Meet Our Mentors

Our high school educators are caring and curious individuals with a deep understanding and expertise in their learning area. We refer to ourselves as SelfDesign high school mentors, rather than teachers. In this way, we put you at the centre of this learning journey, rather than the course content. We encourage communication and collaboration and we are intrinsically curious about your passions, interests, and how these could be incorporated into your course. This curiosity, matched with our understanding and experience of the learning content is a powerful combination with your learning at the heart.

We are dedicated to working alongside you on this learning journey and we are honoured to do so.

My SelfDesign mentors have given me the courage and inspiration to continue on with my studies after graduation.
SelfDesign learner

Introducing Our Mentors


Alison Talbot Kelly
(Mentors: Guiding Mentor 11, 12, BC First Nations 12, Peace Studies 11, World Religions 12, Big Ideas Social Justice 12)

Alison lives in Nelson, BC but loves to move to other cultures to observe and interact whenever possible. She also can’t sit still for long and loves being active outdoors and making things indoors. Alison has been embroiled in education for many years and for the last 8 has been part of the evolving school of Selfdesign as a mentor, administrator, education programming developer. Cultivating awareness, identifying questions and finding personal, creative ways to express understandings about the world around us is what lies at the heart of her relationships with learners.



Amber Santos
(Mentors: Street Art 12, Photography IDesign, Portuguese IDesign, German IDesign, Leadership 11- Surpass Youth Camp)

Amber Santos is an educator and artist who loves to dance and paint on the streets. Her formal education includes studying photography at Concordia University and Fine Arts at Universidade Estadual de Santa Catarina in Brazil. However, she considers her greatest university to have been the communities of Recife, Brazil, together with street educators and youth, transforming it in a positive way through art and community media.



Anita Levesque
(Mentors: IDesign Visual Arts)

Anita earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Drawing from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 2001. Her love for learning and education led her to Halifax where she studied towards her education degree with a focus in visual arts education. Anita has enjoyed her role with SelfDesign 10-12 since its earliest days. She has gleefully watched the high school offerings blossom within SelfDesign’s dynamic educational community. Anita feels a sense of pride and deep gratitude to be a part of SelfDesign’s growing community and to have found yet another home along the journey of life. Anita lives with her husband and two little ones, Opal and Leo and a rolly polly cat named Isabella.



Beth Heckkner
(Mentors: English 11 and 12, Physical Education 12)

Beth was born in Medicine Hat, Alberta to a large extended family of dedicated Educators. She has been passionate about literature, education and nature from a young age. She is excited to be engaged in these subjects not only as a mentor, but also as a mother of two small boys in Nelson, BC. She can often be found with her family at the Library and other community hubs, or on the mountain skiing, hiking, camping and simply relaxing and playing on the beach!  She balances a busy family and work schedule with a love for Yoga. She believes that every individual has a special gift to share with this world, and strives to create genuine, caring relationships that support learners to shine their special light!



D’Arcy Ziprick
(Mentors: Physics 11 and 12, Calculus 12, Foundations of Math 12, Pre-Calculus 12)

D’Arcy earned his Bachelors of Engineering at the University of Manitoba. He has been a physics, chemistry and math teacher at high school level since 2001. D’Arcy focuses his teaching on conceptual understanding of the material for a lifelong understanding. He was a professional engineer for 11 years prior to becoming a teacher and has extensive one-on-one tutoring experience at the university level.



Dan Spring
(Mentors: Geography 12, Writing 12)

Dan worked for twenty years as a journalist, performing poet, and short-story writer. He earned a bachelor’s of education degree from UBC and a bachelor’s of English degree with a minor in history and an interest in philosophy from the University of Waterloo. Dan expresses his love of teaching as a natural outgrowth of his love for people and learning. “I want learners to know that I am here for them whether they want to talk about course material or about their lives. I believe that our natural, happy state is one where we are learning about things we feel passionate about. Ideally, learning is an adventure into the landscape of knowledge that surrounds us everywhere.”



Dave Dawson
(Mentors: Apprenticeship and Workplace Math 11, Physics 11 and 12)

Dave teaches math and has since 2005.  He came to the teaching profession later in life and had a couple of successful careers before that, including but not limited to pastry chef and project manager.  He likes variety and learning new things by diving in head first, so he’s changed careers a number of times and the changes are usually pretty dramatic!  He views teaching as a way of giving back to the world community, sharing his love of learning and mathematics, and, hopefully, inspiring some young minds to view all of life’s challenges as juicy opportunities  – all we have to do is figure out how to unwrap them!


screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-11-36-49-amDavid Russell-Loewen
(Mentors: Guiding Mentor, IDesign and Independent Directed Studies) 
My personal lifestyle and learning
David likes to get involved in creative projects and collaborate with others. His creative inspiration is drawn from music, the great outdoors, and his loving family. David is always searching for new paths to explore and revelatory vistas to discover.David is passionate about mentoring self-authorship in learners as a guiding mentor and through IDesign courses as well as supporting a learning-by-doing approach in Independent Studies. As a mentor, David has been honoured to work with youth in community service, outdoor education, leadership retreats and expeditions all around the globe. David is drawn to the SelfDesign approaches to learning and the personalized, authentic and meaningful ways that build on learning and our relationships with each other across our learning community.
screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-11-36-57-amDiane Walters
(Mentors: Guiding Mentor, Graduation Transitions 12)Diane Walters is a trained Waldorf teacher who holds a BC Independent Schools Certificate and a Masters Degree in Liberal Arts with a focus on adolescent participatory learning styles. Diane has served in the area of Special (Support) Education since the age of 15; became a braillist at 18, holds level 3 Sign Language skills and lived in  two separate SE lifesharing communities in Ireland and PA for a total of 7 years. She writes SE Adaptations to all courses at Self Design High. She is committed to making education accessible and supportive of everyone as she believes we all have ‘special needs’ of some sort or another.

She has had a lifelong interest of geology, ecology, geography, astronomy, agriculture, education and the practical arts. Diane’s 30 year relationship with stone and clay and metal is one she plans to share with SelfDesign High learners and community members.



Heather Keczan
(Mentors: Guiding Mentor, Comparative Civilizations 12)

Heather enjoys spending time in the kitchen and especially the garden with her young family. She studied history and human rights at Carleton University then went onto study education at the University of Toronto. When she moved to Nelson, BC, she knew she wanted to be a part of SelfDesign’s high school. She is particularly interested in social justice and permaculture and wants to one day become an organic farmer.



Jennifer Cooper
(Mentors: Guiding Mentor, Physical Education 11 and 12)

Jen’s life is centered around her young family, as well as enjoying all the activities that the sunny Okanagan has to offer. Her education and experience is in P.E., English and Social Studies. Jen’s competitive nature has lead her through many aspects of her life; she now finds herself competing in triathlons and is enjoying teaching her son and daughter to walk, run, bike, ski, and swim. She appreciates that every learner comes from a different place in their lives and believes they all deserve to succeed.


JohnJohn Lydon
(Mentors: BC First Nations 12, Communications 12, English 11 and 12, Peace Studies 11)

John earned his B.A. in English Literature and Psychology at the University of Victoria, and has diplomas in TOEFL, Adult and Continuing Education. Currently he is completing his Masters of Arts in Learning and Technology at Royal Roads University. With 15 years of experience teaching English as a Second Language, John brings a wealth of skills and knowledge in helping international learners succeed. Having studied French in Quebec, where he lived for two years, and Spanish in Latin America, where he worked, John understands the challenges involved studying and living in another culture. His long experience with Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Brazilian and other English language students has given him an appreciation of their particular challenges with English. While focusing on teaching needed skills, John strives to build a supportive environment that motivates individual learners.


LisaLisa Walwork
(Mentors: Guiding Mentor, Physical Education 11, Biology 11)

After completing her Bachelor’s degrees in Human Kinetics and Education in 1994, Lisa spent 20+ years teaching both locally and internationally. She now lives with her family in Courtenay, British Columbia; an excellent place to satisfy her need to be outdoors – hiking, skiing and beachcombing among other things. Lisa continues to love education as there is always more to explore even when you think you have discovered it all. Everybody and everything is unique and fascinating – every journey different!


MalcolmMalcolm Coupe
(Mentors: Biology 12, Chemistry 12)

Malcolm was born in Burnaby, British Columbia, into a family that values experiences in nature and the outdoors. Originally trained in biology, he started his career in research, especially into bird behaviour and community ecology. A desire for adventure and spreading his love of science inspired him to enter education.  His first teaching posts were with his wife in the far north, where he learned to meld experience on the land with learning in the classroom. A move to Smithers in 2013 motivated him to make another change, of branching into online learning with Self Design. In his spare time, he enjoys skiing, hiking, and (sometimes) writing poetry. Malcolm lives in Smithers, BC with his two children.


Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 9.44.41 AMMark McGivern
(Mentors: Social Studies 11, CoDesign 11, Comparative Civilizations 12, Philosophy 12)

Mark was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, into a family of five siblings. He has taught English as a Second Language for over 15 years in Nicaragua, Japan, and the Middle East with learners of varying ages and capacities including refugees in Toronto who were victims of torture. Mark has taught all levels of students from beginners to those requiring improved academic writing.

In 2002 Mark became a Waldorf teacher in Nelson BC. He taught grades 5 to 8 for 6 years. In 2008 he joined SelfDesign High and has since been active in Socials, Philosophy and has developed and launched the Democracy and Society CoDesign program.

Mark enjoys biking and kayaking in the summer, and snowshoeing in the winter.


screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-11-38-01-amMegan Allen
(Mentors: Guiding Mentor)

Megan spoke French as a child, but after moving to Victoria she had forgotten what she had learned. A cultural exchange to Quebec and Africa as a teenager, revitalized her love of French and expanded her knowledge of both French and Arabic. Megan has since studied Arabic culture at the University of Montreal and travelled to Paris for a month for work as an engineer. Now with over 20 years speaking French, Megan is passionate about the rich, bold French culture that is found all over the world.


MichaelMichael Bender
(Mentors: Independent Studies, IDesign Music, Guiding Mentor)

Michael was born in the U.S. and taught in Texas, Virginia and California before moving to BC and working with SelfDesign. He earned an degree in Social Work and a masters in Education. Michael now lives in Ladysmith and works with SelfDesign Global as well as SelfDesign High as a Guiding Mentor and IDS coordinator. His passions are experiencing a living history, writing music, playing guitar, online community building and games of all kinds. Michael is also the Lead Educator for the SelfDesign Minecraft Project and embraces his inner geek.


MiguelMiguel Rodriguez
(Mentors: Guiding Mentor, Peace Studies 11, Philosophy 12, Psychology 11 and 12, Spanish 11)

Born in Madrid, Spain, Miguel found that his passion for studying went beyond what conventional academic settings could offer. He unknowingly started on a path of independent scholarship that pushed him towards the main fields of the humanities: religion, philosophy, literature, theology, political theory, history, law. He has written many books (in Spanish), two of which have been published: on the relationship between poetry and philosophy, and on the history of Buddhist philosophy. He has translated two books of political theory into English (with the University Press of America), and plans to soon self-publish his poetry in ten small volumes.


PatriciaPatricia Collins
(Mentors: Earth Science 11, Biology 11 and 12)

After studying Earth Science at UBC and working as a research technician in the beautiful British Columbia backcountry for organizations such as the Canadian Wildlife service and Ducks Unlimited Canada, Patricia left the back-packing life to pursue a second degree in teaching. Subsequent to working in alternate education for several years she completed a Master’s in Educational Technology from UBC. Her hope was to explore and understand the phenomenal impact of networked technologies, gaming and social media constructs on our traditional education practices. Presently, she lives on the southern shores of Okanagan lake in the traditional territories of the Syilx people. Her household includes; a super duty handy-man, a lovely 10 year old lab, and a beautiful and active 6 month old retriever Ohm. If you can’t find her at the beach or in the garden, she’ll be reading or knitting in the sunshine. Some of her most favorite recent reads include Boyden’s “Three Day Road” and Wagamese’s “A Quality of Light”.


BeckyRebecca (Becky) Kay
(Mentors: Foundations of Math 11, Apprenticeship and Workplace Math 11, Calculus 12, Foundations of Math 12, Pre-Calculus 11 and 12)

Trained as a Math teacher in England, Becky taught in London before she moved back to Canada in 2008 to put down roots on Vancouver Island. Since then, she has been teaching in the Nanaimo/Ladysmith school district. Though originally from Alberta, Becky has always been drawn to the ocean and the outdoor lifestyle of the west coast. As part of that lifestyle, she and her family spend as much time as possible in the great outdoors. If they are not camping and hiking, then they can be found tending their giant veggie patch. Having a young family has given Becky the opportunity to see the world through her children’s eyes and has shown her that every experience in life is an occasion to learn and to have fun!


SarahSarah Bresnahan
(Mentors: Biology 11, Physical Education 11)

Sarah’s career has involved numerous projects in environmental experiential education. She has worked in the outdoor leadership field for many years guiding canoe and kayak trips, as well as exploring nature with youth of all ages. Sarah is an outdoor enthusiast and likes to stay active, whether it’s paddling, biking, climbing, skiing, sailing or running on the trails around Nelson. She enjoys teaching weekly yoga classes to balance out all of the activity. Sarah brings her deep love of learning and sensitivity of different learning styles to her work with learners.


SheilaSheila Harrington
(Mentors: Guiding Mentor, English 11 and 12, Visual Arts 12 Big Ideas Workshop)

Sheila has degrees in both Fine Arts and Education. She has taught junior and senior high school students English, Art, and Theatre. She has also worked as a set designer and props person professionally on several films and theatre productions. She has edited and written several books including (The Islands in the Salish Sea, and Giving the Land a Voice). Her real love is communicating about the importance of nature and helping young people effectively communicate their dreams, wishes, ideas and artistic visions.


TravisTravis Webber
(Mentors: Guiding Mentor, Apprenticeship and Workplace Math 11, Pre-Calculus 11, Social Studies 11)

Travis graduated from Vancouver Island University with Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Arts degrees. Travis knows what it is like to struggle to find one’s place in the world. He is deeply grateful for the assistance he received from teachers and youth workers throughout his life, and attributes where is is today to this loving support. Consequently, Travis feels that it is his calling to help children and teens develop their skills so that they may contribute to the world with a positive attitude and a strong toolbox that will help them prosper into adulthood. “Every day is special because I have been given the gift of helping young people move forward with their lives. Best job ever? I think so.”


VanessaVanessa Kuran
(Mentors: Physical Education 11 and 12)

Vanessa is a trained Physical Education teacher and has been teaching PE for the since 2006 at the Nelson Waldorf School. Her love for the outdoors and active living are a good fit for her life in Nelson. Together with her partner, daughter, and two big dogs, Vanessa can be found swimming or paddling in the lake, building things like tree forts and chicken coops, riding her bike, or hiking and skiing the trails close to her house. Vanessa feels that each and every experience we encounter, whether it is a person, a fear, a new situation, is a deep and rich opportunity for learning.