Mission Makers: Cynthia—making a difference through her work

Mission Makers: Cynthia—making a difference through her work

Cynthia, a certified BC teacher at a specialized school for children with learning differences, has spent the last three years as a part-time Remedial Instructor with LDS. She feels that LDS is a further extension of her work in schools and a way to fill the gaps in educational support that may be unavailable in the school system.

Teaching at LDS “is a way of doing what I love doing, but in a different capacity,” says Cynthia. Providing one-on-one remedial instruction is a very different dynamic to her work as a teacher with a classroom full of students. But it brings her a sense of pride when she’s able to use what she has learned from her past teaching opportunities to provide accessible individualized education for students.

Cynthia has always enjoyed learning about how different minds work, including those with learning differences, which is why she pursued a BA in Psychology. Although Cynthia was unsure of what she wanted to do with her Psychology degree, with exploration and curiosity, she applied for her teaching diploma.

Cynthia chose to study Education for her teaching degree and experienced a range of different teaching styles and environments. She again explored various teaching experiences such as teaching at Montessori schools and in an English as a Second Language program.

Cynthia found her current career path with students with learning differences upon returning to Canada after teaching abroad. She had worked with students with autism in the past and remembered the feeling of making a difference through her work and the pride of accomplishment the students experienced with her help. So, when applying for jobs, she applied to the specialized school where she now teaches children with learning differences.

“It’s fun, always changing, allows me to be creative, and is challenging,” says Cynthia about why she enjoys teaching. “I like working with children and learning about what they’re interested in, and deep down inside, I think it keeps me young.”

For Cynthia, it’s essential that every student has the opportunity to learn in a way that best suits their needs, and LDS can provide a space for this. Connecting with her students is important to Cynthia. With the age group she teaches at LDS, they are old enough to be socially aware and have critical thoughts, which can lead to interesting conversations.

Using her knowledge about what her students are interested in and what they find relatable, Cynthia curates her sessions around these topics to keep her students engaged. She has found this creates an environment where students want to attend their sessions and are willing to learn. Receiving feedback from her students’ parents about the changes they see in their children, such as volunteering to read at home or seeing their confidence grow, encourages Cynthia to continue instructing.

“Growth is slow, but when it does change, it carries on to all other aspects of their life, which is exciting.”



Rie Stadnichuk (she/her) is the  Communications & Fundraising Assistant at LDS. Currently studying Communications and Economics at Simon Fraser University, she hopes to use this opportunity as a 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. 

Mission Makers: Kaleigh—providing play-based and arts-informed teaching

Mission Makers: Kaleigh—providing play-based and arts-informed teaching

At LDS, we value the varied backgrounds and passions that our instructors use to relate to our students or further enhance their instruction. In the case of Remedial Instructor Kaleigh, her background is in the arts, she has a teaching degree, and she is pursuing an acting career. Her many pursuits add value to her work at LDS because they provide her with a vast knowledge of teaching styles to help her relate to our students.

Kaleigh has a Fine Arts degree in Theatre and a minor in Psychology. For Kaleigh, psychology shed light on how or why a person expresses themselves in a certain way, and drama was one of those ways, so her major and minor went hand in hand. This unique education allows her to be a very empathetic teacher when providing one-to-one instruction. Kaleigh is quick to notice when her students require a brain break or different teaching forms, such as visual or auditory. And as all fun drama teachers do, Kaleigh engages her students in games and takes a play-based teaching approach.

“It’s more important now more than ever to think outside the box,” says Kaleigh about her experience as a teacher. Kaleigh’s arts background has taught her to be adaptive and think quickly to take on whatever may be occurring in the classroom. She also emphasizes how she is a visual learner who grasps concepts best through examples and play, informing her teaching style, especially when academics are challenging for diverse learners. At LDS, there are learning outcomes to be met, and Kaleigh’s knowledge and skill set allow her to adaptively teach in an engaging way so that each student can meet those outcomes.

Kaleigh has always enjoyed the arts and music but was not introduced to drama until high school, where she took it as an elective. She enjoyed studying the arts in higher education because of the supportive community that thrives in this field. Participating in theatre requires social skills and communication and is a breeding ground for collaboration. “Whereas other areas of academics are about answering questions correctly,” says Kaleigh, “the arts are more about the process and how a student approaches the problem.”

One of Kaleigh’s favourite things about her job with LDS is that she can help her students grow and watch the “light bulbs turn on in their heads!” while she works in the arts in her spare time. Kaleigh believes all children can benefit from being involved in the arts and that art helps kids learn self-regulation and social skills while still having fun. Kaleigh also advocates for media representation and creating space and accessibility within the arts for those with different abilities. One day, she hopes to develop a program to bring the arts to children with learning differences.



Rie Stadnichuk (she/her) is the Digital Communications Specialist at LDS. Currently studying Communications and Economics at Simon Fraser University, she hopes to use this opportunity as a 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. 

Summer Camp Reflections: Freaking Out About Science!

Summer Camp Reflections: Freaking Out About Science!

Lindsay, our Summer Camp Coordinator, designed the schedule and led activities for RISE and Solve, LDS’s science camp. Lindsay has a degree in Science and has taught a science camp before. She says her position with LDS brings together her three passions: science, working with kids, and working with people with learning disabilities. 

“The design of the camp is to encourage kids to develop their curiosity, to be enthusiastic about science so that it’s not a scary thing,” Lindsay explains. 

“If they are curious, they want to learn. So the camp helps develop that curiosity in science and the natural world. We deliver lessons on a broad range of scientific topics, everything from earth science to chemistry to engineering, so they have…a broad foundation of knowledge. They also work on those critical thinking skills and problem-solving skills.” 

On the first day of camp, students got an introduction to science and the scientific process, as well as problem-solving skills. “They start to grow their crystals, we talk about collecting data through observations and creating a hypothesis. So they have a sheet and they do their crystal hypothesis of what they think it’ll look on Friday, and every day we collect observations of it and pair our results with our hypothesis to do a simple experiment that they’re excited about—’cause it’s crystals!”

The students also did an Adventure Room where students worked together to solve a series of puzzles to get the next clue. “We call it an Adventure Room rather than an Escape Room because they’re not trapped and we don’t want to freak anyone out!”

“It wasn’t in the original plan, but working with kids you sort of learn, ‘oh, they’re interested in this, we need to address this, and adapt as we go.’ So Monday, we also talked about viruses and COVID-19. What is a virus? How can we protect ourselves?” 

The instructors provided scientific understanding “without freaking them out! Which I think we’ve done a pretty good job of!” Lindsay tells me. “What does handwashing actually do? Why do we need to do it for 20 seconds? What is the purpose? Instead of just having arbitrary rules, it gives them an understanding of why.”

On Tuesday, kids also got a chance to build their own solar oven with a box, reflective piece, cellophane, and black paper to trap heat. On Wednesday, they tested it by making S’mores (a pretty great test, if you ask me!). Thursday was Ecology Day and kids learned about the different types of trees and why certain trees grow in BC. Friday was all about engineering. 

Every day is full of fun experiments. From making lava lamps to using chemistry to fill balloons, kids get a whole week to freak out about science. 

Lindsay’s teaching philosophy includes inquisitive learning, discussions, and activities. “Sometimes they’ll ask questions that are not a part of the lesson plan, not something I scheduled, but are great questions and they are genuinely curious about it. Last week, I started the day with, ‘Tell me something you know about science and something you’re curious about or want to know about.’ 

“And one of them said, ‘I know there are spiders that are as big as a dinner plate.’ …And the other kids said, ‘Those aren’t real!’ So we pulled up pictures and we talked about it. 

“We talked about venomous versus poisonous animals. We ended up spending about 40 minutes and they talked about snakes and spiders and that wasn’t even Ecology Day! It just happened! That’s what I want to see because if they are curious they are going to want to learn. …As long as they go home with a positive understanding of science and little more familiarity with the concepts—that’s what I hope for. ” 

“I feel like I can relate” to the students, Lindsay says. “I’m dyslexic and have ADHD.” 

Lindsay wants the kids to know about her learning differences: “I’m very open about that and I’ll joke about it, ‘Oh, that’s just me being dyslexic!’ when I misspell something on the whiteboard.” 

“Make it OK to ask for help,” she says. “Normalize learning disabilities, learning differences, neurodiversity—because a lot of the time I think kids don’t have that representation of someone who is succeeding and doing well with a learning disability. I think that’s important”

Lindsay shares a conversation she had with one of her students when she mentioned her dyslexia: 

“Oh, yeah, spelling is really hard. I have dyslexia, so sometimes..I need some help,” Lindsay said. 

One of the girls looked at Lindsay and said, “Oh! That’s what I have too!” 

“Yeah, that’s OK, some of us do,” Lindsay said.

“Oh! OK,” the girl said. 

“She didn’t say much,” Lindsay explains, “but she was thinking. You could see the wheels turning. And I thought, ‘This is good. This is important.’” 

“Sometimes kids feel a stigma around it, or they feel embarrassed, and building up that confidence about who they are, and who they are is great! And it doesn’t matter what learning difference or disability or neurodiversity you have, you can still do great things!

“I want them to feel good about themselves and who they are. And if I can have any part of that by providing representation, I want to! I want to help build them up so they go home with a positive self-image and a positive idea of science.”

Summer Camp Reflections: A Day in the Life of an LDS Summer Camp Amateur Author

Summer Camp Reflections: A Day in the Life of an LDS Summer Camp Amateur Author

As the Communications Manager, I am assigned the fun and interesting task of interviewing staff about their work. With my background in creative writing, I am particularly eager to learn more about the RISE and Tell Summer Camp, which focuses on writing and storytelling. 

Erin Roberts, Summer Camps Lead Instructor, is responsible for creating and delivering the curriculum for RISE and Tell and she sits down with me virtually to fill me in on her experience. “I’ve been working as a one-to-one instructor with LDS for two years now,” Erin tells me. “With my other work, I’ve done group facilitation. This was a nice merge of those two worlds.”

Erin is able to both lead group activities and work individually with kids, where she learns their fears around writing and how she can help break down those fears. “I just really enjoyed doing this over the summer—taking those two things that I love doing and having them go together.”

The camp’s curriculum is centred on a different writing genre each day:

Monday: Poetry
Tuesday: Biography and Autobiography
Wednesday: Writing for Media (storyboarding and screenwriting)
Thursday: Graphic Novels
Friday: Oral Story Telling with an Indigenous focus

On Monday, kids learned how to use their senses to describe their natural world and write about it in a poem. 

On Tuesday, “One camper wrote this amazing zine as an autobiography and it had all the details he needed. And he was one who said, ‘I don’t want to do this. I can’t write. I can’t do it.’ And then he wrote the most!” Another camper “made a zine every day on a different topic! It’s been great to see her find a way to express herself and what she’s interested in.”

“Wednesday was movies, so talking about stories from a plot perspective: rising action, climax, falling action, resolution—those mechanics of a story—but thinking about it from a movie perspective to, kind of, sneak in that lesson,” Erin says, laughing. 

Erin used the Disney movie Frozen as an example: “‘What happens in the beginning? What is that called?’ I try to find ways to make it accessible to all learners—because they are all at different stages—and then we can adapt. One camper got so into it that she wrote two pages of a movie story and plotted it all out and cast it and everything!”

“That’s so great!” I say, “I did an MFA in Creative Writing and when I took Intro to Creative Writing, they actually used the movie Wall-E as an example of all the perfect elements of a three-act structure of a movie.”

“I’ll have to remember that for next year!” Erin says.

On Thursday, the kids worked on graphic novels. They presented their stories, beaming with pride. Erin explains: “I wanted to have them showing their work and taking pride in their work. We talked about the different ways a graphic novel tells a story…or, how can we tell a story without any words? Here’s a sequence of three things happening—what’s the story and how do we know?”

“They basically got a mini-MFA!” I interject. “This is all stuff I went over in my MFA! These kids are ready for graduate school!”

Friday focused on oral storytelling. Erin brought in some improve games to show how a storyteller uses their voice and their body to make their story more interesting and exciting. She included perspectives on Indigenous storytelling to weave in themes that might get missed in school. 

“Structuring the camp with a different theme every day is more accessible and engaging…. I live by the mantra, Be Who You Needed When You Were Younger, and this is the kind of camp that I would’ve loved when I was younger.”

“My son has a learning disability,” I tell Erin. “He was always so creative, and to this day he is always creating, so I think finding each kid’s strengths can really make them feel successful.”

“And showing them the strengths they already had, but didn’t know.” 



Instructor Erin Roberts 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. In addition to tutoring at LDS, she is a program leader for youth education programs.

Communications and Fundraising Manager Sierra Gemma brings 10 years of experience in communications and writing to LDS, 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.

COVID-19: LDS’s proactive measures and updates

COVID-19: LDS’s proactive measures and updates

Dear LDS community members,

This space will be updated as proactive measures and policy or practice changes are made by LDS in response to the evolving COVID-19 situation. Last update: March 17, 2020

What is LDS doing?

We would like to assure you that LDS staff are monitoring the COVID-19 situation on an ongoing basis. We are keeping abreast of measures being taken by health authorities, local schools and others, and are aware of information shared by various public health and government authorities.

As of March 16, all staff are working remotely.

We are prioritizing the set up of remote online software to ensure that our instruction can continue following spring break. We will be updating our instructors and our families as soon as possible to confirm timing, technology options and programming that will be offered online starting approximately March 30th.

We have and will continue to increase the thoroughness of cleaning at our facilities, including regular disinfection of surfaces, door handles, table tops. For the time being no work or instruction is happening at our Learning Centres.

To ensure as much safety as possible, LDS has temporarily (until April 30) amended our cancellation policy. Families may now cancel sessions due to sickness without being charged. We will update this policy if/as necessary. We have also urged parents to report any signs of illness right away and cancel their session.

We have asked our instructors and staff to report any of their own symptoms immediately to us, and to alert us of any suspected symptoms in students, parents, other staff or anyone interacting with the LDS community.

What can you do?

In line with guidance from the government, please stay home as much as possible, including not attending school or work places.

If you feel unwell, please notify LDS immediately and do not go into schools or LDS offices. If you have come into contact with any known or suspected cases of COVID-19 locally or internationally within the past 14+ days, please alert us immediately and do not go into LDS offices or any schools.

Since respiratory viruses, such as the one that causes COVID-19, are spread through contact, change how you greet one another. Instead of a handshake, a kiss or a hug, a friendly wave is less likely to expose you to respiratory viruses.

Practice frequent hand hygiene and coughing and sneezing etiquette. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as toys, phones and door handles.

These are the most important ways that you can protect yourself and your family from respiratory illness, including COVID-19.

Support our families

If you are able to give, your support now will mean that we are better able to move all of our instruction online to ensure continuity of service and support to all of our families during this time when we need each other’s help the most.

Please consider donating or becoming a monthly supporter today. Charitable receipts are issued through CanadaHelps.


We encourage you to consult information and resources from reputable sources. Some of our suggestions include:

Advice by the Canadian government on COVID-19 as well as information on symptoms and prevention measures can be found here https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html

Q&A for Kids from the BC CDC: http://www.bccdc.ca/Health-Info-Site/Documents/COVID19%20QA%20for%20kids%20Feb%202020.pdf

BC CDC information: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/coronavirus-(novel)#Community–resources

If you have any concerns or questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. INFO@LDSOCIETY.CA or 604.873.8139

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