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Belva Stone—Director, Co-Teacher Flicker Program

Exploring the outdoors through the eyes of a child is one of the most inspiring things.”
–Miss Belva

Miss Belva has been working with children for 20 years. She spent 12 years as a private nanny specializing in children aged 0-5yrs. During the latter portion of that time, she studied at VCC to get her Early Childhood Education certificate. In 2010 Miss Belva accepted her first preschool teaching job at a traditional Montessori school where she met Miss Pat! She worked there for 4 years before shifting directions and assisted in developing an outdoor preschool program in Vancouver.

Having grown up in the countryside, Miss Belva has a deep love for nature and the outdoors. Regardless of the weather, her mother ensured that her and her two brothers got outside every day to explore what was around them. Because of this, one of her deep rooted philosophies is that children must get outside everyday, regardless of the weather. Exploring the outdoors through the eyes of a child is one of the most inspiring things to Miss Belva as often times, children spot things or find true joy in things that adults miss—like puddle jumping! Their curiosity and sense of constant wonder is what intrigues her most about working with children because they show her that there is always something more to learn, see and discover.

Along with being the Director of Muddy Boot Prints, Miss Belva also teaches and subs for Fresh Air Learning on the North Shore. She leads their Friendly Forest Program in the fall for children on the autism spectrum and their care givers. Belva also offers presentations and workshops on outdoor education to local colleges and universities. Currently, Belva is working towards completing her Forest School Practitioners Course through Child and Nature Alliance of Canada. Once completed in the Spring of 2020, she will have a nationally recognized certificate to be a Forest School Practitioner.

Pat McGinness—Co-Teacher Sandpiper/Goldenears Programs

“Nature can take my breath away and I think of children experiencing that feeling.”
–Miss Pat

Miss Pat moved to Vancouver in the mid eighties from Ontario. She received her ECE certification in 1991 through VCC. After working on the east side of Vancouver for several years, Miss Pat left to explore and work in other parts of BC. When she came back to Vancouver, she chose to work in her friends’ animal care company and still says hello to every dog she meets! Miss Pats love and care for all animals runs deep within her and she passes that passion of care for animals onto the children whenever the opportunity arises—which is often!

Miss Pat returned to the childcare field with knowledge of Waldorf and Montessori theories which is where she met Miss Belva, at a Montessori preschool in East Vancouver. When Miss Pat moved to PEI to connect with her family and explore life on the east coast, they both kept in close touch.  Miss Pat enjoyed her time there as she worked in a centre with a manager who was also an advocate of outdoor programming which—which is Miss Pat’s true passion. It was here that she was finally able to create outdoor experiences for the preschoolers she was with and help them develop a deeper love and belief in outdoor education.

Pat has spent a lot of time in her kayak and camped in the winter with a fox family around her fire in PEI. “Nature can take my breath away and I think of children experiencing that feeling,” Miss Pat says, ”I am so excited to be working alongside Miss Belva in this outdoor adventure and look forward to sharing the knowledge I have accumulated with the children and learning new things along with them.”

Currently, Pat is working towards completing her Forest School Practitioners Course through the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada. Once completed in the Spring of 2020, Pat will have a nationally recognized Forest School Practitioners Certificate.

Cheryl - Sandpiper Teacher

Cheryl Fontaine, Lead Teacher – Sandpiper Program

When children are outside, they engage effortlessly as the possibilities are endless with just sticks, mud and a few puddles.
– Miss Cheryl

Cheryl’s love of the outdoors started young.  She grew up in the Okanagan where she recalls spending hours in her big ol’ back yard, gardening, biking down to the nearby creek to swim, family camping trips and ice skating at the local outdoor rink.  However Cheryl always loved the towering, lush green of the west coast and left the interior for the lower mainland in 1998.

Cheryl has a passion for bringing young children and the outdoors together. In 2016 Cheryl opened her own home based daycare with her now five year old son.  During this time she discovered the benefits of letting children explore the outdoors and how much she herself enjoyed being outdoors with them!  Mud, puddles and sticks—oh my!  She believes play, particularly outdoor play, is the most important way for little ones to explore, create and learn. After enrolling her son in an outdoor early learning program, Cheryl became inspired to go back to school to obtain her Early Childhood Certificate. In 2017 Cheryl enrolled in the Early Childhood Education Program at VCC. She has successfully completed her first year is looking forward to tackling her second and final year of schooling. Cheryl has her Assistant’s License for ECE.

In Cheryl’s spare time, she enjoys biking, gardening, camping with her family and plinking on her ukulele.

Sarah Eakins , Lead Teacher – Flicker/Goldenears Programs

When we take away the walls and invite nature to be one of our teachers, we come closer to viewing the world through the eyes of children and truly experiencing the wonder of simple things.
– Miss Sarah

Miss Sarah completed her Early Childhood Education certification through Vancouver Community College in 2007 and is a passionate lifelong learner. She has over twenty years experience of working and learning alongside children, including nearly ten years building her own family child care program while raising her two young children.

Miss Sarah’s teaching style is rooted deeply in respectful communication and appreciation for each child as a unique individual.  She believes that this approach provides each child with the freedom to develop individual interests and skills in an atmosphere of joyful learning and growth through active play and exploration.

With her love of the outdoors and her playful nature, Sarah has found great joy in her work with children: “When we take away the walls and invite nature to be one of our teachers, we come closer to viewing the world through the eyes of children and truly experiencing the wonder of simple things.”

Miss Sarah attributes her strong connection with the outdoors to a childhood spent helping in the garden, going on family picnics, and camping trips, and spending summers at the lake. She finds peace in nature and still can’t resist a picnic!

Jessilyn Wong, Assistant Teacher- Sandpiper/Goldenears Programs

One of the greatest joys is watching children grow their minds, bodies, and spirits while exploring nature.
– Miss Jessilyn

Miss Jessilyn completed her bachelor’s degree at Simon Fraser University in psychology and education in 2020. Through the years, she has worked in various outdoor education and community development programs where her love for relationship building has grown alongside her deep appreciation for B.C.’s beautiful surroundings.

After volunteering at a local forest school, she discovered how special and important outdoor education is for children. Watching them play outside, she was amazed by their giant imaginations and how they could turn pinecones, sticks, and rocks into dragon eggs and magic wands! She believes that letting children spend time in nature is important for them to develop respect and gratitude for the land, grow skills like resilience and self-confidence, and channel their adventurous spirit. She is very excited to be working with Muddy Boot Prints and can’t wait to be out learning and enjoying the outdoors with all the kids in the program.

Outside of teaching, Jessilyn enjoys hiking with her dog, practicing yoga, cooking, and watching true crime documentaries.

Debbie Leboe Photo

Debbie Leboe, Assistant Teacher – Flicker Program

Being outdoors in nature allows for authentic cooperative play, children have the space and freedom to follow their own interests and the environment becomes our classroom.
– Miss Debbie

Miss Debbie has been working in Canada as an educator for 10 years. Her childhood was spent on a small mystical Island in the Irish sea surrounded by beaches and covered in woodland. She spent her days outside exploring and playing. Her love of nature continued when she came to Vancouver 20 years ago and was so mesmerized by the beauty of BC she settled here.

She trained as an elementary teacher in the UK and has continued her journey as she became an ESL teacher in Vancouver in 2015. Over the years Debbie has worked as a private tutor and in Vancouver community centres as an instructor with preschool aged children.

She was inspired by the play based approach she discovered in her children’s parent participation preschool and her recent volunteer work in outdoor preschools opened her eyes to the opportunities afforded when learning is taken outside.

Debbie is currently studying ECE at Langara College and is thrilled to be part of MBP and exploring outdoors this year.

In her spare time in the Summer you can find Debbie in her garden or at the beach paddling in her canoe and in the Winter she will be up in the mountains.