Meet the LDS Team

Our Staff

Rachel S. Forbes, JD

Executive Director

Executive Director

Rachel has a formal education in social geography, communications and law. Over the past 20 years, she has worked with dozens of non profits, charities and companies, including serving as executive director, program lead, staff lawyer, and also in a volunteer capacity on various non profit boards.

She enjoys utilizing her breadth of experience in governance, fundraising, strategy, project management and communications to build capacity within LDS as it continues in a period of strategic growth. Rachel is thrilled to be leading the energetic and committed professionals who make up the LDS team on our journey to ensure no student is left behind. As a parent and as someone who grew up knowing the education system closely, Rachel is passionate about ensuring every child has access to the support they need to thrive in their education and throughout their lives.

Rachel graciously lives, works and plays within the traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples.

Melissa Sager

Associate Director of Learning Support

Associate Director of Learning Support

Melissa has over ten years of experience providing remedial instruction for children with special needs in both public and private settings, and she is certified to teach in BC schools. While completing her Masters in Education, she taught diverse student populations with Learning Disabilities in a special education classroom. She became very interested in the field of Behaviour Analysis and later worked with several organizations to implement early intervention programs for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

After seeing the positive impact individualized instruction had on her clients over many years, Melissa decided to create a small school where she focused on the unique strengths, needs and interests of homeschool students. She worked with a team of multidisciplinary professionals to address academic, social, emotional, behavioural and executive functioning goals, while nurturing maximum student engagement through interest-based learning programs. She is very excited to be a part of the LDS team and continue working with specialists, instructors, students, parents and schools to help children and youth become more confident and achieve their full potential.

Claire Matthews

Training Program Manager

Program Manager

Claire joined the LDS team in March 2018 after completing her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. She has over six years of teaching experience educating children and adults. As the Program Manager, Claire leads instructor matching and scheduling, works on program development and leads instructors in LDS’s best practices. She is passionate about education and committed to supporting instructors to provide our superior delivery of service to our students.

Melissa Henderson

Learning Support Manager

Learning Support Manager

Melissa joined the LDS team in May 2019, as Learning Support Manager. She completed a B.A in Speech Sciences at UBC, and has a passion for linguistics, and education. With prior experience in remedial instruction and administration within remedial therapy organizations, she has seen the difference that proper support and quality instruction can make in the lives of students with learning disabilities. Melissa is truly excited to be a part of an organization that helps to make learning accessible for all students.

Sarah Vopni

Community Manager

Community Manager

In April 2020, LDS welcomed Sarah Vopni as our new Community Manager. Sarah brings a background in communications, project management and global development. Her passion is supporting individuals and organizations to live authentically and in collaboration with others. Most recently Sarah completed a post graduate certificate in public relations with a strong focus on internal and external communications.

She will draw upon her experience in the banking, retail and private education sectors to meet the needs of the LDS community. She believes in and is excited to be furthering the goals of LDS to impact and support individual lives to help create positive change both personally and in communities.

Sierra Skye Gemma

Communications & Fundraising Manager

Communications & Fundraising Manager

Sierra was first introduced to the Learning Disabilities Society in 2012 when her son began one-on-one instruction after struggling for several years with a suspected learning disability. With assistance from LDS, her son received a psychological-education assessment report and a diagnosis of his specific learning disability. Sierra’s family was able to afford this service due to bursaries provided by Variety, CKNW Kids’ Fund, and LDS. After three years of instruction, Sierra’s son was confident in his new skills and abilities to manage high school on his own. 
This year, Sierra joined the LDS family once more. Sierra brings 10 years of experience in communications and writing, in particular in support of grants and fundraising. She has a BA in History and Sociology and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. Sierra’s interests include community building, reading, crafting, and writing nonfiction, for which she has received a National Newspaper Award and a National Magazine Award.

Trista Baldwin

Communications Specialist – Contract

Communications Specialist

Trista has been working with LDS since November of 2019. A writer, editor, and graphic designer, Trista has over 12 years of experience in print and digital content creation. 

Trista moved to Vancouver after spending eight years in Shanghai, China, where she worked as a magazine editor and in marketing communications. As a freelance publishing professional, she’s worked with a variety of businesses and organizations in Vancouver.

She has a BA in History and International Development, a diploma in Publishing, and a certificate in Creative Writing.

Laura Covaza

Accountant

Accountant

Prior to joining LDS, Laura spent over 7 years in Accounting, managing the finances for many not-for-profit clients. She has her Professional Bookkeeping certificate from Langara College and her Office Administration diploma from Vancouver Career College.

Lara Kilbertus

Program Designer — SLP

Program Designer — SLP

Lara joined the LDS team as a Program Designer in June 2020. Lara received an M.A. in Linguistics from the University of Ottawa before pursuing a MSc. in Speech-Language Pathology at UBC. As a speech-language pathologist, she is dedicated to improving communication abilities in people of all ages.

Lara has experience working as part of a multidisciplinary team to provide services for school-aged children with special needs. Her role as an SLP includes helping children and adolescents connect and build relationships by working on social communication skills. She is passionate about delivering quality services that are evidence-informed, compassionate, and fun!

Catherine Peciuch

Program Lead — SLP

Program Lead - SLP

Catherine is a language specialist with formal training in Speech and Language Pathology. She worked as a Speech Language Pathologist and Literacy Specialist in the UK before coming to Canada in July 2019. She is especially passionate about helping early learners and elementary-aged children who need a little “extra” support; whether it’s addressing language delays, executive functioning challenges, or difficulties staying on task. Catherine utilizes her expertise from multiple disciplines to create highly structured and customized lessons for maximum student engagement. She is a dynamic and creative instructor whose passion for helping students with learning differences is evident in every lesson and family interaction.

Carla Carvalho

Program Designer — SLP

Program Designer and Family Coach

Carla has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a Master in Developmental Psychology (2015). Clinical special interests are cognitive and emotional processing and its impact on students with diagnosis of learning differences. She has worked in a variety of clinical settings in the UK and Brazil including participation in research at schools, private practice and given lectures abroad. In Canada since 2015, she worked for 4 years as a school counsellor at a (K-12) school for students with special needs. Previously, Carla was involved in the development of a large educational research project run by the Government of the State of Bahia (Brazil), in partnership with ICELP, an institute from Israel. Hence, she got specialized in Mediated Learning Experience (MLE), in and out of the classroom and in a variety of clinic settings.

She has demonstrated expertise in the use of graphic organizers, especially Thinking Maps, a visual tool that facilitates communication. Carla has a unique approach for group management and conflict mediation, when she applies the principles of MLE with the best of Thinking Maps, with kindness and uniqueness. She is a natural problem solver and enjoys the challenge of finding manageable solutions to complex issues. She uses her combined clinical and international experiences to bring unique and holistic insights that benefit both the individuals and their families.

Avery Cole

Assistive Technologies Researcher

Assistive Technologies Researcher

Avery joined the LDS team in June 2020. He holds a Master’s in electrical and computer engineering from Queen’s University, with a focus on augmented reality, robotics, and computer vision. He is excited to bring his experience in cutting-edge user interface research and development to bear in supporting LDS staff and students.

Avery draws inspiration from the challenges several close family members have faced due to learning disabilities. His background as a teaching assistant and camp counselor have given him a passion for giving all students a chance to reach their potential. He believes strongly in the LDS mission of building life- long confidence and success in children affected by learning disabilities and is dedicated to ensuring as many children as possible receive the support that they need.

Rie Stadnichuk

Educational Summer Program Coordinator 

Digital Communications Intern

Rie (she/her) joins LDS as a Digital Communications Intern. Currently studying Communications and Economics at Simon Fraser University, she hopes to use this opportunity as way of exploring meaningful work in the field. She is passionate about social issues and creating environments of inclusivity and open dialogue. Rie graciously lives and works on the unceded territory of the Syilx people. 

Educational Program Coordinator

Tyler joined the LDS team in June of 2020 as an Educational Summer Program Coordinator. He recently graduated from Simon Fraser University with a Bachelor of General Studies in Education. Within his degree program, he completed minors in Business, Learning and Developmental Disabilities, and Social Justice in Education, as well as a Certificate in Liberal Arts.

Driven by his passion for inclusive education, Tyler is excited to use his academic background and experience working within educational environments to help support LDS and its goal to ensure all students with learning differences get the support they need to succeed.

Support Coordinator

Alice joined LDS as Support Coordinator in November 2020. She majored in Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh, and wrote her thesis on Indigenous Language Revitalization, a passion that was sparked through her year abroad at UBC. Finding a way that applied Linguistics knowledge could help others is what brought her to LDS. Her professional background is primarily in marketing and communications, so she’s excited to use her varied skill set to help move mountains for our students.

Our Instructors

Our team of caring Instructors have many years of experience in education. We take pride in matching each student with an Instructor who is best suited for their learning needs and goals.

Instructor

Aime has over 6 years of experience with working with children with special needs. She has worked in the school district as both an Education Assistant and an Applied Behaviour Analysis Support Worker. She holds a Creative Writing Associates Degree. She also does one-to-one tutoring helping students with various needs and has worked as a Behaviour Interventionist. Aime joined LDS in Summer 2020 and is excited to use her skill set to help make learning fun and effective for the students she supports.

Instructor

Anisa is a BC Certified teacher with a strong background in Chemistry and Math. She is working on completing her Diploma in Special Education from UBC. Anisa has worked with students at all levels, from elementary through to high school, and she has taught a wide range of subjects including Chemistry, Math and English. Her favorite subject to teach is Math. She teaches because she loves the “Ah Ha’’ moments and enjoys seeing students achieve success. In addition to keeping busy with teaching, Anisa is kept on her toes by her two daughters who are also navigating learning online. As both a parent and Instructor, Anisa offers a unique perspective on setting children up for home learning success.

Instructor

Anotidaishe is an instructor with a great passion for seeing students reach their full potential in all aspects of their life. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Simon Fraser University and has a background in Learning and Developmental Disabilities. She loves to teach math skills, reading skills as well as writing. Ano is excited to be a part of the awesome LDS team that is making a lasting difference in the lives of students. She is excited to be supporting students from all types of backgrounds with specific individualized instruction that meets their learning needs.

Instructor

Coming soon!

Instructor

Carol has worked with children around the world. She homeschooled her own children, taught at an ex-pat school in Mexico, was a Children’s Pastor in England and has been a Special Education Assistant in New Westminster. After completing her Orton-Gillingham Tutor Training she joined LDS and is loving helping her students move forward.

Instructor

Cynthia is a certified BC teacher. Working in the classroom has allowed her to explore working with a variety of different learners. She is most passionate about working with students with learning challenges because she enjoys helping students discover new strategies to further their learning. The most rewarding part about working with students is being able to help them find their confidence when they realize what they are capable of.

Instructor

Emma holds a Bachelor of Kinesiology degree with a minor in Psychology from UBC. She recently returned to UBC, and is currently completing her Masters in Occupational Therapy. With years of experience working in the field of education and adaptive recreation, Emma is passionate about empowering children and youth to be independent and confident in their skills. She is excited to provide equitable learning opportunities and individualized support to her students with the LDS team!

Instructor

Ella joined LDS on October 2020. Ella is in the process of completing her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from UBC and is set to graduate in December 2020. Her degree is focused on learning, child development, and progress assessments.

From a young age she knew that she desired to work in the field of education, specifically with children with learning challenges. This passion was ignited by her own experience with a tutor that specialized in working with children with learning disabilities. She wants to be able to pay it forward due to how impactful her experience was. She is eager to help students meet their full potential by providing extra support for students in whatever form that may be.

Instructor

Erin comes to LDS with a background in childcare, support work, and youth education. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice from UBC. After gaining experience in administrative positions in the non-profit and start-up sectors, she has chosen to work with children in an effort to help them reach their full potential. In addition to tutoring at LDS, she is a program leader for youth education programs.

Instructor

Gabe joined LDS in the fall of 2020. Originally an aspiring mathematician, he has turned his sights to education and looks forward to building on his experience as a tutor and teaching assistant. Gabe is passionate about inclusive and accessible pedagogy — particularly as it relates to mathematics, a subject with a history of traumatizing and exclusionary teaching practices. He finds this especially unfortunate because mathematics can be an incredibly uplifting subject, full of elegance and beauty.

At LDS, he seeks to help students of all backgrounds achieve their mathematical goals, whether that be adding fractions or integrating functions. He is also excited to support students in reading and writing, and to learn more about doing so in an effective, learner-focused way. A favourite quote of his comes from the mathematical physicist Michael Atiyah: “I always try to understand why things work. I’m not interested in getting a formula without knowing what it means. I always try to dig behind the scenes, so if I have a formula, I know why it’s there.”

Instructor

Jennie is a BC certified teacher and holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Language and a Bachelor of Education from the University of British Columbia. She loves to teach early reading skills, Language Arts, writing and math. Jennie is excited to be a part of the LDS team, where students receive one-to-one, personalized instruction, and where teachers are provided with ongoing professional development and resources to provide the best support for their students.

Instructor

Jennifer has over 10 years of experience working with children and has been working at LDS as a tutor for the past 7 years. She holds a B.A. in Geography from UBC. Jennifer enjoys building a bond with her students and increasing their confidence so they can feel successful in school.

Instructor

Jessie is an experienced psychometrist with a demonstrated history of working in the field of mental health. She holds a B.A honours degree in Psychology from Queen’s University. She has worked with children and adolescents with learning and mental health challenges in many different settings. She is currently working towards obtaining her masters in school psychology. Jessie enjoys motivating her students to feel empowered and hopes to help them discover their unique strengths. Jessie’s favourite quote is: “What sets you apart can sometimes feel like a burden, and it’s not. And a lot of the time, it is what makes you great.” – Emma Stone

Instructor

Originally from Scotland June moved to Vancouver in 2019. She is a linguist (a French and Italian speaker) who is passionate about helping students with learning differences and she specializes in students with specific learning disorders. Trained originally as an Elementary teacher, she has a wealth of varied teaching experience in ESL (ELL) and Remedial Teaching to children and young adults. She trained as a Specialist Dyslexia Teacher at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2009 and she taught at a large High School in Cheshire as a 1:1 remedial teacher for the last 10 years. She’s delighted to become a member of the LDS team.

Instructor

Hiu has 15 years of combined experience as a BC Certified Teacher, RCM Music Teacher and Volunteer Tutor at the BC Dyslexia Centre. Growing up in Vancouver, he attended UBC and completed a BA in English, BEd and TESL Diploma. Hiu is also certified as both an IDA Structured Literacy Dyslexia Interventionist and AOGPE Associate Member. Hiu takes great joy in tutoring children with learning differences, and is excited to be involved with LDS. In his spare time, Hiu can be found travelling with his wife and two children, or going flat out on some racetrack.

Instructor

Just completing his third year with LDS, Larry has a Master’s Degree in science and engineering and previously taught math and chemistry for two years at night school at Sierra College in California. Later Larry became a certified flight instructor and worked extensively with youth cadets in aviation training. After retiring from engineering Larry wanted to be involved again in teaching youth so he completed the initial level training to become an Orton Gillingham Certified tutor. Larry enjoys seeing his students thrive and discover they really can do what seemed to them so difficult until receiving instruction especially tailored to the ways they learn.

Instructor

Naslishah is an Orton Gillingham tutor who works in LDS’s in-school program. Previously, she has worked at Vancity Credit Union as a Health and Wellness She holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from UBC and a Holistic Health Practitioner Diploma from Langara College. She is also a Virtues Project Facilitator who believes that we can change the world by using the language of virtues within our communities. She loves working with children and is passionate about helping them achieve their highest potential. She loves encouraging students to take ownership of their own learning by providing them with simple and effective strategies to enhance their reading and writing.

Instructor

Rachel joins LDS with a range of experience from summer camps to community inclusion, and holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. She is excited to provide personalized support, form relationships of trust, and help students build confidence.

Instructor

Scott has been working with people with learning disabilities in a variety of settings for the past 25 years following his training at Douglas College. His areas of expertise include, precalculus, chemistry and physics. He hopes to act as a bridge for people to unearth gifts and talents yet to be discovered.

Instructor

Wendy is a certified BC teacher with Post Baccalaureate studies in Special Education. Currently, she teaches Math in Vancouver, working with students with learning differences in secondary classrooms in an inclusive setting. With the proper support, she believes that all students can succeed, and she can help them realize their full potential. By instilling confidence in her students, she nourishes and motivates them to become life-long learners.

Our Board

Shoreline West Asset Management, President and CEO

Greg has worked in a variety of areas including investment management, capital markets, energy, power, and natural resources industries. For the past 12 years, Greg has managed an investment fund in Vancouver. Greg holds a B.Sc. in Engineering Science from the University of Toronto and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Aeronautical Engineering from Caltech. Greg is currently a director of Learning Disabilities Society, Social Venture Partners and Vancouver College.

In his spare time, Greg enjoys outdoor recreation activities with family and friends including hiking, trail running, mountain biking and skiing.

Greg is privileged to work with the inspiring staff and instructors at Learning Disabilities Society to support children and youth with diverse abilities. Greg shares the LDS vision to transform individual learning and life outcomes and collectively effect system change with significant and profound societal impacts. Greg draws inspiration from the many heart-warming daily stories of dedication, perseverance, and bravery that shape LDS and its community.

LDS Vice-Chair Susan Aitchison

Susan Aitchison

Vice Chair

DialoguePro Consultants, Partner

Susan has been on the LDS Board of Directors for eight years, six of which she has acted as Chair of the Board. She has been an integral part of building LDS’s unique identity of being the sole providers of customized and measured LD remediation for all LD kids regardless of ability to pay.

She has a background as a trainer, mediator, and is a partner in DialoguePro Consultants, who provide training in The Learning Dialogue—an interpersonal communications tool they developed. Susan also has two grown children with learning disabilities and as a result has worked relentlessly to help provide services for families who would otherwise not be able to access support for their children.

Kevin Riley

Treasurer

Amazon, Accounting Manager

Kevin is an actively licensed Chartered Professional Accountant (CA) and has served as the Treasurer for the LDS Board for over four years. Previous to his experience with LDS, Kevin worked with numerous non-profit and charitable organizations in a volunteer capacity. Kevin is from Vancouver and currently lives in Seattle.

He is passionate about providing governance to LDS from a financial perspective, ensuring the organization maintains a strong financial position from which it can deliver the services needed for all of our students. As someone who has seen the positive impact the right support can have for a child with a learning disability, Kevin is excited to see LDS continue to expand and provide services to more children in need.

BC Supreme Court, Retired Justice

Wendy is a retired justice of the BC Supreme Court and was a founding partner of Harris & Company, where she was a leading practitioner in the area of school law for over 30 years. She was appointed to the BC Supreme Court in 2013 and was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 2008. She was called to the BC Bar in 1980 and has an LLB from the University of BC; an MA from the University of Toronto; and a BA from the University of BC.

Wendy taught education law to graduate school students at the University of British Columbia from 2004-2011 and 2018. She has been a frequent lecturer at school boards, universities and professional organizations. She has written extensively on legal issues related to schools. Wendy served as President and Executive Board Member of the Canadian Association for the Practical Study of Law in Education (CAPSLE) and was an active member in this national organization since its inception. She received an honorary lifetime membership in CAPSLE in 2014.

University of British Columbia, Professor and Dorothy Lam Chair in Special Education

Nancy Perry worked as a classroom and resource teacher in school districts in British Columbia, Canada, before obtaining her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1996. Today she is the Dorothy Lam Chair in Special Education and Professor of Educational and Counselling Psychology and Special Education at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada. There, she teaches courses in two program areas—Human Development, Learning, and Culture; and Special Education—and supports students in a B.Ed. cohort that focuses on promoting self-regulated learning (SRL) in the middle years. She is a recipient of UBC’s Killam Teaching Prize and the Robbie Case Memorial Award for Outstanding Contributions to Educational Psychology in Canada.

Her research has two main goals: (a) understanding how children’s develop self-regulated learning (SRL); and (b) working with teachers to design activities and structure interactions with students to support SRL. Dr. Perry is a main contributor to our understanding that young children can and do regulate for learning and how classroom tasks, instructional practices, and interpersonal relationships influence their SRL. She is also a leader in the development and use of assessments that reveal children’s self-regulation in situ. Dr. Perry is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA), has served as President of Division 15, Educational Psychology, of APA, and the Canadian Association of Educational Psychologists, as Associate Editor for the Journal of Learning and Instruction, and on editorial boards of the top journals in Educational Psychology, including the Journal of Educational Psychology, Educational Psychologist, Journal of Learning and Instruction, and Metacognition and Learning.

Hamlet Abnousi

Director

NovoBind Livestock Therapeutics Inc., CEO and Co-Founder

A Chartered Accountant (CA, CPA) with a significant transaction history in corporate finance, Hamlet obtained his Bachelors of Science in Analytical Chemistry and Cell Biology from UBC before pursuing his CPA at Deloitte. As founder of Abnousi Corporate Finance and Abnousi Capital, Hamlet worked to build and commercialize technologies that improve lives.

In 2012 he launched SciTech Global Ventures, an incubator for companies addressing global issues in medtech and, in 2016, assumed the role of CEO at NovoBind, one of the companies incubated by SciTech. Hamlet has since been focused on the development and execution of NovoBind’s global ambitions. With his passion for science and business, he dedicates his efforts, both professional and philanthropic, to projects that have significant impact.

Joyce Wagenaar

Director

Communications Consultant

Joyce joined the LDS board in November 2020. She is a communications and public affairs professional with 20 years of progressive experience and is recognized for effectively managing the public perception of an organization’s reputation through strategic advice, issues management, media relations and proactive public awareness initiatives.

Joyce has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Simon Fraser University located in British Columbia. She is trained in public engagement and has a Certificate in Public Participation from the International Association of Public Participation as well as having a Certificate in Digital Marketing from Red Academy.

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