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Meet Urban Academy's Faculty and Staff

Urban Academy teachers are leaders in the education profession. Our diverse team is comprised of thinkers, innovators, movers and shakers. Their qualifications include all of the Ministry of Education requirements including undergraduate degrees in education, and many of our staff also hold graduate degrees in specialty areas of instruction. Our faculty are experts in their own realm, each using their unique expertise for mentorship and multi-disciplinary projects that constantly challenge the way students understand the world. Teachers who learn continuously, inspire students to do the same – and that is exactly how we work at Urban Academy.


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teaching tomorrow's leaders

Mrs. Aline Abrante
Associate Teacher

Mrs. Abrante holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Communication from Helio Alonso University, a Post Graduate Certificate in English, and a BC Independent School Teaching Certificate (English Language Arts). After running her own tutoring business in Brazil, she decided to move to Canada with her family to pursue a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Administration from Langara College. The Abrante Family fell in love with the West Coast and decided to stay! From a very early age, Mrs. Abrante would grab her dolls, a blackboard, and some chalk to play teacher and it quickly turned into her passion. She hopes her years of experience in a variety of teaching roles such as English as a Second Language, Education coordinator, and Special Needs Education Assistant can contribute to empowering UA students to take risks in order to achieve their potential.

Mrs. Brandie Cristales
Junior Kindergarten Teacher

Mrs. Cristales completed her Early Childhood Education and Infant Toddler Specialty through Burnaby College. She has been working in the field for 14 years, gaining experience in a variety of roles including preschool teacher, to operating her own licensed daycare and event childminding business. Inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach, Mrs. Cristales focuses on the development of the whole child. She views children as capable and follows their lead by providing an emergent curriculum full of inquiry and real experiences. When not teaching, Mrs. Cristales dedicates her time to volunteering as well enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and four children.

Mrs. Nadia Vassev
Junior Kindergarten Teacher

Mrs. Vassev has an Early Childhood Education diploma from the Burnaby College and a master’s degree in puppetry, and was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2013. Ms. Vassev shares her passion for children, nature and art to create a supportive and exciting environment that motivates learning through an emergent curriculum. Through her work, Mrs.Vassev hopes to foster a curiosity in her students, a sense of caring for themselves and others and a relationship with the natural world. In her free time, Mrs.Vassev enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, foraging, fermenting and living an active and healthy lifestyle.

Ms. Casey McKnight
Intermediate Teacher

Ms. McKnight (known to her students as Mademoiselle McKnight) earned a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in French, and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Victoria. Her decision to pursue teaching comes from her own passion for learning and her desire to make a positive impact on the lives of others. In her spare time, Ms. McKnight enjoys playing beach volleyball and spending quality time with her friends and family. She is passionate about bringing a sense of fun into her classes by developing creative and interactive lessons that awaken a curiosity and love of learning in her students.

Ms. Esther Kim
Middle Teacher

Ms. Kim graduated from Queen’s University, where she earned her Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Education, specializing in Intermediate/Senior Education. She then completed her Master of Education degree in Curriculum Studies at the University of Toronto. From Toronto, Ms. Kim moved to Vancouver in 2017. Ms. Kim strives to provide a safe, positive, and nurturing environment where each student can have the opportunity to experience success and progress, as well as building strong, meaningful relationships. During her free time, Ms. Kim enjoys reading, skiing, and hiking.

Mrs. Sara McBride
Primary Teacher

Mrs. McBride has a Sport Science Diploma and a Bachelors of Physical Education and Coaching from Douglas College in New Westminster, as well as a B’Ed with a minor in Outdoor Education from Simon Fraser University. Mrs. McBride became a teacher because she wants to make a positive difference in her community. She believes that having a teacher who shares their passions with their students makes for an enriching classroom. Mrs. McBride enjoys teaching students about being healthy and active, and believes that experiential learning helps students develop a deep connection to the subject matter. Exercise is at the heart of what Mrs. McBride loves to do for fun. She enjoys running and trying out new fitness classes, as well as weekend hikes with her family and dog. Mrs. McBride hopes that her students love school and feel a special connection to with their peers in the classroom. She also hopes that they continue to love playing outdoors in any type of weather, especially on those rainy, Vancouver days!

Mrs. Rebecca Pike
Resource Teacher

Mrs. Pike has a Bachelor of Education from the University of Regina. She has taught mainly in primary but has experience teaching middle years. In 2017, she moved to BC from Saskatchewan with her husband. Mrs. Pike is passionate about inquiring young minds, early intervention strategies, remedial learning and providing a safe and encouraging environment where children can explore their different abilities. Mrs. Pike believes that establishing a good line of communication and trust with students is key to building healthy and positive relationships. During her free time, Mrs. Pike enjoys spending time outside with her family, traveling, watching football and reading.

Ms. Jennifer Mailley
Intermediate Teacher

Ms. Mailley completed a BA in English at SFU, a BEd specializing in English Language Learning at UBC, a GradDip in Elementary Mathematics and Science Teaching at Douglas College, and is Orton-Gillingham certified. She has taught elementary and middle school both abroad and at home and has worked as an educational consultant and speaker. Her classroom is a safe space where students learn more about themselves and how sharing their interests and diverse perspectives strengthen the classroom community. Outside of Urban Academy, you can find her in her garden or cycling around New Westminster on her bright red bike. Ms. Mailley is excited to start her MEd in Health Education and Active Living at SFU this fall.

Mr. Michael McDiarmid
Primary Music & P.E. Specialist

Mr. McDiarmid completed his Bachelor of Music in Elementary Education Stream at the University of British Columbia, specializing in percussion. He also holds a Bachelor in Elementary Education. He came to Urban Academy eight years ago, and since then has transitioned to the Music & P.E. Specialist sharing his passion for music and sports with students from JK-Gr. 3. Mr. McDiarmid has always enjoyed and excelled at working with children, and felt teaching was a great way to inspire positive change in the world. Outside of school, Mr. McDiarmid enjoys team sports, hiking, cycling and swimming. Mr. McDiarmid aims to inspire his students by introducing them to different forms of fitness and music to help enrich their lives. He prides himself on making personal connections with his students, providing a safe learning environment for them to thrive.

Mr. Michael McDiarmid
Intermediate P.E. Specialist

Mr. McDiarmid completed his Bachelor of Music in Elementary Education Stream at the University of British Columbia, specializing in percussion. He also holds a Bachelor in Elementary Education. He came to Urban Academy eight years ago, and since then has transitioned to the Music & P.E. Specialist sharing his passion for music and sports with students from JK-Gr. 3. Mr. McDiarmid has always enjoyed and excelled at working with children, and felt teaching was a great way to inspire positive change in the world. Outside of school, Mr. McDiarmid enjoys team sports, hiking, cycling and swimming. Mr. McDiarmid aims to inspire his students by introducing them to different forms of fitness and music to help enrich their lives. He prides himself on making personal connections with his students, providing a safe learning environment for them to thrive.

Mr. Mike Twaites
Athletic Director & Senior Teacher

Mr. Twaites graduated with a Bachelor of Physical Education and Coaching from Douglas College, and completed his teacher training at Simon Fraser University. His experience includes teaching at an IB accredited school. Mr. Twaites was drawn to a career in education because he believes that students should learn to lead a healthy life while also experiencing new sports. When he is not teaching, Mr. Twaites is either coaching or playing hockey, going on adventures with his dog or spending down time with family and friends. Mr. Twaites’ hopes for his students are that they develop an interest in various sports and outdoor education pursuits that help them to grow in confidence and courage.

Ms. Lindsey McEwen
Primary Teacher

Ms. McEwen holds a Bachelor of Elementary Education from the University of British Columbia where she specialized in Mathematics, Science and Technology. Her experience also includes two years of teaching in London, England. Ms. McEwen is a passionate learner and explorer of the world. As a primary teacher, she hopes to share this enthusiasm with her students. In her free time, Ms. McEwen enjoys baking, sculpting, and travelling. Ms. McEwen strives to create a supportive, engaging classroom environment in which her students can develop as creative risk takers and critical thinkers.

Ms. Elizabeth Scali
Primary Teacher

Ms. Scali graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She has always been passionate about teaching her students with a global focus, inspiring them to be empathic and active citizens who understand the diversity that exists in the world around them. She completed her teacher education program at Simon Fraser University, specializing in International and Global Education, and has had the opportunity to teach overseas in Mexico, South Korea and in our own multicultural classrooms here in B.C. In her spare time, Ms. Scali enjoys hiking, swimming, boxing, yoga, art, cooking and volunteering both locally and abroad. She is a New West local and is thrilled to be part of a community dedicated to innovative and exploratory learning. Ms. Scali is excited to bring her creative energy to Urban Academy and foster a sense of acceptance and kindness among her students, helping them to be confident in who they are and celebrating all their successes along the way.

Ms. Bryony Drought
Primary Teacher

Ms Drought holds a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education from Curtin University in Western Australia, where Ms Drought started her teaching career, including a year in a remote Aboriginal community. She then went on the teach in London, England for several years at three inner city schools. Ms Drought is a passionate and enthusiastic Early Childhood Educator dedicated to ensuring that children reach their full potential. She has a vision that all children are accepted as strong, innovative and inquisitive individuals motivated to play, explore and question the world around them. In her spare time, Ms Drought loves to get out in nature and explore her new home – hiking, camping and learning to ski.

Mrs. Nicole Wilson
Intermediate Teacher

Mrs. Wilson has a Bachelor of Education and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of British Columbia. She has experience teaching at an IB accredited school, where she worked diligently to prepare inquiry-based and engaging units for her students. She is passionate about educating children and helping them foster a love of learning, which is evident in the relationships she develops with each student. During her free time, she enjoys singing, dancing, and scrapbooking. Mrs. Wilson strongly believes that in order to facilitate learning, it is important to build relationships with students and families to achieve a strong classroom community where students feel comfortable. Mrs. Wilson is currently on maternity leave.

Mr. Kevin Neilson
Intermediate Teacher

Mr. Neilson attended the University of Victoria and holds a Bachelor of Education specializing in Kindergarten to Grade 7, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in History. Through his international teaching experiences including South Korea and England, as well as IB accredited schools in Victoria and here in Vancouver, Mr. Neilson comes to Urban Academy with a broad perspective on intentional and open-minded learning. Mr. Neilson was inspired by teachers who made a difference in his life and wishes to share that experience with other generations of learners. The individual relationship and connection to each child, parent and colleague is paramount to education, and is first and foremost in his mind. In his free time, Mr. Neilson enjoys travelling, photography, playing soccer and anything and everything Harry Potter.

Ms. Ashley Bayles
Educational Technology Specialist

Ms. Bayles earned a Bachelor of Education and Master in Educational Technology from the University of British Columbia. She then moved to Bogota, Colombia, where she led an IB World School’s 1:1 iPad program deployment, implementation and training plan. From there Ms. Bayles went to Brussels, Belgium, where she taught IB English Language and Literature, and helped the school transition to a Google Apps for Education environment. She returned to Vancouver in 2017 to be closer to her family. Ms. Bayles is committed to developing lessons that encourage her students to take risks and to examine the world in new ways. Outside of all things related to educational technology, Ms. Bayles enjoys spending time with family and friends, being creative in her home studio, and exploring the city.

Ms. Ashley Bayles
Educational Technology Specialist

Ms. Bayles earned a Bachelor of Education and Master in Educational Technology from the University of British Columbia. She then moved to Bogota, Colombia, where she led an IB World School’s 1:1 iPad program deployment, implementation and training plan. From there Ms. Bayles went to Brussels, Belgium, where she taught IB English Language and Literature, and helped the school transition to a Google Apps for Education environment. She returned to Vancouver in 2017 to be closer to her family. Ms. Bayles is committed to developing lessons that encourage her students to take risks and to examine the world in new ways. Outside of all things related to educational technology, Ms. Bayles enjoys spending time with family and friends, being creative in her home studio, and exploring the city.

Ms. Ashley Bayles
Educational Technology Specialist

Ms. Bayles earned a Bachelor of Education and Master in Educational Technology from the University of British Columbia. She then moved to Bogota, Colombia, where she led an IB World School’s 1:1 iPad program deployment, implementation and training plan. From there Ms. Bayles went to Brussels, Belgium, where she taught IB English Language and Literature, and helped the school transition to a Google Apps for Education environment. She returned to Vancouver in 2017 to be closer to her family. Ms. Bayles is committed to developing lessons that encourage her students to take risks and to examine the world in new ways. Outside of all things related to educational technology, Ms. Bayles enjoys spending time with family and friends, being creative in her home studio, and exploring the city.

Ms. Diana Leeson
Intermediate Teacher

Ms. Leeson has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from UVIC and a Bachelor of Education degree from UBC with a specialization in Elementary Education. She has taught and lived in four countries (Australia, New Zealand, England and Canada) to hone her teaching pedagogy. She is well versed in international best practices in education and believes that this knowledge is an asset for all of her students. She has a passion for using technology in her classroom to help her students reach their fullest potential! Ms. Leeson enjoys watching movies, trying new exercise classes and of course teaching and traveling. Ms. Leeson strongly believes that each child should be taught according to his/her own personal continuum of learning and growth, and that each child feels safe and successful.

Ms. Mary O'Byrne
Intermediate Teacher

Ms. O’Byrne  graduated with a Bachelors of Arts degree and postgraduate certificate in Education from the National University of Ireland, and the Department for Education in the UK. Teaching is in her family; Ms. O’Byrne’s mother and grandmother were both teachers, and she began to love the idea of teaching while making resources for her mother’s Kindergarten class. During her free time, Ms. O’Byrne loves to try different classes every year, and try to new skills: most recently it has been glassblowing, lampwork, and making silver jewellery. Ms. O’Byrne hopes that her students will leave her class with the personal and technical skills needed to succeed in their next grade, as well as a sense of responsibility for their own learning and a pride in their achievements.

Jyoti Dhaliwal
Middle Teacher

Ms. Dhaliwal earned her Bachelor of Education at UBC and is coming to Urban Academy with the experience of working in unique environments that have influenced her teaching style in many ways. She believes in giving differentiated individual lessons that allow students to explore their learning independently and specific to their needs, often through project-based and guided inquiry activities. She is passionate about bringing fun into the classroom and looks forward to creating a teamwork-based classroom structure. In her spare time, Ms. Dhaliwal focuses on home projects, whether that be small renovations or creating artistic pieces, and reading.

Mlle. Joanna Arcari
Intermediate French Specialist

Mademoiselle Arcari graduated with a Bachelor Arts in English and Drama from Trinity Western University. With experience teaching French in private schools on Vancouver Island and in Tsawwassen, she comes to Urban Academy with hopes to pursue further educational opportunities. Having grown up in a multilingual home, Mademoiselle Arcari knows the value of expanding one’s communicative experience. She enjoys sharing linguistic knowledge she feels is an integral part of her students’ skill set. When not teaching, Mademoiselle Arcari can be found reading, hiking around her hometown, North Vancouver, or traveling back to the old country to eat delicious European cuisine. Mademoiselle Arcari looks forward to watching her students grow into even more eloquent lifelong learners.

Mlle. Joanna Arcari
Middle French Specialist

Mademoiselle Arcari graduated with a Bachelor Arts in English and Drama from Trinity Western University. With experience teaching French in private schools on Vancouver Island and in Tsawwassen, she comes to Urban Academy with hopes to pursue further educational opportunities. Having grown up in a multilingual home, Mademoiselle Arcari knows the value of expanding one’s communicative experience. She enjoys sharing linguistic knowledge she feels is an integral part of her students’ skill set. When not teaching, Mademoiselle Arcari can be found reading, hiking around her hometown, North Vancouver, or traveling back to the old country to eat delicious European cuisine. Mademoiselle Arcari looks forward to watching her students grow into even more eloquent lifelong learners.

Ms. Caoimhe O'Halloran
Intermediate Teacher

Ms. O’ Halloran has a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education and English with concurrent Teacher Education from the University of Limerick in Ireland. She has experience teaching Physical Education in Oman, before moving back to Ireland. She taught English and P.E in Irish speaking secondary schools (Gaelcholaisti) before pursuing a Masters of Arts in Education at University College Dublin, with a focus on the promotion of positive mental health in schools for her Master’s thesis. Ms. O’Halloran has been teaching in Canada for the last two years and is currently continuing her own professional development, studying psychology part-time. Ms. O’Halloran is committed to developing lessons that engage all learners at their level, creating a classroom environment that is warm and inclusive. During her free time, she enjoys reading, playing field hockey and yoga.

Ms. Fiona Szeto
Middle Teacher

Ms. Szeto completed her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education degrees from the University of British Columbia. Her motivation to become a teacher stems from her own curiosity of the world and a desire to share it with others around her. Ms. Szeto hopes to inspire her students to be inquisitive, creative thinkers and to embrace new challenges with open arms. In her spare time, Ms. Szeto enjoys staying active on her dodgeball and volleyball teams, journalling, traveling and finding new restaurants to try with her family and friends. She is passionate about fostering empathy within her classroom community, where everyone learns to make deep connections and build strong relationships.

Mrs. Matlin Kilpatrick
Music & French Specialist

Mrs. Kilpatrick attended the University of Guelph and Queen’s University where she studied Music Education and French as a Second Language, specializing at the intermediate/senior level. Mrs. Kilpatrick’s passion to inspire students to love learning and challenge themselves is what motivated her to become a teacher. Away from the classroom, she enjoys all things musical, spending time with her family, playing hockey, and doing puzzles. Mrs. Kilpatrick hopes her students become passionate people who take responsibility for themselves and work hard to achieve their goals.

Mrs. Matlin Kilpatrick
Music Specialist

Mrs. Kilpatrick attended the University of Guelph and Queen’s University where she studied Music Education and French as a Second Language, specializing at the intermediate/senior level. Mrs. Kilpatrick’s passion to inspire students to love learning and challenge themselves is what motivated her to become a teacher. Away from the classroom, she enjoys all things musical, spending time with her family, playing hockey, and doing puzzles. Mrs. Kilpatrick hopes her students become passionate people who take responsibility for themselves and work hard to achieve their goals.

Mrs. Matlin Kilpatrick
Music Specialist

Mrs. Kilpatrick attended the University of Guelph and Queen’s University where she studied Music Education and French as a Second Language, specializing at the intermediate/senior level. Mrs. Kilpatrick’s passion to inspire students to love learning and challenge themselves is what motivated her to become a teacher. Away from the classroom, she enjoys all things musical, spending time with her family, playing hockey and doing puzzles. Mrs. Kilpatrick hopes her students become passionate people who take responsibility for themselves and work hard to achieve their goals.

Ms. Tricia Reston
Intermediate Teacher

Ms. Reston has a Bachelor of Education from the University of Victoria, specializing in Elementary Education. Prior to teaching at Urban Academy, Ms. Reston taught at a Canadian International School in China and also gained Montessori experience. Surrounded by positive role models and inspirational educators as a child, Ms. Reston has always wanted to pursue a career in teaching children. When she is not teaching, Ms. Reston enjoys spending time at her family cabin on the Sunshine Coast, traveling to and exploring new places, and remaining active outdoors. In her classroom, Ms. Reston strives to foster a collaborative and supportive classroom community where students feel safe, captivated, and motivated to learn. Her hope is that through engaging, hands-on experiences, students develop a lifelong love of learning.ngs.

Ms. Melissa Herman
Senior Teacher

Ms.Herman completed a Bachelor of Science in Immunology at McGill University followed by a Baccalaureat of Education at the University of Ottawa. Following an initial teaching experience at a private school in Montreal, she moved to Vancouver to join the team at Urban Academy where she teaches senior Math and Science. Currently, Ms. Herman is pursuing a Master’s degree in Secondary Mathematics Education at Simon Fraser University. Ms. Herman teaches to share her love of learning with students, and to continually learn and grow. She strives to help her students develop their individual abilities to think critically and creatively problem solve in mathematics and the sciences. Ms. Herman hopes to intrigue her students by the beauty and ingenuity of these disciplines. Outside of her classroom, Ms. Herman can be found hiking the scenic mountains of Southwestern British Columbia.

Mme. Lauren Rhodes
Junior French Specialist

Madame Rhodes completed her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Windsor, where she majored in International Relations and minored in French. She completed one year of study at the Institute d’Études Politiques in Grenoble, France. She then completed her Bachelor of Education at Nipissing University, where she specialized in teaching French as a second language. Madame Rhodes has spent most of her education career teaching overseas. She taught in Japan, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and Colombia before returning to Canada in 2019. Madame Rhodes is passionate about second language education, and when she isn’t sharing her passion for languages with young minds she enjoys practicing yoga and spending time in the great outdoors.

Mrs. Patricia Brooke
Intermediate Drama Specialist

Mrs. Brooke attended Simon Fraser University where she completed a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre and History, followed by a Bachelor in Education from Brock University. She has always wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember, believing that it’s very rare to have a job that allows her to do all her favourite things every day while empowering her students to strive for confidence and courage in everything they do. Outside of school, Mrs. Brooke runs Shadows and Dreams Theatre company, which has performed Shakespeare productions in Queens Park for the last 12 years. Mrs. Brooke hopes to create joyful and critical thinkers who use their knowledge to make the world the best place it can be.

Mrs. Patricia Brooke
Middle Drama Specialist

Mrs. Brooke attended Simon Fraser University where she completed a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre and History, followed by a Bachelor in Education from Brock University. She has always wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember, believing that it’s very rare to have a job that allows her to do all her favourite things every day while empowering her students to strive for confidence and courage in everything they do. Outside of school, Mrs. Brooke runs Shadows and Dreams Theatre company, which has performed Shakespeare productions in Queens Park for the last 12 years. Mrs. Brooke hopes to create joyful and critical thinkers who use their knowledge to make the world the best place it can be.

Mrs. Patricia Brooke
Primary Drama Specialist

Mrs. Brooke attended Simon Fraser University where she completed a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre and History, followed by a Bachelor in Education from Brock University. She has always wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember, believing that it’s very rare to have a job that allows her to do all her favourite things every day while empowering her students to strive for confidence and courage in everything they do. Outside of school, Mrs. Brooke runs Shadows and Dreams Theatre company, which has performed Shakespeare productions in Queens Park for the last 12 years. Mrs. Brooke hopes to create joyful and critical thinkers who use their knowledge to make the world the best place it can be.

Mrs. Patricia Brooke
Senior Drama Specialist

Mrs. Brooke attended Simon Fraser University where she completed a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre and History, followed by a Bachelor in Education from Brock University. She has always wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember, believing that it’s very rare to have a job that allows her to do all her favourite things every day while empowering her students to strive for confidence and courage in everything they do. Outside of school, Mrs. Brooke runs Shadows and Dreams Theatre company, which has performed Shakespeare productions in Queens Park for the last 12 years. Mrs. Brooke hopes to create joyful and critical thinkers who use their knowledge to make the world the best place it can be.

Ms. Michelle Plourde
Middle Teacher

Ms. Plourde has a Bachelor’s of Education from McGill University, specializing in Secondary English and Social Studies. She has spent the last 2 years teaching English and Maths in Thailand. Ms. Plourde dreamed of being a teacher from a very young age when she experienced first hand the positive impact teachers could have on their students. In both Maths and English, she focuses on creating a safe, engaging environment, in which students can develop independently, and become curious and critical lifelong learners. In her spare time, Ms. Plourde enjoys reading, being outside, and playing all sports, especially volleyball.

Mr. Oliver Leclair
Librarian Teacher

Mr. Leclair graduated from the University of Victoria with a BA in English Literature and a Minor Certification in Journalism and Publication. He also holds a Bachelor of Education from the University of British Columbia. Mr. Leclair has extensive experience working as an intern teacher, TOC and Outdoor Education teacher in other private and public schools in Vancouver. A love of helping students to overcome challenges and achieve success are the reasons Mr. Leclair became a teacher. Life outside of school for Mr. Leclair involves reading, playing board games, camping and spending time with his family. Mr. Leclair hopes that his students find joy in learning and discover their passions.

Mr. Oliver Leclair
Librarian Teacher

Mr. Leclair graduated from the University of Victoria with a BA in English Literature and a Minor Certification in Journalism and Publication. He also holds a Bachelor of Education from the University of British Columbia. Mr. Leclair has extensive experience working as an intern teacher, TOC and Outdoor Education teacher in other private and public schools in Vancouver. A love of helping students to overcome challenges and achieve success are the reasons Mr. Leclair became a teacher. Life outside of school for Mr. Leclair involves reading, playing board games, camping and spending time with his family. Mr. Leclair hopes that his students find joy in learning and discover their passions.

Mrs. Cecilia Liddle
Special Education Assistant

Mrs. Liddle has a certificate in Early Childhood Education, Infant Toddler and Special Needs from Vancouver Career College. She is a strong believer of inclusion and helps every student find their own unique place within the Urban Academy community.

Mr. David Gow
Middle Teacher

Mr. Gow comes to Urban Academy with many years of experience teaching from the upper end of the elementary school to Grade 12. He completed a BA in History and Political Science from Mount Allison University, New Brunswick, as well as a teaching qualification with a focus in Social Studies education in the secondary school. Mr. Gow is currently completing an MA in International Education through the University of Bath in the U.K. He has taught in several international schools over the past decade including the British International School, Phuket, The Pan American School of Bahia in Brazil and most recently at the British School Jakarta in Indonesia where he was taught Middle School Social Studies as well as I.B. History and IGCSE Global Perspectives. In his free time, Mr. Gow enjoys running, surfing and walking his Indonesian rescue dog, Hugo.

Ms. Stephanie Munro
Intermediate Teacher

Ms. Munro graduated from Simon Fraser University with a Bachelor of Arts in History; afterward, she completed her Bachelor of Education at the University of British Columbia. She has taught various grade levels and has worked closely with developmental teams assisting in Behaviour Intervention. She also worked as a Personal Trainer and Group Fitness instructor for five years, where coaching and goal setting was her focus. In her spare time, Ms. Munro continues to enjoy fitness and adventure whether it is hiking, biking, or attending fitness classes. Her pedagogical philosophy stems from Aristotle’s quote, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” Her goal aligns closely with UA’s values of developing the whole child, advocating that learning should be deeply rooted in empathy and critical thinking. Ms. Munro is very excited to join the UA community and collaborate with her colleagues!

Ms. Olivia Paoluzzi-Brown
Special Education Assistant

Ms. Brown graduated with honors from Durham College, with an Advanced Diploma in Child and Youth Care. She also earned her CPI certification for Non-Crisis Intervention and Safe Management of Behaviours. Since then, Ms. Brown has worked for over 5 years in a variety of educational, clinical, and private settings providing ABA therapy to children and youth on the Autism Spectrum. Ms. Brown is passionate about establishing needs, and collaborating within a team of professionals to ensure each child reaches their fullest potential. After school, Ms. Brown dedicates her spare time to visual arts and writing. If you need guidance or ideas for an artistic project, Ms. Brown will always step up to the plate with a paintbrush in hand!

Ms. Torrie Fischer
Primary Teacher

Ms. Fischer holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Graduate Certificate in TESOL from Missouri State University. Ms. Fischer enjoys traveling abroad and thus has taught in the United States and South Korea, as well as here at home in Canada. She strives to foster a genuine love and curiosity towards learning from her students and is inspired by what each child brings to her classroom community. When Ms. Fischer isn’t traveling to new countries and trying out all the local foods, she enjoys reading, getting out into nature, and spending time with her husband and cat..

Ms. Christine Albertson
Special Education Assistant

Ms. Albertson graduated with honors from Simon Fraser University, receiving a degree in General Studies in Education with two minors in Curriculum and Instruction, as well as Learning and Developmental Disabilities. She has also completed a Bachelor of Education degree. Through her experience working with children, Ms. Albertson has developed a passion for creating and sustaining inclusive environments where every individual is valued for the unique qualities they bring to the community. Ms. Albertson believes in combining democratic principles with educational practices as it provides an opening for students to have voice and choice with regard to their own development. When not at school, Ms. Albertson loves going for nature walks, has a passion for photography and spending time with her friends and family.

staff & admin

Mr. Mike Slinger
Head of School

Mr. Slinger stepped into the role of Head of School at Urban Academy in August 2020, bringing with him a wealth of experience as an educator of more than two decades. Prior to joining the team at UA, Mr. Slinger was Head of School at Coast Mountain Academy in Squamish, and has experience as an administrator in the Coquitlam School District where he worked at both middle and high school level. Having completed his undergraduate studies and teacher certification at Simon Fraser University, Mr. Slinger went on to complete his Masters Degree in Educational Leadership at the University of Oregon. Mr. Slinger is passionate about teaching and learning, and he thrives on working with students, staff and parents.

In his spare time, Mr. Slinger loves staying active in the great outdoors of beautiful BC with his wife and family. He can often be found hiking, skiing, golfing, or playing an occasional game of basketball. He is also a diehard Vancouver Canucks fan, and a regular visitor to local live theatre and music events. Mr. Slinger has always been involved in his community taking on numerous roles coaching in soccer and swimming, as well as serving on different boards, from swim clubs to the NYIT Master of Science in Instructional Technology Advisory Board.

Mr. Slinger is excited about the opportunity to get to know the students, families and staff at UA and is looking forward to being part of the wonderful UA community.

Ms. Suzanne MacLeod
Vice Principal

Ms. MacLeod is passionate about youth mental health, personal wellness and a healthy life balance. Ms. MacLeod’s qualifications include an education degree from SFU with a focus on curriculum, instruction and educational psychology, a Masters of Arts in Counselling Psychology from Yorkville University with particular focus on counselling youth, individuals and families, as well as Orton Gillingham certification in literacy and numeracy. Life has always brought Ms. MacLeod back to education, it’s who she is! She thrives in an environment where she has the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of students from JK to Grade 12.  In her free time, Ms. MacLeod loves the west coast outdoors lifestyle – camping, boating and playing recreational sports. Time spent with her family is priceless, and family gatherings are a big part of weekends and vacations. Ms. MacLeod hopes that her students become independent thinkers, find a passion that drives them towards their goals, and understand and demonstrate empathy toward others.

Mrs. Sonja Kennedy
Director of Development

Mrs. Kennedy brings with her years of experience in the communications, marketing and management fields in the not-for-profit industry. With a degree in communications from Simon Fraser University, she began her career in trade and technology education for youth and then spent eight years working for one of Western Canada’s major trade associations.

Mrs. Kennedy has a passion for working with people, growing organizations and sharing her enthusiasm about the value of quality education. Most importantly, she is passionate about supporting children and has spent many years volunteering in various initiatives that serve families.

Ms. Kerri Crowley
Admissions & Marketing

Ms. Crowley has a degree in Journalism from Griffith College in Dublin, Ireland, and a certificate in Mediation and Conflict Resolution. With over a decade of experience in marketing and PR, she is proactive, thoughtful and enthusiastic about helping others. Ms. Crowley is excited to welcome new families to Urban Academy, helping them through the adventure of finding a school that is the right fit, with a positive attitude and a friendly smile.

Mr. Peter Thrower
Finance Manager

Mr. Thrower is a CA with over 35 years of financial experience including 10 years working in financial management leading BC independent schools. He came out of retirement to help Urban Academy through its transitional period, and his experience is invaluable to the school

Ms. Joëlle Régnier
Administration

Originally from Montréal, Ms. Régnier moved to Vancouver over 25 years ago after graduating with a degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Waterloo. Her background is in customer service, copy editing and translation, and she has studied in the fields of nutrition and herbalism. In her spare time, Ms. Régnier enjoys reading, playing recorder, hiking, kayaking and baking. Ms. Régnier is always happy to have the chance to speak French with our students!

Mrs. Miranda McNamara
Administration

Mrs. McNamara graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Law. She brings her talents and skills to the busy Urban Academy administration office, and her strengths in multitasking and customer service ensure that families and the rest of the staff are well supported. Mrs. McNamara enjoys the outdoors and has been taking part in Hawaiian outrigger canoe races in BC, Washington, Oregon, California and Hawaii. She also enjoys Polynesian dance classes.

Ms. Jeni McBride
Purchasing

Ms. McBride strengthens the team with her expertise in non-profit administration and customer service as well as maintenance and IT service. Driven by a passion for seeing projects through, Ms. McBride is always ready with a smile and a helping hand.

The UA team is an elite group of leaders who deliver the best possible learning experiences. Join a network of expert educators, inspiring the brightest innovators of tomorrow.

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School Leadership

Urban Academy has a passionate Board of Directors who are committed to upholding our commitment to innovation and excellence.

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Our Story

Urban Academy was founded on the idea that creativity, heart and collaboration of individual talents would guide success.

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Our Mission

Our most important principles help us shape who we are, where we’re going and who we want to be.

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School Documents

Our school is structured for every child to thrive and feel empowered to achieve their best.

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OOSC

We partner an amazing education experience with an amazing before and after school care experience.

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Publications

From what the press is saying, our annual report and strategic planning initiatives, get a snapshot of what we're up to.

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