Meet the Teachers
Vanessa Lee, Founder & Director
Vanessa is an island girl and nature lover by heart. She was born and raised in Sidney, BC and has always had a love for the outdoors. Vanessa developed a yearning to teach at a young age and has experience teaching in a wide variety of settings.
Strongly inspired by the Reggio Emilia Philosophy, Vanessa entered into the Early Childhood Care and Education Program at Capilano University in 2006. After completing the program, she was presented with a unique opportunity to work alongside one of her mentors in a school specialized in children’s literature and art. Not long after, Vanessa completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training which sparked a life-changing trip to India that continues to inspire her teachings to this day.
Over the past ten years, Vanessa has worked with both the Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland communities. In Vancouver Vanessa taught in both preschool and Montessori settings as well as shared Storyoga with nearby communities. While Vancouver was where it all began, it didn’t take long for her to take root back where she belonged, on Vancouver Island.
Vanessa opened Storyoga Preschool in 2012 and has since expanded to open a second location alongside her husband this Summer. Vanessa’s passion for creating nourishing environments for children to grow is evident in both of her preschool spaces. Vanessa feels blessed to be anchored in such an incredible community of families and is grateful for the ongoing support. “It takes a village” and she is thankful for everyone who continues to be a part of the Storyoga village.
Erin Houston, Program Manager, Greenglade Community Centre
Erin was born and raised in Victoria and shares a strong love for yoga and the outdoors. She started practising yoga at a young age and has always had a desire to work with children. After entering into the Early Learning and Care Program at Camosun College in 2012, Erin had the opportunity to student teach at Storyoga Preschool as a third practicum placement. It was a natural fit for Erin having grown up exposed to a yogic lifestyle and she quickly became part of the team. After graduating with a Diploma in Early Learning and Care and completing her Infant and Toddler as well as Special Needs Certifications, Erin was offered a position at Storyoga and has become an integral part of the teaching team.
Erin is also in the process of completing her Iyengar Yoga Teacher Training which is a three year dedicated program. In addition to teaching in the preschool environment, Erin co-teaches in the Parent & Toddler classes, After School Storyoga and Goddess Girls classes and retreats. Erin also has a passion for photography and art both inside and outside of the classroom.
Simone McLure, Administrative Coordinator & Early Childhood Educator Assistant
Simone was born and raised in the small town of Nelson. Her fondest childhood memories are of playing school with nine of her neighborhood friends in the basements of each of their homes. Surrounded by parents who were teachers there were endless school supplies and resources, providing great opportunity to teach the younger children in the neighborhood. At sixteen Simone started her career in aquatics and instruction, teaching everything from swimming lessons, lifeguarding courses and aquafit classes.
During her time at UVic Simone started working at Panorama Recreation centre and continued there for 12yrs eventually working as the Aquatic Coordinator, while continuing to teach children of all ages as well as training lifeguards and swim instructors.
While raising her two children she took a break from the recreation world and gained her Pilates instructor training while also working as the office administrator at Victoria Pilates. Her love of teaching and building relationships with families has brought her to Storyoga after both her children went through programs with Vanessa. Her youngest who is now 9 was in Vanessa’s very first Storyoga Preschool class. Looking back over the years, teaching has always been a part of her life.
Working now with the Storyoga team brings great joy and gratitude as she grows her skills, learns from the other teachers and shares her experiences she has gained not only from teaching but from being a mother. Simone most values her time spent with her family and friends, taking in local beaches and looks forward to more travel and enjoying their new home in the years ahead.
Susi McMillan, Early Childhood Educator Assistant & Forest School Practitioner
Born and raised in Germany, Susi has had an artistic flair since childhood. She entered the workforce in Germany with a BA in Economics and Marketing as an events manager and remained in this field for 10 years. Sensing that there was more to life than working in the corporate world for a mega-company she took a trip around the world to see what she could see. The result of the trip was, she met her future Canadian husband and moved to Canada. Starting in Vancouver, Susi was a very active member of the German Children’s Playgroup and created unforgettable family events for the community’s families. She also helped create a weekly German Kindergarten.
After her move to the Island she initiated environmental activities at her daughter’s elementary and middle schools, which still run to this day.
Now, with 2 teenagers, Susi searched for the perfect fit to share her energy and enthusiasm for nature, art and children. This led into working as an Early Childhood Educator assistant and has recently embarked on the adventure of becoming a Forest School practitioner.
Susi has worked with infant toddlers, pre-school aged children, elementary and middle school children. Her passion to support the child’s connection to nature, sense of wonder and imagination is her magic touch.
Susi met Vanessa when she signed up her youngest daughter at the age of 4 to Vanessa’s Storyoga classes. Now her daughter is 14 and participates in Teenage yoga retreats.
Through the years it became clear that Susi and Vanessa’s path will cross one day. When Susi started working as an Early Childhood Educator Assistant, it was just a matter of time.. that Vanessa and her worked together.
Sandy Buyze, Assistant Director, McTavish Academy of Art
Sandy lives in North Saanich and moved from Salt Spring Island where she raised her children and taught preschool in the oldest one- room schoolhouse in BC. Her philosophy of early learning is influenced by both the Montessori and Reggio Emilia approaches with a strong emphasis on the natural outdoor environment and all that it has to offer to support children’s wellbeing and love of learning.
Sandy has taught in preschools and in family resource programs. Whilst facilitating early learning programs at the University of Victoria Family Centre, she started a Creative Movement program for preschoolers that focused on both yoga and dance. Sandy has worked with After School groups and has voluntarily coached Cross-Country running at the older elementary and middle-school ages.
Sandy is passionate about children’s books, storytelling and songs. Besides enjoying time with her family (and puppy!), she enjoys being in her garden and in the woods; She loves yoga, reading and cycling as well as many other outdoor pursuits. Sandy is currently working on a dairy and mostly oil-free muffin cookbook – the process of creating and testing recipes has been fun and interesting.
Sandy first met Vanessa when she came over to Salt Spring Island several years ago to offer Storyoga with the preschool children that she taught there. She is so excited to now be a part of the Storyoga program and teaching team
Jen Medak, Assistant Director, McTavish Academy of Art
Jennifer grew up in Vancouver and has recently made the island her new home. After completing the ECCE program at Capilano University in 2001, Jennifer became part of the teaching team and eventually Director of Little Ark Preschool in Vancouver, where she stayed for almost ten years.
Strongly inspired by the Reggio Emilia philosophy, and under Jennifer’s leadership, Little Ark became a leading edge school in the Vancouver early childhood community and the Reggio Emilia Network. Over the following six years Jennifer went on to teach and direct at other schools in
ancouver including the Vancouver Child Study Centre, Tom Thumb Preschool, Little People Preschool and Fresh Ayre Daycare in Squamish.
Jennifer’s teaching has always been inspired by her love of nature, art, music, and children’s literature. Bringing yoga into the classroom was something that came naturally for her after completing her 200 hour teacher training in Costa Rica in 2011.
Aside from teaching children’s yoga in the classroom, Jennifer also teaches local classes and workshops, mother/ child yoga and art retreats and in the last few years has been traveling to festivals in Bali, New Mexico, Oregon and here in BC, leading storytelling yoga workshops.
Jennifer is passionate about creating community in the classroom through fostering meaningful relationships with children and families, creating a beautiful and thoughtful learning environment and allowing children time and space to explore, investigate, take risks, create and discover.
Inhersparetime,Jenniferisanavidsurferandmountainbiker,and isaloverof music, travel, art and cooking. She is extremely honoured and excited to be joining the Storyoga team.
Emily Mann, Early Childhood Educator
Born and raised on Vancouver Island, Emily has a deep appreciation and connection to the outdoors. Specifically living in the West Saanich area of the island, it has given Emily an understanding of how integral nature is to the connection of community and family. She takes that love and appreciation for nature and uses it in her daily practice with children through song, dance, and art.
Emily’s interest in working with children began at a young age, when she would watch her mother and aunt work within their home-run daycares. She admired watching the two strongest women in her life be so dedicated in making each child feel comfortable and loved. Since then she knew she wanted to get into the field of childcare.
Emily entered the Early Learning and Care program at Camosun College in 2016, where she was able to gain the knowledge needed to turn that passion into a career. This diploma program taught her the importance of being a positive, guiding figure in young children’s lives, and supporting each child with their own unique self-expression. Each Practicum that Emily worked in during this program has given her unique ways of teaching that she is able to blend into her own. Now graduated with a Diploma in Early learning and Care, including an Infant Toddler specialty, Emily is eager to use her fresh perspective withinthe classroom.
After meeting Vanessa and visiting Storyoga, Emily knew that it was a perfect fit, aligning with her own philosophy of childcare. Emily not only sees her own values being taught within the Storyoga classroom, she also feels that strong sense of family and community that she was always looking for.
What Kids are saying
- “Once upon a time there was a little girl named Mattea and she always liked to go to Storyoga. The little girl had so much fun at Storyoga that she even didn’t want to leave.” ~ Mattea, 4
- “She reads us stories and we colour. I love drawing inside the shapes – and about Vanessa, I love her!” ~ Darien, 4
- I like doing the downward dog and the pom – pom blessing. I like yoga because it is good for your body and we learn about nature.” ~ Lucas, 6
- “I like the stories Vanessa read to us, and I liked doing Namaste Mountain.” ~ Renee, 6
What Parents are saying
- “I heard about your classes and camps from several of the Sidney Preschool moms. I’ve talked to quite a few people about your classes at Strongstart, Preschool, and in Logan’s Kindergarten and I have never heard a bad thing. You should be really proud of the strong reputation you have built in your small community.” ~ Joscelyn, Sidney BC
- “Kaylee absolutely loves the class and you also. We have tried a few after-school things before and she has never been enthusiastic about them. With this yoga she comes home and can’t wait to show us what she is learning. Thanks for all the energy you put into it.” ~ Sarah Paulson, Sidney BC
What Teachers are saying
- “Hi Vanessa. Thanks so much for having me. I felt so comfortable… a sense of coming home or at least inspiration for the type of environment I want to be involved with. Out of all the centres I visited, yours was the most beautiful in so many ways, especially the vibration of peace.” ~ Yvonne MacKenzie, Pender Island BC
- “Vanessa’s interactive storytelling, wide use of colorful, playful props and the brilliant way in which she engages children in yoga poses was a hit with the children in our program! Thank you Vanessa for exposing our children to yoga in such a fun, positive way.” ~ Lori, Victoria BC