Her interest in education runs deep: Enid has a PhD in Early Childhood Education and teaches at Camosun College and the University of Victoria. She was involved in creating the Sooke School District’s Nature Kindergarten, which opened in September 2012. For four years there, she spent part of every week learning and listening with the school’s children and educators outside and gathering the educators’ stories. Her current research concerns the teaching practice that emerges as educators and children explore and engage deeply with all layers of the landscape found outdoors.
She has also served on the board of directors of several youth- and child-oriented organizations, including Artemis Place, where she collaborated on the creation of the infant and toddler program.
To relax, Enid knits, works with clay, and walks and hikes. She is also a morris dancer.
Suzanne Weckend brings 19 years of experience as a teacher in both the public system and independent schools and a Master of Arts in Leadership from Royal Roads University to her role on the Board of Directors. “Anytime learners are given voice and choice, their engagement levels are higher,” she says, “which brings about so much more reward and pride throughout the learning process. I see SelfDesign as a place that is deeply grounded in learner voice and choice.”
In addition to her education career with the Greater Victoria School District, at St. George’s School, in Vancouver, and now at St. Michaels University School, in Victoria, Suzanne competed for Canada at both the Commonwealth Games and World Championships in the sports of swimming and triathlon. She has sat on the board of Triathlon Canada, Commonwealth Games Canada, AthletesCAN, Commonwealth Games Federation, and the Pacific Institute of Sport Excellence. She runs daily and loves spending time exploring with her family, through whom, she says, she sees so much more in the world.
Verena was born and raised in North Vancouver, BC and feels most at home when nestled between the ocean and the mountains. In 2002, she began her work with Wondertree Learning Centre, first as an educator, then as vice-principal. Verena’s Masters of Arts in Integrated Studies allowed her to weave teachings from Indigenous knowledge, self-directed learning and living inquiry into her practice. Verena lives on Haida Gwaii with her husband and two daughters, where she is a Principal with School District 50.
SelfDesign Learning Foundation is governed by a volunteer board of directors consisting of up to 11 elected directors. They’re responsible for providing strategic support and expertise to ensure the continuity of the vision, legacy, and succession of leadership for SelfDesign Learning Foundation.
Our foundation leadership team
Amber first joined SelfDesign Learning Foundation in January 2017. She is passionate about providing overall leadership and oversight to the organization’s programs.
What she loves most about her position at SelfDesign Learning Foundation are the people she works with and the fact that our community is one of the most dedicated, resilient and heartfelt group of people she could hope to work with.
When she looks back on her career and her time with SelfDesign Learning Foundation, her biggest achievements have always involved making a positive difference in other people’s lives and working as a not-for-profit leader allows her to do that everyday.
When Amber isn’t at work, she loves spending time with her family and friends, cycling, hiking, travelling, and she loves to run – having completed eight marathons, including the Boston Marathon in 2014.
Sandy is responsible for ensuring the Foundation and its programs operate effectively. She sees her role as one of supporting SelfDesign contractors to work with learners and families, and removing any challenges or obstacles that prevent that.
Sandy is passionate about helping young people achieve the work-life future they want for themselves. She feels fortunate to have built a career creating successful transition pathways for high school students and young people to employment and/or post-secondary education and training primarily in resource-based industries and the trades. She also helps employers hire and develop workers based on what they can do (rather than what their credentials say they can do) and where their interests are aligned.
What attracted Sandy to SelfDesign was the organization’s learning model, its inclusivity and the potential it offers to learners and families. She appreciates being part of a team that is supporting and growing the organization not just to prepare children to live but to thrive in the world. Sandy is continually impressed with the integrity and commitment of the people who work at SelfDesign; it’s one of the things she loves most about the organization.
Outside of her work with SelfDesign, Sandy enjoys spending time with her family, including supporting her daughter as she currently transitions through university and into a career. She also loves to walk, cycle and travel.
Dave comes from a security background and has been consulting to global clients since 2001. He develops, maintains and oversees the operations of information, IT services and security to ensure the effective, efficient support to all the clients and programs of SelfDesign Learning Foundation, and leads a team of eight people.
After many years of consulting in various parts of the world, including five years of living in Africa, Dave’s mentality for learning, interactions and success was greatly impacted. Dave discovered SelfDesign Learning Foundation upon returning to Canada in August 2016. SelfDesign program offerings resonated with Dave’s ethics and viewpoints and he was thrilled to join the organization.
What Dave loves most about his position at SelfDesign is the fact that he has the opportunity to redefine how learning is presented away from the traditional “memorize, repeat, succeed” learning models.
When Dave isn’t busy saving the world on his computer, he’s interested in all forms of fermentation, long distance bicycle touring, marine aquaria and music composition.
Karen joined SelfDesign in 2017 after being attracted to SelfDesign as an organization aligned with her personal values as well as her knowledge, skills and interest in developing and leading integrated and impactful communications for a mission-focused, multi-stakeholder organization.
Karen directs and oversees all external and internal communications including communications planning and implementation, internal communications, marketing, social media and website management, and so much more.
In her time at SelfDesign, Karen has developed and implemented a new brand across the organization, developed and directed a basement to attic renovation of the communications infrastructure, policies, procedures, guidelines and internal communications vehicles.
What Karen loves most about being a SelfDesign contractor are the people and purpose of the organization. It is very rewarding for her to be part of an organization that offers a unique, inclusive and personalized learning experience for thousands of learners every year with a team of dedicated and passionate individuals who care deeply about what they do.
Outside of her work at SelfDesign, Karen enjoys attending music festivals and concerts and is the founder and volunteer executive director of the Fort Langley Jazz & Arts Festival, a non-profit organization with a mandate to bring jazz music and visual art to the community through the annual two-day festival. She also enjoys spending time with family and friends and enjoying everything the Fraser Valley has to offer, including walking trails, cafes, art galleries, farmers markets and wineries.
Nikki Kenyon is the Principal of SelfDesign Learning Community and provides support and opportunities for learners to engage in their personalized learning journeys.
Nikki has worked with SelfDesign since 2007 in a variety of capacities from learning consultant in SelfDesign’s kindergarten to Grade 9 program, in SelfDesign’s support services as well as other educational leadership roles. Her four children have been in SelfDesign as long as she has as well!
In her time at SelfDesign, Nikki has worked with nearly 100 learners, contributed to the SelfDesign Learning Experiences Library, worked towards building an inclusive K-12 program and has shifted grades 10 to 12 to align with the Ministry’s new curriculum and SelfDesign’s model and philosophy.
What Nikki loves most about SelfDesign are the learners. She feels incredibly joyful and hopeful that she gets the opportunity to witness the remarkable learners’ journeys and hear their stories. Nikki also loves the passionate people she works with – the parents, educators, administrators and all those supporting learners to live, love, learn and grow.
Outside of work, Nikki loves spending time with her four kids and her husband, as well as building furniture, reading fiction, riding her bike (fast) and spending time with friends.
Debra joined the SelfDesign Learning Foundation in 2019 and manages the organization’s finances. She ensures accurate and timely tracking of all expenditures, grant funding from the Ministry of Education, and compliance with regulatory and filing requirements. She also prepares the organization’s financial statements and budgets, and manages its cash and banking arrangements.
Introduced to SelfDesign by a colleague, Debra says it took only a few meetings with SelfDesign’s leadership team to hook her. She has some experience in online education and raised a son who struggled through the public school system. He’s now a teacher, but, Debra says, “He would have benefited tremendously from the SelfDesign learning program.” As a former director for the Learning Disability Association of BC, she is keenly interested in education methodologies that cater to individuals’ interests and abilities.
In her current role, Debra draws on past experience as a chief financial officer and in various other financial positions in big and small organizations. Her own chartered accounting practice served more than 300 clients and had five employees. She has been a key business advisor for over 10 years, and she has published a number of articles about business management.
She finds working with SelfDesign’s dedicated group of professionals enormously gratifying and feels privileged to work with a finance team so committed to creating better systems and processes for SelfDesign.
Debra is passionate about nature and the outdoors, and enjoys kayaking, cycling, skiing, yoga, and walks with her dog, Cora. She’s already been part of the Ride to Conquer Cancer twice, and plans to take part again in 2020. She also loves spending time with family and friends at her lakeside cottage.
Debra came to SelfDesign in 2008 after discovering and being drawn into the learner-centred philosophy of SelfDesign. Having her own less than satisfying school experience, Debra found this new approach to learning compelling and saw the potential for learners to cultivate a strong sense of self worth.
As the Director of Human Relations, Debra provides advice and direction regarding all aspects of the contracting process for SelfDesign and handles human relations matters of a confidential and sensitive nature.
Throughout her career, Debra has worked in organizations across a wide range of industries including legal, government, health care and education. Her focus for the past 20 years has been in the field of educational operations and leadership.
What Debra loves most about SelfDesign are the people and the creative environment. She loves being part of an organization that encourages learners to fully be themselves and enjoy the process of learning.
When River moved from Alaska to a small mountain town in Colorado in 2003, she had never heard of Wondertree, SelfDesign, or Brent Cameron (founder of SelfDesign Learning Foundation). By chance, she ended up finding work as a family advocate in a community-based educational program that Brent had helped design there. She met him during a visit and was impressed by his vision of learner-led, supported learning.
River was brought into SelfDesign in 2004 by Brent, with her initial task being to rewrite Brent’s SelfDesign book draft and help with its first publication. In 2004, she moved to British Columbia and became part of the leadership group, and she has remained in leadership ever since. River was also a parent in the SelfDesign Learning Community program for many years; her daughter is a SelfDesign graduate, appreciating where the program’s freedom to focus on her interests has taken her in young adulthood.
As the Director of Organizational Learning & Culture, River has been instrumental in holding the vision and philosophy of SelfDesign and sharing it with all SelfDesign Learning Foundation contractors, learners, families and more. She has also designed and conducted many Community Conversations within SelfDesign Learning Foundation to build knowledge and culture within our contractor community.
What River loves most about her position with SelfDesign Learning Foundation is the freedom to be creative and work enthusiastically in her own style. She appreciates the opportunities both to do solo activities and to engage in collaborative projects, and she values seeing her efforts contribute to the evolution of SelfDesign over time.
When River isn’t mentoring others about our values and philosophy, she can be found traveling, reading, and being physically
Our school leadership team
Catherine is one of two vice principals with the SelfDesign Learning Community.
Catherine began her work with SelfDesign in 2004 as a learning consultant and a support education learning consultant. She has