Our Vision

We believe that all children should have access to the academic support they need to succeed. We are focused on promoting community awareness and fostering a greater understanding of the issues and challenges faced by children with learning challenges. Through early intervention, our goal is to make a transformative difference in the learning and life outcomes of students. Our ultimate goal is to effect system change with wide ranging societal benefits.

Our Mission

To empower all children and youth with learning disabilities to recognize their unique strengths and develop the tools to achieve life-long confidence and success.

Our Values

Community, Kindness, Acceptance, Achievement

Meet the Team

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.

Eva Cipera

Summer Camps Coordinator

Summer Camps Coordinator

Eva joined the LDS team in February of 2020. She holds a bachelors and masters of engineering and worked in the biomedical industry. Over the years, she has moved with her family from Toronto, to Switzerland, to Whistler and finally Vancouver, where she has volunteered for numerous non-profits. She is currently on the board of director of Kenneth Gordon Maplewood School and twice chaired their Fundraising Gala to record donations in support of bursaries for students with learning differences.

Eva is eager to apply her project management skills to work with the team at LDS to develop the RISE Summer Camp programs, to provide new summer learning opportunities for children with learning differences.

In her spare time, Eva can be found with her husband and three daughters exploring the mountains on the North Shore and Whistler.

This year, Sierra joined the LDS family once more. Sierra brings almost 10 years of experience in writing successful grant applications. 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.

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.

*Bios coming soon.


Aime M.
Anisa C.

Anotidaishe G.
Carol T.
Catherine P.
Cynthia S.
Erin R.
Gill M.
Jamie M.
Jennie L.
Jennifer B.
Larry P.
Lori P.
Maureen S.
Michelle M.
Nichola M.
Naslishah T.
Scott L.
Shirley C. 
Wendy 

Meet the 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.

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.

Melinda Markey

Director

Community Action Initiative, EXECUTIVE Director

Melinda Markey is currently the Executive Director of a granting agency that supports community capacity building and social service sector development across the province. Melinda brings a background rich in non-profit leadership, governance, program evaluation and policy research gained from experience with research institutes, federally funded projects, and non-profit organizations.

Educated in public health at the Masters level at Simon Fraser University, Melinda works to ensure provincial resources are directed to historically undeserved communities, that social justice strategies are upheld, and that communities have access to flexible funding for solutions that are community co-designed and led. Melinda respectfully acknowledges that she lives, works and plays on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded lands of the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Səl̓ílwətaʔ (Tsleil-Waututh), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), and shíshálh (Sechelt) nations, and honours the Elders for their stewardship of the place and people of these nations.

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