Lisa Draper, Child and Youth Worker

I am the Child and Youth Worker at EYA.

Michelle Hadida, Itinerant Resource Teacher

As the Itinerant Resource Teacher, there are many layers to my position. I am fortunate to work at EYA 2.5 days a week and I support students academically in-class, one-on-one and through credit recovery. If you have an IEP, I update it and share the information with teachers to help with your academic growth and success. I help students prepare for the literacy test, plan their next steps for after high school and more!

Sheridan Hay, English, History, and Media Teacher

I teach the film, history, politics, media studies courses, and the occasional English course, but currently I am taking on the role of guidance counsellor for the school.

Nothing, and everything, that I did before EYA prepared me for working here.  Before coming to EYA, I worked with young offenders, adolescents in hospital day treatment for eating disorders, high school age expectant mothers, and a group of students who lived aboard a tall ship with myself and the other crew and teachers sailing the Atlantic and Pacific. I also spent a lot of time working with school-aged groups outside of the classroom in Nova Scotia, Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec, in courses ranging from drama and computers to canoeing and camping. Those experiences all taught me the value of versatility, flexibility, team work, humour, and community – all values incredibly crucial for getting the most out of all that EYA has to offer

When the question arises about what makes a school “alternative,” I have to answer this in two parts. The school is “alternative” because it offers something different from any other place, providing an educational setting with different priorities than a traditional school and a considered approach to teaching, learning, and the role of the school. The classes are “alternative” because the course content caters to the needs, interests, and strengths of the population it serves while also preparing students for whatever future they are going to face. Teachers seek to collaborate with students in meeting educational goals and establishing a safe and constructive environment in which to learn. We strive to keep the course material current, engaging, challenging, practical, and fun and remain responsive to the population we serve.

What being at EYA means to me is being part of a special place, where everyone is encouraged to be an active member of a dynamic community.  Support, compassion, courage, engagement, and curiosity, are all words that come to mind when I think of this school. I know that I have grown a lot from working here, from both students and staff, and feel privileged to be a part of a community that is so dedicated to learning, relationships, and success.

Kristin Kniehl, English and Literacy Teacher

When asked to define my time at EYA I felt stuck, not because I didn’t know what to say, but because too much came to mind.  It’s kind of like someone asking you to define yourself, an identity too complex to sum up in a paragraph. To make my task easier I decided to think of five words that I associate with this place.  I came up with: compassion, respect, laughter, creativity, and family. The word compassion is for my colleagues. I’ve never known more compassionate people than the staff at EYA. The self is left at the door and inside this school you will see a team of people ready to support everyone around them.  Respect is for the culture of the school. When it’s given, it’s received, and this is true of all our students. Laughter, a much needed element in life to lift us from pain, can be heard throughout the building. Here an energy exists that cultivates giddiness, silliness, and quick witted humour. The term creativity came to mind because our students are brilliant.  They push boundaries and express themselves and their ideas in unforgettable ways. And finally, family. EYA is a second home to many. The connections we build here are strong and long-lasting. We’ve proven that there is nothing we can’t accomplish together.

Adam Passarello, Art, English, and Native Studies Teacher

Adam is the visual arts, English, and native studies teacher here at EYA.

Bryan Pietersma, Co-op Teacher

I have been running the Co-op programme here at EYA for a number of years. At other times in the past, I have taught Phys. Ed, English, World Religions, Grade 12 Math, and even some Science (!).

I think that what “alternative” about teaching here is the relationships; between the staff and students, between the staff themselves, and amongst the students of EYA. Many students have told us over the years that the word that best describes us is “family”.

There is a level of caring and affection that I feel amongst us all that I really appreciate and enjoy. It’s a very positive, supportive and uplifting place to be a part of. Even when challenges and difficulties arise – which will happen sometimes, because life in general has challenges – we manage to find a way to handle them in a positive way so that we grow from the experience

As an educator, I have learned so much and grown in so many ways as a human being because of what I get to do for a living. I feel so incredibly fortunate to do something that makes a positive impact on the lives of young people and, hopefully, on other people that I come into contact with as a teacher.

Over the years I have been here, I have seen the lives of so many young people changed because of having a second (third? fourth?) chance at EYA. They inspire me because of their resilience and determination to overcome the obstacles that they have faced; they inspire me because they are such wonderful, interesting people, even more than most, because of what they have learned through adversity. Being able to be a part of their transformation, to have an opportunity to mentor them, has had a profound influence on my life. Of course, I like to believe that I have been a positive influence on them, also. 

Harriet Whiteman, Curriculum Leader

I teach Law, Politics and Food & Culture at EYA. I'm also a guidance counsellor and the curriculum leader of the program. I have been at EYA in different roles for over ten years.

In my time at EYA I have learned a lot about the importance of relationships in teaching and learning. The staff team here are an amazing group of people who love what we do. We are engaged together in the ongoing project of improving this learning environment. We enjoy working together, challenging each other and ourselves to be the best that we can be and to be constantly adapting and changing to meet the needs of our students. We work hard to maintain an environment and pedagogical approach of a high structure, high flexibility and high expectations of ourselves and our students.

We also like to have fun. I teach some challenging subjects like Law and Politics and I bring a lot of enthusiasm and energy to my classes. I strive to be very structured and I do a lot of work with my students to build their capacities and skills. We always manage to find opportunities to laugh and have a good time even in these, at times, heavy subjects. My approach to teaching is as a facilitator whose main purpose is to ignite student interest, drive inquiry and provide a framework and support for critical thinking and expression.

As a guidance counsellor I am here to help students in any way I can. We provide many social and academic supports to aid students in their success. Getting to know individual students, their interests and challenges helps me to be a responsive guidance counsellor with authentic care for all our youth. I am here to help students determine their future pathways, explore those paths, try new ones, and try again. I have supported students who have pursued many different trades and all manner of college and university programs. I am constantly learning and I strive to be highly knowledgeable about opportunities and supports for student success. If I don't know an answer to a student's question, I will find it or find someone who does. Whatever your interest or needs I will do whatever I can to help support you.

Having been a part of the EYA community for some time now I can say that over the years visits from former students are among the greatest experiences. It is always an amazing opportunity to sit and talk with a young adult who was at one time a teenager in my classes. It is incredibly rewarding to hear about the journey that young person has taken since leaving our school and to reminisce about the experiences we shared in the past.

I feel incredibly privileged to be a member of the fantastic community at EYA! 

Miriam Zemell-Bloom, Office Administrator

I am the Office Administrator here at EYA.

I’ve worked at several schools over the years, and each of them was wonderful in different ways. One thing that I saw, however, that was frustrating, was that some students were expected to learn within classes that were not tailored to their needs.  I want to work in a place where I feel confident that the number one priority is meeting students’ needs, and that decisions are made always in the best interest of students. That is the goal and a main focus of the staff at EYA.

What’s alternative at EYA begins at the intake process, which includes a one-to-one interview with one of the teachers, in which the teacher really wants to hear about the prospective student’s path up to this point, what their goals are, and how they can be supported in meeting their goals.

The student also learns about the school, and it is made clear to every student in the intake interview that EYA is an inclusive community in which everyone is respected and welcomed, and any kind of racism, sexism, homophobia or bullying will not be tolerated.

So in this initial talk with one of our teachers it is established that we care about you, the student, and also that if you choose to come here, it is expected that you will participate as a member of a caring, respectful and inclusive community.

I love working at EYA because it is a place where everyone is appreciated for who they are. Students’ individual needs and struggles are respected, and the goal here is to be flexible in order to help students meet their academic goals in a safe, caring environment.

Golnar Zia, Math, Science, and Social Science Teacher

I teach math, science, and the occasional social science course. 

I have been at EYA for the past 10 years and find my experience rewarding in many ways. What makes this school special is the combination of flexibility it offers and an environment sensitive to the learning needs and life challenges students may be facing as they join our school community.

As a teacher, it can also be a very rewarding school to work in as we can see many of the students grow and succeed over the course of their time here. I have learned a great deal working here and always look forward to meeting new students and being part of their success stories.