We are passionate about creating nourishing experiences and environments for children to learn and to grow.

Meet the Team

Erin Houston
Deep Cove Program Manager & Certified Yoga Instructor

Erin was born and raised in Victoria, BC 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 was quick to call Storyoga home.

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 passionate about creating meaningful relationships between children, teachers, and families and understands the importance of doing so. Erin finds joy in making connections and setting the stage for a love of learning to take place.

Erin recently completed her Iyengar Yoga Teacher Training and has taken the lead on our Goddess Girls camps, classes and retreats. These opportunities to work with young girls holds a special place in her heart and she is grateful to be part part of their journey as they grow into strong, capable young women.

Erin feels blessed to be part of the Storyoga community and looks forward to being part of it for many years to come.

 

Sandra Buyze
McTavish Academy Program Manager

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 development.

Sandy is passionate about connecting children with nature and viewing the forest as an outdoor classroom. Every Wednesday and Friday mornings you’ll find her, as well as her forest teaching partner, in the forest with a small group of Storyoga children for Wilderness Wednesday and Forest Friday – it is in the woodlands that children can move, explore and discover at their own pace, connecting to the natural world.

Sandy loves children’s books, storytelling and songs; she is also passionate about creating aesthetically inviting setups in the classroom that invite children into play in a peaceful and mindful way. She is inspired by young children’s inherent love of learning and trusts in their strong and infinite capabilities.

Sandy loves spending time with her family; she loves being outdoors hiking in the woods, cycling, playing in her garden and being out on the water in her kayak. She is passionate about reading and taking the time to enjoy the every day. moments that life offers us.

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 grateful each day to be a part of the Storyoga teaching team.

 

Cheyenne Hinds
Deep Cove Assistant Manager

Originally from North Eastern British Columbia Cheyenne relocated to Victoria in 2008

then settled on the Saanich Peninsula in 2010 where she currently lives with her husband and two sons. Much of Cheyenne’s youth was spent on a large ranch in the rugged wilderness and she spent much of her time immersed in nature which was ignited her love of nature and greatly influences her philosophy.

Cheyenne also spent time living on Northern Vancouver Island and felt deeply connected to the west coast of BC. Cheyenne began her career in childcare as a support worker in early learning environments while completing her Social Work Diploma but her roots in caring for children began at age 11 when she worked as a mother’s helper and quickly became enthralled with children and supporting their holistic development.

After moving to Victoria Cheyenne continued to work as a support worker and began to take on more educator duties within that role.

In 2013 Cheyenne began her Early childhood educator certification with Northern Lights College. She was granted recognition for much of her previous education and experience in early learning environments and completed some course work and practicum traditionally. This program introduced Cheyenne to Reggio Emilia philosophy and pedagogy which continues to influence her practice today.

After completing her ECE certification in early 2014 she actively sought a childcare program that was both nature and Reggio based and that would give her an opportunity to delve into her philosophy. She spent the next two years managing a nature daycare in Royal Oak investigating mud, mushroom, indigenous and invasive plants, entanglements in nature, and colonialism in her childcare program in the Blenkinsop Valley. This was supported by a research project she participated in with the University of Victoria.

After the birth of her sons Cheyenne has juggled the role of mother and part-time educator on the Peninsula but nowhere felt quite like home. After connecting with Vanessa and viewing Storyoga Cheyenne realized what that missing piece was. Cheyenne is thrilled to have an opportunity to work in such a beautiful environment with such a strong focus on nature and influenced by Reggio. Cheyenne is even more excited for her youngest son joining her at Storyoga while her oldest attends Sidney school.

Brynn Jones
Director of Administration

Brynn has deep roots on the Peninsula, being a 5th generation resident, and considers herself profoundly grounded in her community. In 2010, her family purchased a 1925 home in North Saanich that they named “Sundrop Cottage”. It was later discovered that the land and home were Brynn’s great-great grandparents’. Brynn adores her heritage home and spends every chance she can dreaming about, designing, creating, and tending Sundrop’s garden.

Brynn’s two children, now young adults, started with Storyoga at its inception. Her family have been strong supporters of Storyoga’s offerings for over a decade. In addition to Storyoga, her children were heavily involved in local art and sports programs for their entire lives. Brynn had the pleasure of supporting her daughters’ pursuits by volunteering as a manager, safety person, and treasurer for their sports teams for many seasons and gained valuable insight into the inner workings of children and youth organizations.

Brynn’s administration background is founded in the construction industry, with an emphasis on exceptional management, clear policy, and refined procedures; a skill set that translates well with Storyoga’s expectation to create meaningful and quality relationships. Brynn was drawn to work with Vanessa and her team based on shared core values that contribute to creating a positive, enlightened, nourishing, and nurturing environment.

When not supporting the Storyoga community, Brynn can be found in her garden, at a gym or yoga studio, or exploring the beauty that is Vancouver Island, all in effort to pursue the joy of heart-minded living.

Marisa Amato
Early Childhood Educator

Born and raised in the small costal town of Powell River, Marisa has grown up surrounded by nature. Her love of nature and natural materials fit in with the Storyoga philosophy and centre. Marisa is passionate about supporting and scaffolding children’s ideas and interests.

Marisa is very excited to bring her love and appreciation for nature into the Storyoga classroom as this centre fits so well with her personal philosophy. Marisa has always had a love for children and knew that she wanted work with children from a young age.

Marisa completed the ECE program at Camosun College in 2019. Marisa completed her first practicum at Storyoga in 2018 and fell in love with the centre and the philosophy. She is very excited to back at this centre.

In her spare time Marisa enjoys hiking, camping and exploring this beautiful island.

 

 

Susi McMillan
Early Childhood Educator & Certified 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.

 

Lisa McGrath
Early Childhood Educator

Lisa was born in Northern Ireland, where she grew up helping her parents at their horticultural centre, surrounded by plants and flowers, riding her pony, and playing outside in the green Irish Countryside. She was a young teen when her family immigrated to Canada and settled on the Saanich Peninsula. After graduating from Stelly’s Secondary School, Lisa returned to the UK before settling in Vancouver for 15 years. She pursued her passion for music and photography, completing Bachelor of Fine Art courses at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Her love of music led to her playing and recording as a solo artist in the Vancouver music scene. She met her music partner husband in 2010, and they moved to the peninsula with their two young children in 2015.

Lisa became interested in working with families in 2009, and this initially led her to pursue certification as a birth and postpartum doula. Her strengths were relationshipbuilding and providing emotional and physical support for her clients. Her yoga practice also led her to complete 200hr Yoga Teacher Training in 2012.

Lisa’s passion for working with young children came from a personal place, as one of her children received an Autism diagnosis during their preschool years. Inspired by that journey and the deep appreciation for the individuals who supported her son and her family, she recognized that early childhood educators play an essential role in supporting young children and their families. Lisa decided to enter into the Early Learning and Care diploma program at Camosun College in 2019 on a part-time basis and is close to completion.

Lisa loves working and learning alongside children and finds the preschool environment uplifting and rewarding. She has extensive experience advocating for her child in government and private organizations and feels this experience will help support families with diverse abilities. Lisa feels passionate about sharing music and art with children, spending time in the natural environment, supporting children’s social and emotional development and values the importance of learning through play.

Both Lisa’s children attended Storyoga. Lisa loved the Storyoga environment and philosophy and is now grateful to be part of the teaching team

Tess Gaunt
Early Childhood Educator

Tess was born and raised in the Fernwood area of Victoria B.C., where she fell in love with childcare through years of nannying for this supportive, tight-knit community.

As she entered into Camosun College’s Early Learning & Care program, she became fascinated by the connection between children’s health & outdoor programs, leading her to Storyoga Deep Cove for her very first practicum. Here, her respect for nature-based childcare grew, and she came to love the slow, mindful philosophy Storyoga programs are born from.

She is passionate about working with children through strong, attachment-based theories such as the Neufeld approach, putting compassion at the forefront of all child- educator interactions. She gives great gratitude to Victoria Nature School for hosting her for her final practicum, where her love for forest-education and heart-based developmental approaches have been fostered and enriched. Also, to the child-care team at Victoria’s Inter-Cultural Association, who guided her onto this path very early on.

Tess enjoys art, dance, and everything outdoors, and looks forward to integrating these creative passions into her work with children and families at Storyoga McTavish.

Jenna Pfeifle
Early Childhood Educator

Jenna was born and raised in Victoria spending the majority of her life out on the Peninsula. At 4 years old she moved to Central Saanich with her family and has remained living there ever since. Her roots are strong in the community having gone through the local schools and having worked in her previous job in childcare on the Saanich Peninsula since 2011.

Jenna loves to see how the community has grown, seeing familiar faces of people she’s grown up with and connecting with their families as they grow.

Jenna began her journey as an Early Childhood Educator in 2007 through Camosun College and then in 2012 continued school working towards her Infant Toddler and Special Needs diploma through Northern Lights College.

Her heart has always been drawn to the preschool age as she enjoys the dialogue and curiosity that develops at this stage. Jenna actively watches and listens as children communicate and work together cohesively to find answers and/or problem solve, knowing how capable children can be.

When not working Jenna is spending time with family and friends. Jenna and her husband have a son who attends Keating in the French Immersion program. They like to get out for walks and hikes in the community. She can often be seen out in her neighbourhood walking the family dog with her mum.

One of Jenna’s great passions is food and spends a lot of time in the kitchen. She enjoys making elaborate meals and appetizers full of flavour and aroma. She does her best to make meals from scratch and is always curious at trying new things.

It didn’t take long for Jenna to feel connected to the Storyoga family after starting in the program April 2022. Jenna is excited to bring her enthusiasm, passion and experience of working with children to the Storyoga family along with her joy of laughter and free style dancing.

Judi Dench-Gibson
Early Childhood Educator

Judi was born in England, moving to Canada when she was just five years old. After graduating on the peninsula, she spent a little while back and forth between England and Canada, eventually deciding to settle in England. It was there that she trained to be a nurse, and had her two children.

It was through watching her own children grow, and volunteering in their classrooms when they started school, that she realized what an enjoyable and fascinating time the early years of a child’s life are.

In 1997, the family returned to the peninsula, and Judi started her ECE adventure! She did most of her courses through Lethbridge College, via mail (online wasn’t an option back then!), while working as an assistant at several local preschools.

After having the chance to develop her own philosophy and program ideas, in 2004 Judi opened Acorntree Preschool with her friend and business partner.

In her 18 years at Acorntree, each year brought different challenges and experiences, new skills and ideas, and a strong sense of community. With the time being right in July 2023 for the preschool to close, Judi feels very blessed to have landed in the warm and welcoming Storyoga family!

Judi’s favourite part of working with children is feeding their natural curiosity for the world around them, and helping them to discover how capable and unique they are. She enjoys getting to know them as little individuals, and building strong connections with both them and their families.

Judi has a passion for children’s books that she is excited to share, and loves to discover what the current favourite stories of the group are. She also loves music, and when not at work can often be found drumming!

Mai Kamada
Early Childhood Educator

Mai was born and raised in a small town in Japan surrounded by beautiful mountains, rivers and rice fields. In her early childhood, she spent her time outside playing surrounded by the natural environment and wild creatures. Growing up in an open minded family that encouraged travel and an international career, Mai decided to study abroad. She completed her degree in Child Development from the University of Central Oklahoma.

Mai worked with 3-5 year old classes during her first year as an ECE. In the following three years Mai worked at the International School in Japan with preschool age and school age classes.

In 2013, Mai moved to Canada to work at a daycare based on the Reggio Emilia philosophy. This opportunity helped her understand and focus on the power of observation and the importance of slowing down to allow the children’s ideas to develop.

Shortly after her employment started as a full-time educator, Mai also decided to continue her education on the Reggio Emilia philosophy on a part-time basis.

Mai completed the ECE program at Burnaby Community & Continuing Education in 2020. Mai is passionate about helping children reach their full potential during their early years of learning while embracing their individual uniqueness.

She believes Early Childhood educators are instrumental to preparing the future generation to participate in the community with compassion, thoughtfulness, intelligence, and purity.

Mai, her husband, and their 1 year old son moved to North Saanich in 2022. She fell in love with the community and neighbourhood right away. This environment reminds her of her early childhood in Japan. Mai enjoys discovering new places while hiking with her family in their spare time.

Mai is excited to learn and grow along with the children and the families as an ECE and a member of the community at Storyoga.

Sogol Shafieioun
Early Childhood Educator

Sogol is originally from Iran, where she spent her childhood immersed in the natural beauty her family farm. In 2017, she and her family made the significant decision to move to Canada in pursuit of her aspirations and a brighter future.

Sogol possesses a deep affinity for the art of dance, equestrian activities, and musical instrumentation. However, due to many restrictions within the cultural context of her home country, she could not pursue any of these interests. Immigrating to Canada has taught her a lot and has shaped the person she is today.

Right after graduating from Stelly’s Secondary School, Sogol entered in to the Early Learning and Care program at Camosun and graduated with her Early Childhood Educator Diploma as well as her Inclusive Care Certificate in August 2023.

She then transferred to the third year of the Child and Youth Care Program at the University of Victoria to learn more about the diversity of child and family dynamics, trauma-informed care, and communication skills toward youth and family counselling.

Sogol has always had a passion for working with children and carries the natural gift of making strong and meaningful connections with children. She did a couple of weeks of her ELC practicum at Storyoga and fell in love with the environment and the philosophy of the center.

She believes Early Childhood educators are instrumental to preparing the future generation to participate in the community with compassion, thoughtfulness, intelligence, and purity.

Sogol is thrilled to be part of the Storyoga team and is excited to bring her enthusiasm and passion for working with children into the Storyoga classrooms.

In her spare time, Sogol enjoys outside activities especially hiking, and horseback riding as well as dancing, playing the piano, and reading novels.

Emma Dench-Gibson
Early Childhood Educator Assistant

Emma was born in England, but was raised in Sidney after moving to Vancouver Island when she was young. Growing up in such a beautiful place, she has many happy memories of time spent outdoors with her family and enjoying the many hiking trails on the Peninsula.

After graduating from Parkland Secondary, Emma spent many years travelling as she moved to Edmonton and then to Toronto before settling back in England.

While there, she took advantage of the close connection with Europe and visited many places like Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Croatia, and Italy, and enjoyed the opportunity to learn about so many different cultures while meeting so many interesting people.

When she moved back home to Sidney in 2020, Emma began to volunteer at her mother’s preschool where she discovered how much she enjoyed working with children and pursued her certification as an ECEA.

She is passionate about creating an environment that embraces the individuality of each child while helping them find their place in the larger community and is excited to be part of a team as supportive and dedicated as Storyoga!

In her free time Emma enjoys reading, baking and exploring all the beautiful places on the island that she missed in her years away.

Jayla Cummings
Early Childhood Educator

Jayla was born and raised in Victoria BC, and obtained her ECE Diploma in 2014 at Vancouver Island University. After gaining experience in the Early Years field for several years, she welcomed her own two children into the world before opening and operating a nature-focused Licensed child care centre for the past 4 years.

She is thrilled to join the exceptional staff and beautifully curated facility at Storyoga where she can share her love of nature, creating space and time for place-based learning, and co-learning with children through literature and arts.

Outside of work, Jayla can be found enjoying the company of her husband and young children on bike rides and hikes with their puppy Roger.

She is also an avid runner and especially enjoys the scenic (albeit hilly!) trails of the peninsula.

Karen Rodden
Pedagogist with the Early Childhood Pedagogy Network (ECPN)

Karen Rodden is employed by the Early Childhood Pedagogy Network as a pedagogist, and works alongside Storyoga as a part of the cluster of centres in her hub. Karen grew up on the banks of Stó꞉lō, the Fraser River.

Her mother’s family has ties to Kwantlen and Squamish Nations, her father’s family comes from Ireland and Aotearoa, New Zealand, via Australia. These days Karen lives on W̱SÁNEĆ homelands with her family of humans, cats, a rabbit, and chickens.

Karen has a background in creative writing, art, and as an early childhood educator.

She has been working alongside Storyoga in partnership since April 2022. Karen’s pedagogical commitments are tied to relational ways of being in community, with land, and the more-than-human beings we share this place with.

Some of this work you may have seen in our on-going ways of being with the Douglas fir called SÍLE.

While Karen is not in ratio like an educator, she does spend a lot of time with staff and children building relationships and documenting their collective thinking.

Karen is influenced by her Indigenous roots and the works of inspiring minds such as Robin Wall Kimmerer, Susanne Simard, Richard Wagamese, and Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, to name a few.

To find out more about the ECPN visit: https://www.ecpn.ca/

Testimonials

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