Mission Makers: Antra and Rie—LDS Interns and a Whole Lot More

Mission Makers: Antra and Rie—LDS Interns and a Whole Lot More

Antra and I are still fondly referred to as “the Interns,” even though we are now part of the permanent team at LDS. Although we have very different backgrounds and had different roles, we’ve come to realize why LDS drew us together. We both applied to LDS because we saw a chance to do work that could benefit others, that our internship could mean something more than a position we’d later put on our resumes.    

Last year, as I was nearing the end of my Bachelor’s degree in Communications and Economics, I was also looking for a remote internship. As this would be my one opportunity to learn hands-on skills before I graduated, I knew I wanted to explore different skills.   

In an effort to reach a more diverse audience of prospective employees, Sierra, the Communications and Fundraising Manager, had posted the Digital Communications Intern position in a local networking group that supports women in business. That’s where I reached out to Sierra, who asked for writing samples before inviting me to interview.   

“Even though Rie didn’t have a lot of experience,” Sierra recalls, “I could see her natural talent in writing shine through in her portfolio. When I interviewed her, I also found Rie to be enthusiastic and driven. I knew right away that I wanted her on my team.”   

Contrastingly, Antra, being the proactive person she is, had started looking for a co-op position through her university in her second year. As a Computer Science major looking for a non-traditional work placement, Antra hoped to find an employer that valued her work beyond traditional data entry roles.   

“During the interview,” Antra says, LDS’ Executive Director “Rachel mentioned they had all these projects they were working on and wanted my help with them. I couldn’t believe it; you want me, an intern, to do valuable, meaningful work? That doesn’t happen often!” Antra was hired as a Graphics and Web-design Co-op Student and moved across the globe to work in person in the East Vancouver Learning Centre.  

LDS values continuous learning from everyone on the team. We were thrown right in, treated as equals, and became immersed in the world of the LDS Communications Team. LDS has opened our eyes to what it means to work collectively towards tangible change in the lives of others. We’ve redesigned the website, written two blog series, and participated in the Spring “Make a Difference” campaign to spread awareness of learning differences and the work LDS does for children and youth across British Columbia.  

As interns and now as staff, LDS brought us together and provided a space for us to learn, grow, and do meaningful work. We have learned that the LDS team not only believes in every student that comes through our doors, we also believe in and support each other as a team. Each and every one of us is provided with opportunities to explore and expand our skills.   

LDS fostered both of our talents and interests and let us become integral parts of the LDS Communications Team. With Sierra’s guidance, I was able to explore writing and learn about the various avenues it could take me, from those I’d already known, like writing social media posts, to entirely new adventures into grant writing.   

The whole staff also watched Antra grow her confidence and personality in leaps and bounds, becoming a vibrant team player. Working closely with Sarah, the Community Manager, Antra was immersed in graphics and design projects and became the LDS resident expert in WordPress and the Divi theme, Google Analytics, and Canva. Antra says, “I ended up doing a lot of things at LDS that I never thought I’d be doing, like in-person fundraising and redesigning the website, and it’s all been a great experience.”    

We want to thank our supervisors, Sarah and Sierra, for always believing in us and pushing us to do more than we ever could’ve imagined. We’d also like to thank the LDS team for becoming our work family and making us feel at home. 

Antra & Rie 


Rie Stadnichuk (she/her) is the Digital Communications Specialist at LDS. She recently graduated from Simon Fraser University with a degree in Communications and Economics and she hopes to use her position at LDS as a way of exploring meaningful work in the field. Rie 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: Mike—helping families use assistive technology

Mission Makers: Mike—helping families use assistive technology

At LDS, our innovative use of assistive technologies (ATs) is a pillar of our work. This month’s Mission Maker is our Assistive Technology Manager, Mike, whose background in Mechanical Engineering first exposed him to assistive technology (AT).  

AT is a broad category of physical and software technologies that can help individuals with a range of disabilities. The most common example of AT is a prosthetic limb, but there are also ATs for those with learning differences. Mike’s role as the AT Manager includes helping families to navigate the tools available through LDS’s Assistive Software Suite, find the ATs that help their children the most, and then overcome the learning curve of integrating the technologies into their lives.   

“I really like engineering and the science that I learned,” Mike says, “and that just stressed that I wanted to use that knowledge to help people and use it in creative ways.”  

Mike completed his Master’s in Biomedical Engineering as a way to use technology in ways to help people. This was also where Mike was first experienced working with children—his Master’s research focused on therapies for children with cerebral palsy by developing a game to improve children’s mobility.  

“In that experience,” Mike explains, “it really affirmed that this is what I wanted to do, and particularly with children they are so positive even though they are there to improve their mobility.” 

Since then, Mike’s career has been on a path of exploring how to use technology and his knowledge to better the lives of others, which led him to his position as Assistive Technology Manager at LDS. Mike is responsible for overseeing everything AT-related, including researching, acquiring, and integrating AT into LDS’s learning support programs.  

There are many assistive technologies available, and investigating the quality and effectiveness of those tools is part of Mike’s job at LDS. “I like to think that my role,” he says, “is to help our instructors and families access well-researched assistive technologies.” 

Mike’s job is also changing the narrative around online educational software applications as some teachers see them as crutches and not necessarily as helpful tools. However, Mike believes these technologies enhance what instructors are teaching and instead should be seen as tools to overcome certain barriers.  

Mike hopes to continue to open eyes and minds to the changing nature of software and its ability to help individuals with learning differences. In the short term, Mike would like to spread awareness of our AT Studio and integrate its tools into additional LDS programs. In the long term, Mike wants to help shape how ATs are created and designed to keep every type of user, including those with learning differences, in mind.  

“It would be great if we could…go back to companies and say, ‘These are the things we want to see in your products.’ Because a lot of these tools aren’t developed for people with learning differences, they just happened to fill a need. If we can get to a point where we push information back to [the assistive technology companies] and ask for new integrations and shape what AT for the learning sphere looks and acts like, that would be impactful not only for LDS but for everyone with access to those ATs.” 

In his parting remarks, Mike wanted to let families know that if they have any questions about our AT Studio or would like to try them out, please do not hesitate to reach out to him via email, at@ldsociety.ca 

“I really want families to be comfortable reaching out to me in saying, ‘Hey, let’s email Mike about Grammarly or Read&Write,’ or any piece of AT they may be interested in. I want to be that go-to person for helping them, and if you have any questions, please email me. I just want families to know I’m here for them.”  



Rie Stadnichuk (she/her) is the Digital Communications Specialist at LDS. She recently graduated from Simon Fraser University with a degree in Communications and Economics and she hopes to use her position at LDS as a way of exploring meaningful work in the field. Rie 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: Emma—giving back the support she received

Mission Makers: Emma—giving back the support she received

“Growing up, I knew I wanted to work with children and youth in a supportive capacity so they can receive the support I had too,” says Emma, a Remedial Instructor at LDS and this month’s Mission Maker.  

As someone who benefitted from recreational and community engagement programs as a child, Emma understands the importance of accessible support systems. In high school, Emma began volunteering in community support programs and enjoyed working with children. Her understanding, empathy, work experience, and education make Emma an excellent, adaptive instructor for our students. 

Emma has a Bachelor’s of Kinesiology and is currently studying for a graduate degree in Occupational Therapy, both from the University of British Columbia. She enjoys being able to apply what she learns in lectures at LDS, and vice versa—to use her experience as an instructor to inform her education.  

With experience at various nonprofits and children’s programs throughout Vancouver, Emma has a diverse background working with children of various ages and abilities. She worked for a community engagement project with children at a local Neighbourhood House. Emma also has experience within the Vancouver public school system as an Education Assistant and a Community School Teen Programmer. There she focused on teaching social-emotional skills and community building.  

Emma believes her previous experiences inform her teaching style at LDS by making content that is engaging and relatable to her students. At LDS, Emma feels that she can use her experiences and her skill set to help make a difference in her students’ lives. 

For example, Emma fondly remembers the time when one of her students asked her, “Do you know that the grocery store sells three cereal boxes for nine dollars?” At first, Emma thought this was an odd question, but when she was debriefing with the parent at the end of the session, the parent asked her child to bring the cereal boxes over.  

With the cereal boxes in hand, the student started reading the stories and the games on the back of the boxes. Emma realized that this was a huge turning point for the student. Previously, the student couldn’t read the packages or choose which cereal they wanted, but now they had a sense of autonomy and choice. “The student was so excited to able to understand what was going on in their environment. I got to see the skills being applied in real life,” says Emma. 

 “When I first learnt about LDS, I was drawn to how holistic they were,” says Emma. LDS focuses on academic outcomes, but there is an underlying focus on social-emotional skills and the child’s overall well-being. LDS also incorporates Assistive Technology and Speech-Language Pathology to best engage children in their learning. “I think having all of these evidence-based strategies and individualized supports for the students is so important,” says Emma. 

Emma also loves how important it is that LDS emphasizes affordability as part of its mission to be inclusive and accessible. LDS provides access to internal and external bursaries, so families who may not be able to afford remedial instruction can still access it. 

“It’s unfortunate that these kids are otherwise left behind because of something they can’t control like financial barriers,” says Emma. “LDS is able to remove these barriers that are preventing them from being successful in school, which is often tied to other skills like social-emotional and a sense of belonging or community.” 



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. 

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. 

Mission Makers: Sarah—creating community at LDS

Mission Makers: Sarah—creating community at LDS

“Since joining LDS as Community Manager, Sarah’s work has been fast-paced and ever-changing. Initially hired for a part-time, remote position, within weeks she was packing up her life in Ontario to move across the country to take on a full-time role in Vancouver. This speaks volumes about Sarah’s work ethic and adaptability. As the Community Manager, her current responsibilities include fundraising campaigns, community advancement, special projects, and communications. Her role combines her desire to strengthen community and create change. 

At LDS, community means a place that is both inclusive and accessible. Sarah emphasizes and relates to the aspect of her job description that is to maintain the “health and well-being of our community.” She goes above and beyond to hold space for each student to feel heard and valued. 

Sarah has a Bachelor’s in International Development, which helped develop her critical eye for analyzing both macro- and micro-level problems. She then received a Graduate Certificate in Public Relations, which gave her the tools to bring solutions and a big-picture vision to organizational issues. She gained experience in communications positions at large corporations but did not find the competitive, sales-focused environment motivating or fulfilling.  

Her education and her mother’s career as a social worker inspired her to want to take on a career beyond the typical, corporate Public Relations (PR) or Communications job path. “I didn’t know I wanted to work for a nonprofit organization,” says Sarah. “I just knew I wanted work that aligned with my desire to create systems change,” and she realized she could do that by working for a nonprofit. 

Sarah found work as a Project Manager at a private school that served children with learning differences. She enjoyed being able to exercise her creativity to complete big-picture projects and initiatives. Sarah appreciates PR’s earned media aspect and interacting with customers and clients to find solutions to their issues and listen to their stories, which helped guide her to her current position. 

At LDS, there are service deliverables and a mission as there are at many other nonprofit organizations. But what stands out to Sarah is “our work in advocacy, in transforming individual lives of children and youth, and bringing attention to the issues that face our society as a whole.” Sarah believes that the importance of LDS and nonprofit organizations is that they go beyond finding a temporary solution and work to solve the root of the problem to create lasting change.   

Sarah’s favourite part of her job is working on large projects that make LDS stand out, as she likes project-based work where she can create, design, and bring her visions to life from start to finish. “I feel personally motivated by the projects we are doing and inspired by the people I’m working with,” says Sarah. 

About her time at LDS, Sarah feels that she is part of a well-oiled machine on a long-term mission to help children with learning differences; one that will create a more accessible and inclusive community and, eventually, bring systems change to our society.  

“We all contribute differently,” Sarah says. “Most of my work is on the communication and fundraising side of things, while others are part of program delivery or finances. Everyone plays a different role, but we are all working towards the same overarching goal.” 

Alongside her Community Management role, Sarah is working towards a Non-Profit Management Certificate at Simon Fraser University to take a new approach to management and support LDS to reach its vision and mandate. 



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. 

LDS Welcomes New Associate Director of Learning Support, Melissa Sager

LDS Welcomes New Associate Director of Learning Support, Melissa Sager

We’re pleased to welcome Melissa Sager to the LDS team as our new 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.

During that time, she even created a small school where 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.

As Associate Director of Learning Support, Melissa will work closely with the Executive Director and Director of Learning Support to expand and develop LDS’s in-school, centre-based, after-school and summer programs.

What first inspired you to take up teaching as a profession?

During university, I volunteered at a therapeutic horseback riding farm where I helped teach children and youth with a range of disabilities and mental health disorders learn about horsemanship and horse care. Horses are keen observers; they are very sensitive to movement and emotion. They often mirror behaviour or emotions, conveying understanding and connection that allows a person to feel safe.

It was really impactful to observe how children and youth were able to develop a sense of self-awareness using the horse’s behaviour and interactions for feedback. I witnessed how clients were fully present when working with these large, sensitive animals and able to be so present and process what was happening in the moment. My experiences at the farm helped me realize how much I loved being a facilitator of both learning and therapeutic experiences, so I decided to go back to school to pursue my Masters in Education and become a special education teacher.

Some of the work you did for your Masters of Education centered around students with learning disabilities. Can you tell us a bit about that and how it has informed your approach to teaching over the years?

I worked with children who had significant emotional and behavioural challenges in a Special Education classroom, which required me to become incredibly attuned to a child’s needs and level of engagement during instruction.

I realized that there are numerous factors, unrelated to aptitude or ability, that influence a student’s availability to learn and access the curriculum. As teachers, there are many environmental variables we can control and strategies we can employ to facilitate optimal learning, and great instruction begins with making sure a student’s needs are being met.

Was there a pivotal moment or experience in your career that really highlighted the value and/or need for individualized instruction?

I tutored an incredibly bright first grader whose enthusiasm about life and high level of engagement in the learning process was infectious! When he entered grade 2 and expectations shifted towards greater independence, especially in reading and transitioning between tasks, he began to internalize some of his difficulties keeping up with the class.

It was heartbreaking to see how he lost confidence in himself and in his academic abilities. There was a stark contrast in his demeanor when learning at home in a tutoring context compared to his learning experience at school. At home, his inquisitiveness was insatiable. He was constantly seeking out information on a wide variety of topics and initiating in-depth, multi-step projects that required a great deal of planning, organization and goal-persistence.

Knowing how successful he could be in an environment that was well-suited for his learning style, his family decided to try homeschooling and asked me to help design a customized learning program based on his strengths and needs. When lessons were both individualized and geared toward his interests, he was able to access the curriculum, develop good strategies for optimal learning with a disability, and excel beyond grade level expectations in many areas.

What drew you to LDS?

From the moment I first met with LDS staff during the interview phase, it was very clear to me how deeply this community cares about helping kids with learning disabilities and making sure no student is left behind. I’m excited about being a part of a really passionate, creative and dedicated team, and working towards furthering LDS’s mission.

What most excites you about working here?

When I learned that LDS is a non-profit charity whose mission is to improve life outcomes for at-risk children and youth through individualized remedial education, I was very interested to learn more. It is rare to find a program that can offer fully funded, one-to-one interventions for clients who qualify. It is a high-need service in many communities and there aren’t any other organizations who offer this service in Vancouver.

What’s your favourite subject to teach?

Even though it was my least favorite subject during my school years, I really love teaching Math.

Red apples or green apples?   

I love ALL apples!

Meet Our New Executive Director, Rachel Forbes

Meet Our New Executive Director, Rachel Forbes

The LDS Board of Directors is excited to announce that after an extensive search process with very many qualified applicants Rachel Forbes has been appointed LDS permanent Executive Director. From the moment she stepped in as Interim Executive Director, Rachel’s impressive dedication and decisive, insightful leadership impressed both Board members and staff.

Rachel brings over 20 years of experience working with non-profits, charities, and companies in various capacities including as executive director, program lead, staff lawyer, and volunteer board member. With experience in governance, fundraising, strategy, project management, and communications, Rachel is well-poised to lead LDS through our next phase of strategic growth and beyond.



Tell us a little bit about your background. What first drew you to work in the non-profit sector? 

Fundamentally, I’m driven by my values and by what I consider to be positive impact on the world we share. While there are increasing numbers of for-profit companies who have a core commitment to values, I find the greatest alignment in the non-profit and charitable sector.

I believe the non-profit sector has taken on an increasingly heavy and often unrecognized responsibility for delivering the services, supports and products that allow our society to operate at a level we consider fair, just, and healthy. That responsibility is significant and serious. I find it an honour to work with and lead non-profits that are finding creative, innovative and systemic ways to make our communities and our world a better place.

Do you feel personally connected to the LDS mission? In what way? 

Of course, in many ways. I think the primary way I feel personally connected with LDS, especially now as a parent, is a feeling in my gut and in my heart—a passion—that every child has the opportunity to “learn how they best learn” and to be able to apply that in school and throughout their lives in whatever path they end up pursuing. I love that we work on an individual basis with each child who comes through our door to equip them with the skills and tools they need to navigate their world and to pursue whatever challenges and adventures they are most passionate about.  

How does an interim ED’s role differ from a permanent ED’s role, and what made you decide to apply for the permanent position? 

It’s different because now I don’t have to think about how to stay connected with LDS after my interim role ends! I now get to focus on working with and building our amazing team. I decided to apply for the permanent position because I couldn’t imagine not working with the LDS team to advance our mission. It grabbed me right away.

In the short time you’ve been at LDS, what has inspired you the most?

Every student of LDS is an inspiration. Every time I meet one of them, hear about their progress and see their smiling faces, my inspiration reignites and grows.

What most excites you about working at LDS? 

I think the most exciting thing is the potential that exists at every turn—the potential to work more deeply with some students, the potential to work with many more students (including in new and creative ways like our 2020 summer programming), and the potential to positively influence the lives of the children, youth and families that we work with on a daily basis.

What was your favourite subject when you were in school? 

That’s a tough one. I really loved math when it was taught by a specific teacher—he had an amazing way of making math a really gratifying problem solving endeavour. However, geography ended up being my favourite in the end. My dad was my teacher for geography in high school and I feel like he really made the Earth come alive for me. I am mesmerized by our planet’s powerful natural systems, the history that they carry, and the influence that they have over all living creatures.

Pencils, or pens, and why? 

Pens—blue ink, smooth medium point tips only. I especially love it when the ink is warm so I often put a pen into my pony tail to warm it up!

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