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2012 Nominees - Education, Training and Development

Natacha Beim

Natacha believes strongly in giving children the best possible start in life. She is the CEO and founder of Core Education and Fine Arts (CEFA), a full day early learning centre for children aged one to five. From one centre in 1998, today CEFA operates in 10 locations across BC with 15 more opening in 2012.  She also developed the entire curriculum for children, intensive specialization training for teachers, and early childhood educators and she also offers free parenting classes which she teaches to all parents in the community. Natacha is an avid volunteer and mentor who encourage her staff to give back to the community.

Connecting the Community Quote:

“As an expert and fervent advocate for early learning, I know that it makes all the difference in a child's life. It also greatly impacts our society by reducing crime and poverty, and by empowering individuals to contribute. Cefa offers thousands of children per year this opportunity. By supporting early learning and child care, I hope to make a greater difference.”

Melinda Giampietro

An experienced teacher and school administrator, Melinda opened Options Solutions, Vancouver’s first full-service educational consultancy in 2003. With a mission to empower the educational choices of young adults, Melinda offers individualized services to help students pursue their academic dreams. She employs a student-centered, holistic approach that focuses on building skills and addressing the needs of students of all abilities. She has built relationships with both public and private high schools and universities and she considers this extensive network one of her most valuable assets. Committed to sharing her knowledge, Melinda volunteers her educational expertise to public schools and sports organizations and provides a free website forum with timely, relevant content about post-secondary education.

Connecting the Community Quote:

“The influence of media makes it more difficult for adolescents to "come of age" than in any previous generation. Therefore, teenagers should be coached and mentored as they navigate this under-valued and over-judged period of development. As an innovative educational consultancy, Options Solutions supports various athletic, fine art, leadership, and school organizations that support healthy choices for youth.”

Diane Nelson

An innovative, passionate educator who creates thoughtful and meaningful programs for students, Diane displays quality leadership in teaching and learning.  Showcased in the BC Sports Hall of Fame, Diane developed the West Vancouver School District’s Premier Sports Academies, specialized athletic programs where students can combine their love of sports with academics. She is also the author of Fin’s Friends, a social responsibility and character education program for students K-3 that has spread to more than 5,000 classrooms across BC. Despite her duties as a principal, Diane chooses to maintain a strong connection with school children by making the time to teach each week and she strives to incorporate the latest research into her classroom.

Connecting the Community Quote:

“Self-awareness, empathy and social skills are essential to success in life. Having the capacity to self-regulate and monitor emotions helps youth flourish in family life, relationships, school and work. I am supporting healthy choices for youth because of YWCA Vancouver’s important work to help boys and girls transition to adolescence with the tools to make healthy, responsible choices – and thrive.”

Valerie O

Valerie’s presence in the Vancouver School District as Associate Superintendent for Learning Services has left an outstanding legacy of innovative programs. For decades, Valerie has promoted life-long learning and found creative ways to support early literacy, music and community-initiated programs. She guided the development of a Mandarin-immersion program, introduced the Roots of Empathy Program, which brings infants into elementary school classrooms to teach children empathy, and supported the innovative MindUp program which teaches ‘mindfulness’ to students to help with concentration and motivation. Valerie spearheaded a far-reaching LGBTQ policy that helps students and staff to value diversity and respect individual differences, and includes anti-homophobia training and support for all administrators. A community volunteer and exemplary role model, Valerie has generously mentored countless women to leadership.

Connecting the Community Quote:

“Every day, those of us in the kindergarten to grade twelve system see concrete evidence of the effects of positive early learning experiences – and the problems children without those benefits face.  I believe that by supporting the early learning and child care programs of the YWCA we can make an incredible difference in the life chances of all children.”

Kimberly Schonert-Reichl

An applied developmental psychologist in the Faculty of Education at UBC, Kimberly endeavours to make social-emotional learning a fixture in BC classrooms.  She has dedicated her career to studying resiliency, empathy and well-being in children and adolescents. She was instrumental in developing the Middle Year Development Instrument, which has provided school districts and communities with the ability to analyze and understand impacts of environmental conditions on child development. Kimberly continually approaches her projects with the intention of taking theory to practice, connecting sophisticated research with practical and effective programs. She widely shares her knowledge, from the Ministry of Education to influential world leaders such as the Dalai Lama, and as well, sits on numerous educational committees including the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP).

Connecting the Community Quote:

“My research has shown the importance of providing children with quality after-school programming that strengthens their capacity to develop important social and emotional skills and to make meaningful and supportive relationships with peers and adults. I choose to support healthy choices for youth because the YWCA is offering programs that can lead children on a successful path to becoming competent and contributing citizens of tomorrow.”

Tracy Theemes

An experienced financial planner, Tracy co-founded Sophia Financial Group, a full-service advisory firm that empowers women using an education-based model, novel values based approach. With her thriving and growing practice, Tracy has proven that an education-based model translates into a financially successful business. She has paved the way for others to take a more collaborative approach to financial advisory services. Tracy also created ‘Wealth Academy for Women: Everything a Woman Needs to Know in a Day’, where women learn, develop confidence, and overcome fears about financial management. Active in her community, Tracy offers free educational events, participates as a mentor in women’s business organizations and established the ‘Red Door Club’, a peer mentoring network for women financial advisors.

Connecting the Community Quote:

“As a former infant development consultant in Vancouver’s downtown eastside I saw daily evidence of the importance of early learning and child care. Early intervention and parental education and support can make the difference between life and death, poverty and self sufficiency.  We must channel our resources into these foundational years to create strong children and a vital community.”


Anna Tudela

As Vice-President of Regulatory Affairs and Corporate Secretary of Goldcorp, Anna understands the obstacles that women face to achieve professional success within the male-dominated mining industry. Anna imagined and spearheaded the company’s Creating Choices program, under which hundreds of female Goldcorp employees from North to South America receive comprehensive training that empowers them to succeed in the industry. Anna has dedicated countless volunteer hours to building program content and shaping the next generation of female leaders everywhere from the office to the frontline mines. The program is the first of its kind to train, develop and mentor women within the mining industry and Anna’s determination has ensured that Creating Choices is a solid corporate priority that will see 500 graduates in 2012.

Connecting the Community Quote:

“Gender based violence is a violation of human rights.  I endorse YWCA’s efforts to prevent violence against women and to create safe communities where women can live free from violence and abuse.  I am proud to be part of Goldcorp’s Creating Choices program, which empowers women to realize their personal and professional aspirations and reinforces their deserved value as equal members of society.“

France Vachon

France has built her career on promoting life-long learning and has made significant contributions to Francophonie culture. In her current role as Director of Studies at Collège Éducacentre she brings energy and creativity to adult learning, distance education and innovative learning technologies. Until 2004, few college-level credited programs were available in French in Western Canada. France developed quality, accessible college programs for students across Western Canada by helping create a ‘virtual campus’ that offers students flexible distance education options. She helped create the highly successfully French for Parents program and she volunteers her time and expertise for the benefit of organizations across Canada, including as board member for the National Literacy in French Network.

Connecting the Community Quote:

“I strongly support the Crabtree Corner Family Resource Centre and reducing child poverty in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Providing access to programs and resources that make a difference in their everyday life, and helping these children to develop and achieve their full potential are important keys to their future and to ours, as a community.”

Catherine Vertesi

Catherine, Vice President, International, External Relations and New Initiatives, Capilano University, is an award-winning educator and administrator with a distinguished record in international education, teaching and program innovation. ‘International education’ did not exist as an education model in Canadian universities when Catherine began her teaching career. However her passion for student learning and her unflagging belief in the importance of bridging people, countries and cultures has resulted in a 30 year legacy of educational excellence and best practice in international study programs and cross-cultural experiences. She has mentored students and young professionals, led workshops for colleagues, represented the province and Canada in international conferences and she has voluntarily taken on demanding leadership roles within provincial, national and international organizations.

Connecting the Community Quote:

“For 30 years, students and staff at the Childcare Centre at my university work with kids from ethnically and economically diverse backgrounds and prove over and over that the best start we can give them is planned, supportive early learning and child care.  Every visit introduces me to tots who are growing more social, confident and skilled every week - an investment in all of our futures!”


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