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:

Laura "Sunshine" Eckert

Field School Program Leader

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Laura has just completed the role of Environmental Education Leadership Intern (EELI) at Cheakamus Centre and thoroughly enjoyed her time. In her role as EELI, Laura was responsible for providing support to high school counsellors, visiting teachers and the Outdoor School program staff. She has now accepted the position of Field School Program Leader at Cheakamus Centre, and excited to get started. Laura holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Guelph, and brings a love of outdoor education to her role. Previously, Laura was a volunteer teacher for children and youth at Timmins Therapeutic Riding Association and the Ptarmigan Nordic Ski Club. Laura has a passion for developing leadership and responsibility in young people, and connecting youth to nature, community and each other. Her lifelong goal is to make a positive impact on the lives of others.

Erica "Tundra" Ellis

Environmental Program Coordinator

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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.

Alice Tsawaysia Spukwus Guss

Cultural Program Staff

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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.

Sabina "Salal" Hamilton

Program Leader

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Sabina brings a passion for nature and science to her role. Most recently, Sabina was a program assistant at YMCA-YWCA of Vancouver Island Outdoor Centre and Camp Thunderbird. Prior to that, she was a sea kayak guide at Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures. Currently, Sabina is completing a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences at Quest University Canada in Squamish, where she is also a member of the campus emergency services team. Sabina is looking forward to sharing her passion for experiential learning, and to ensuring all students and visitors feel welcome, safe and engaged in nature during their stay.

Matt Houston

Program Manager

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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 have joined the Cheakamus team as the new Program Manager and looks forward to helping facilitate valuable experiences for everyone that visits the site.

Sarah Davidson-James

Cultural Program Coordinator

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Sarah is the newest addition to the Cheakamus Centre programs team as Cultural Program Coordinator. Sarah's recent completion of the Adventure Management program at Thompson Rivers University led her to the position of Assistant Park Manager at Porteau Cove Provincial Park. Her previous experience with the YMCA Camp, as part of the Leadership Development team, provided her with invaluable skills working in a residential (overnight) leadership program environment, which advanced her coordination and development skills. Sarah's personal interest in natural history and her passion for inquiry-based and indigenous learning, make her a welcome addition to our program coordination team.

Heidi "Glacier" Lessman Simm

Teacher

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Heidi was thrilled to join the Outdoor School Program last year at Cheakamus Centre, and has returned for her second year. 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 Sesemay Lewis

Cultural Support Worker

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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 natural and Indigenous dyeing techniques. A lifelong learner, she loves sharing with others her growing knowledge of native wild edible and medicinal plants. Aura is committed to supporting inclusive, authentic, and joyful learning experiences for all students, and helping to instil a deeper understanding and respect for Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) 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 Farm-to-Plate program. Previously, Aura worked for the YMCA where she led multi-day hiking, camping and canoeing trips. Aura resides on property with her husband and two young daughters, a dog, two adopted rabbits and the occasional transient bear.

Temma “Poppy” Shandon

Counsellor Supervisor

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Temma is a familiar, friendly face at Cheakamus Centre. Temma is an avid volunteer and has held the roles of High School Counsellor, Counsellor Trainer and Environmental Education Leadership Assistant. She has also worked as a Camp Counsellor for Grouse Mountain Resort and the Paradise Valley Summer School of Visual Arts. Other volunteer experience includes School Program Assistant at the Lynn Valley Ecology Centre and Coach for the Carson Graham Improv. In her role as Counsellor Supervisor, Temma assists the program team with afternoon and evening programming, and acts as a mentor for youth volunteers. Temma’s goal is to carry on the lineage of fun and approachable senior counsellors that positively impacted her as a high school counsellor.

Cassandra "Cascade" Storey

Program Administrative Coordinator

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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.

Matthew Williams

Cultural Program Staff

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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 Program Staff

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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.