At Nanaimo Innovation Academy, we hire professional, experienced ECE and ECEA teachers that are young at heart, excited about teaching and learning, and are creative with how they engage students. Our teachers imagine the future of our students and work with them through trusting relationships that bring out growth and achievement.
Please read more below about our current teachers and their passions...
If you are interested in joining our team, please read this JOB POSTING and email your cover letter and resume to
Rachael McKee - ECE
Rachael graduated from the ECEC diploma program at Vancouver Island University in June 2017. Rachael is passionate about child development and loves to work with young children over time, helping them to uncover the tools they need to become more independent in their daily routines and in their relationships with their peers.
She thrives in having meaningful connections with the children and families she works with. In the spring of 2017, Rachael spent her 5th practicum abroad in Surabaya, Indonesia. She taught in both a pre-school and kindergarten class, collaborating with university students from Widya Mandala’s English department to help translate. This experience helped to shape the kind of ECE she is today.
Rachael loves to write poetry, paint, make art and get messy! She loves to be outdoors and enjoys the summer time. In addition to her work as an ECE, Rachael is the facilitator of the 'KidZone' at Diversity Festival which happens every July near her home town, Powell River.
Varenka Schwarz - ECE
Hola! My name is Varenka. I was born and raised in Mexico City, where I obtained a BA in Psychology, with a Clinical focus. I moved to Canada 14 years ago. I lived in the Kootenays for 6 years and currently live in Ladysmith. I have been working with children all ages for over 15 years as a teacher, counsellor, psychologist and support worker among other things.
I love children and I love doing and sharing yoga. I am a Certified 500 hr Yoga Teacher for adults,children, families. My certifications include 95 hr Children’s Yoga Training thorugh Young Yoga Masters, a training with Rainbow Kids Yoga, as well as several other yoga trainings, including Acroyoga, which I currently teach in Nanaimo. I have been teaching for over 10 years and practicing for 12 years.In my free time, I share my life with my husband Mike. We play Acroyoga, enjoy the outdoors, hike, forage for mushrooms and rocks, canoe in the ocean, cook all sorts of Mexican, Japanese and other delicious foods! There are still many more things I want to do and learn and I'm excited to share part of this journey with you.
Wen Li - ECE
Hello, my name is Wen Li and I’m a registered early childhood educator in both BC and Ontario.
I graduated in 2016 from ECE program at Conestoga College in Ontario, and have been working
in different childcare settings and kindergarten since then. After graduation, I worked in
Conestoga college experimental childcare centers where offer care for infant to Grade 6
children, as well as children who have special needs. I found this job filled with challenges and
learning opportunities which helped me grow my practical knowledge, professional experience
and confidence.I believe children are competent, capable of complex thinking, curious, rich in potential, and learn best when they construct their own knowledge through playing. As an educator, I enjoy being a lifelong learner and always open to different educational philosophies: Play-based learning, Reggio-Emilia Approach, Waldorf, and Montessori. I believe belonging, well-being, engagement and expression are the foundations for children to grow and flourish in a childcare setting. I am excited to have the chance to collaborate with other educators to create engaging environments and experiences to foster children’s learning and development.
I enjoy reading, cooking and travelling, when I have free time. My husband and I recently moved
to Lantzville from Ontario, so we spend lots of time explore this beautiful island.
Chloe Bernard - ECE
I have always been interested in child development and have pursued learning and working alongside children all my life. I began regularly babysitting for a family at the age of 15 and also spent time as a live-in nanny. From there, I went on to working in a Childcare Center as a summer student.
I fell in love with the field of child development and have completed my ECE diploma at Vancouver Island University with a specializations in infant toddler/ diverse abilities. I have worked in a variety of daycares, in ECE and IT positions. Most recently, I ran a multi-aged classroom in a dual language culturally based Childcare Center in Port Alberni.
I believe that children are much more capable than they are often given credit for, and I strive to help foster their own independence and learning through play, imagination, and exploration.
Katy MacDonald - ECE
My name is Katy and I am so excited to be apart of the amazing team at the Nanaimo Innovation Academy! I graduated from the Early Childhood Education and Care program at VIU in June of 2015 with a specialization in infant/toddler and diverse abilities. I first became interested in working with children when my sister was born when I was a teenager. Having the opportunity to be apart of her development and watch her grow was a wonderful experience for me! During my time as an early childhood educator, I have worked in both programs for 3 to 5 years and infant and toddler programs.
Giving children the tools be able to recognize, express, and eventually regulate their own emotions is an area of importance to me when working with children. Sometimes we need to be reminded that children are people too, who have good and bad days! It is our job to give children the tools to help them navigate successfully through the big feelings they will have throughout the day. Emotional development is just as important as other areas of development.
I feel that there is something unique and special about every child and it is important that we cherish and celebrate these qualities! Early childhood is a time for exploring and discovering the world around us. Children should have lots of opportunities to explore materials, their environments and get messy, whether it be mud or paint! When children are able to explore and discover the world around them, the learning opportunities are endless!
Kozue Rathe - ECE
Hello, my name is Kozue, I first came to Canada from Japan with the working holiday program which was an exchange program for young adults between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. The program allowed young adults to travel and work for a year within the alliance. The culture in Japan is more formal and rigid compare to the one in Canada. Naturally, the education system including early childhood education is close ended and rule oriented with focus on unity as a group. As I grew up I learned to follow the rules at school and to focus on the tasks given to me by the teachers.
My journey as an ECE started in a beautiful small town in Alberta where I met many wonderful children and families. My focus has been creating the environment and relationship for the children to be able to flourish as themselves. I would like children including my own to have the least rules possible. Instead of telling them to be nice, I would like to show them what kindness is and what kindness can do. Instead of telling them how to behave, I would like to create the environment which captures their interest and keeps them entertained. Being an ECE has given me the opportunities to be a part of children's lives and create a strong connection with them as well as the families and the community as a whole. I am excited to be a part of the Nanaimo Innovation Academy community.
Riley Dagley - ECE
Hello, my name is Riley! I graduated the ECCE program in the summer of 2012, and have been working in the field since. My experience has been extremely diverse - I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to work in so, so many different programs, all with their own individual philosophies and culture. From infant toddler to out of school age, summer programs and one on one support for children with a variety of disabilities, I have done a bit of everything. The one thing that has followed me through all of my incredible experiences has been my underlying passion for facilitating children’s development through exploration and discovery. Play-based learning is important to me as I feel very strongly that they learn organically when they have opportunities to ask questions, push their limits, and lead situations - they are so inquisitive and capable. The children teach me just as much as I teach them! Their curiosity, unbridled imagination and excitement often reminds ME to slow down and appreciate the natural world around us - they are truly incredible.
My favourite thing to do in the classroom is open ended and (often messy) art, singing songs and imaginative dramatic play. I equally enjoy watching and documenting the children, and participating when invited! I love love love to be silly and fun. One of my goals as an educator is to develop close relationships with the children in my care and the families who love them and trust them with us. We are working together to create a foundation for lifelong happiness and success!
In my spare time I am often outdoors exploring our beautiful island with my boyfriend Ian and our wonderful heeler mix Primrose. We try to climb a mountain at least once a week! We also do parkour and roller derby - if it's outdoors or active, we're there. I enjoy reading or dabbling in pyrography and traditional/digital portraiture, and I run West Coast Rattery & Exotics as well. I own/breed/sell a variety of exotic and more commonly kept rodents, and spend a lot of time learning about genetics (and biology/science in general!) I am so grateful and excited to be a part of this warm, innovated, true GEM of a team. I can hardly wait to see what the future brings, but whatever it is - the future is bright here at Nanaimo Innovation Academy!!
Jamie Levin - ECEA
Hi! I’m Jamie and I am excited to write this bio so you can get the chance to know me a little bit more. With my degree in social work, I have a strong joy helping and connecting with individuals, bringing forth empathy, acceptance, kindness, and calmness. I graduated in 2015 from Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, in Burnaby. Through my education, I was lucky enough to obtain my ECEA as well. I originally began my career in the downtown eastside of Vancouver, working at a women’s centre and shelter, supporting women struggling with mental health and addictions. This position taught me a lot about boundaries, patience, and compassion, all great skills I was able to transfer over to my childcare work.
I began working with children when I moved to Nanaimo in 2016 from Vancouver, where I was lucky enough to begin a job with the Nanaimo Child Development Centre, supporting children one on one. Through this position, I got to work with a diverse range of children. I have since worked at Haven Society, as the childcare worker and a women’s support worker.
I love the way children look at the world, with imagination, hope, honesty, and creativity. With the proper guidance, support, and engagement, it’s remarkable what children are capable of. I love seeing children grow and progress in their education and development.
In my personal time, I spend it with my partner, where we love to explore Nanaimo and bring our ferret, Gus, for walks. I spend a lot of time reading and writing, as I have a passion for words. I am most content when I am near the ocean, sitting amongst trees, drinking coffee on my deck, and people watching.
Steve Wood - RA
Hello! I’m Steve and am a parent of a four-year-old who attended Nanaimo Innovation Academy (which we immediately fell in love with!) and who has recently started Kindergarten. I have developed my teaching skills in varied work settings, as a facilitator of children’s learning in museums and schools, and as both a conscientious parent and babysitter to friends’ children. Practicing curiosity before judgement, honesty, modelling appropriate behaviour, and appreciating the perspective of others will continue to aid me in helping children to learn and grow in a supportive, caring and mutually respectful environment.
My pedagogical interests are in outdoor play, immersion in nature, and mindfulness, in addition to helping ignite life-long interest in reading. Children’s brains are like sponges and accumulate information so fast. At Nanaimo Innovation Academy, I will provide a solid foundation from which children can indulge their natural curiosity, and will encourage free play with its numerous developmental attributes.
In my spare time, I love trail running, hill walking, reading, photography and meditation and, most of all, spending time on the beach in rain or shine with my wife and daughter.
Josi Cary - ECEA
Hello friends! My name is Josi, I am an Early Childhood Educator- Assistant. I grew up on the Prairies and have since lived out my dream of driving my Volkswagen van to the Pacific Northwest. I worked at the Childcare Center in Ucluelet and received my education through North Island College. I am currently enrolled at VIU, pursuing a career in Music Therapy.
I deeply value the learning and healing qualities of music for children. Teaching children to put their feelings into a song, through instruments, dance, words and creation is invaluable and continuously inspires me. Children have a way in grounding us through their unknowingly knowledge of being truly present. They are a complete gift and I am excited to be apart of their journey through empowering independence, curiosity, and creativity. In my pass times I am usually found in the trees, hiking, running, writing, meditating, playing music. Nature is and will always be my go-to and greatest teacher.
Larissa Gedlaman - ECEA
Hi, my name is Larissa. I am currently in my second year of the Early Childhood Education and Care program at the Vancouver Island University. I'm on track to graduate in June 2020.
I have always had a passion for working with children of all ages and have spent my high school years babysitting, teaching swimming lessons, life-guarding and teaching CanSkate through Skate Canada. I really discovered that this was the right program for me when I began my work experience at the local Strong Start program in Gold River in my last year of high school.
I started my Infant/Toddler practicum at Nanaimo Innovation Academy in the beginning of January 2020 and immediately fell in love with the centre. I am very excited to be staying here after my practicum is finished and go get to know all of you better!
Vanessa Pedersen - ECE
Hello! My name is Vanessa and I have lived in Nanaimo for the majority of my life so far. I completed the Child and Youth Care diploma program at VIU in 2012, became an ECEA in 2014 and decided to return to school in 2018 to receive my full ECE certification. Much of my work with children has been in supported child development and facilitating programming for children ages 3-5 and at risk youth/families.
I enjoy working with children as I love their positive energy and find they are always helping me to look at things, and life in general, in another perspective. I am a passionate advocate for diverse abilities and inclusion as I have two younger brothers who have ASD. I strongly believe that early intervention and peer models are vital tools in child development.
I am a family centered person and care deeply for my 3 younger siblings and my pets! I love music, dance, art, nature walks, reading and movies! I am so excited to be a part of the team at the Nanaimo Innovation Academy as I believe play based and open ended learning are some of the best ways to set up children, of all abilities, for success.
Justine Cochrane - ECEA
Hello, my name is Justine Cochrane. I'm very excited to be a part of Nanaimo Innovation Academy. I believe that all children have the natural instincts inside them to play. It is important that they develop at their own pace. We just need to provide the time, space and appropriate guidance. I also strongly believe that developing positive relationships with each child will help them grow as individuals.
I have a variety of experience with children of all ages. I have worked in daycare centers for 3 years, and I have learned many things by being a big sister to both my younger siblings. I'm an Early Childhood Education Assistant through Pacific Rim Early Childhood Institute. My goal is to finish my full ECE training by September 2020. I am also in the Bachelor of Education program at VIU graduating in 2022.
In my free time, I enjoy reading, baking and painting. Creating and experiencing is an amazing part of life that I value very much. I am looking forward to meeting all of your children and your families.