Our Team

WILD School Staff

Our team is a group of passionate educators with the dedication and enthusiasm to make every day a memorable learning experience.

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Jesse Jewell - Teaching Principal 

Jesse Jewell has dedicated his life’s work to connecting people with the water and land, based on the belief that nature is both a teacher and a healer. He learned this for himself at a very young age and has not forgotten these important lessons. Jesse’s path to WILD School has meandered in many different directions. He honed his facilitation skills and saw first-hand the plight of colonization during two years of service with a children's charity in East Africa and India.

Longing to return to the North where he had spent summers as a youth in Alaska, Jesse packed his bags for the Yukon in 2008. Since then Jesse has been sharing his passion for outdoor and experiential education with Yukon students and teachers leading professional development on topics such as experiential science, lakewater canoeing, inquiry-based learning, action research, risk management and more.

Jesse’s research interests led to delving deeper into a student’s authentic interest in nature. His work has recently been published by Springer in a pan-Canadian text on science education. Jesse has been sharing these findings and much more each year with a cohort of Yukon University students as he instructs the experiential science K-7 course for pre-service educators.  Jesse has presented at several conferences including the Association of Experiential Education & Council of Outdoor Educators of Ontario. Jesse is a certified canoe instructor and Wilderness First Responder and takes both of these roles very seriously.

Jesse is a father of three children who share his passion and curiosity for the outdoors. Given a window of opportunity, he can be found with his wife Janine and children floating down a Yukon river or cross-country skiing and mountain biking with some good friends. Jesse is very grateful to be living on the traditional territory of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and Ta’an Kwach'an Council.

Why WILD School? After spending 14 years working with Yukon youth Jesse has realized that a more immersive educational experience in nature is needed to develop strong and resilient learners. This is the WILD Way!

Katharine Grenier - JK-2 Teacher

Katharine is grateful to be an educator on the traditional territory of the Kwanlin Dun First
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Katharine was born and raised in Toronto. Despite growing up in a busy urban neighbourhood, Katharine found herself exploring the banks of the local, often hidden, river system and delighting in the discovery of a rich natural world in the middle of a city. Katharine attended teacher’s college in Toronto where she focussed on social justice and anti-oppression pedagogy in the primary years. After teaching in the inner city, Katharine worked with Child and Nature Alliance of Canada to become a Forest School Practitioner. She used this training to start her own Forest School programme in the same ravine that she explored as a child. In 2019,

Katharine and her family ventured beyond the urban wild of Toronto to explore the greater wilderness of the Yukon with her two young children. Katharine has taught for the past two years in a Whitehorse elementary school where she implemented a rich, play-based and inquiry-driven program both in the indoor and the outdoor classroom. Katharine is passionate about nurturing awe and wonder in each child as an integral part of the learning process. As an educator, Katharine loves learning alongside her students. Her inquiry-based approach allows students to be engaged and to reflect on their learning process. She is passionate about embedding literacy into authentic, experiential land-based learning. She is also passionate about weaving mathematical thinking into play and exploration in the outdoors. Katharine brings curiosity and compassion to her work with children. She has a holistic view of the child as inextricably linked to land, community and family and works hard to honour these relationships. Katharine believes that nurturing a close relationship with the land will foster a sense of belonging in children that leads to well-being, academic success, as well as future stewardship of the planet and active citizenry in its communities. Katharine loves reading and writing. When she is not guiding young learners in the forest, you will often find Katharine on a mountain-top or riverbank with a stack of books and a journal. She also loves Nordic skiing, paddling of any kind, long-distance cycling and playing with her children.

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Colleen Latham - Gr. 3/4/5 Teacher (beginning January 2023)

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Colleen Latham is a passionate student of life, continually seeking and acquiring new skills.  She was born in Calgary, Alberta, on Treaty 7 land, and from those early days, she has spent much of her time in a fishing boat, water skiing, canoeing and hunting.  Once Colleen was old enough to adventure on her own, she could be found on adventures hiking, rock climbing, and biking in the Rocky Mountains, in hopes to connect with others on her travels.  Colleen has lived, worked and played in places like Norman Wells, Ulukhaqtuuq, Fort Liard, and Fort Smith adventuring to places barely touched by others, all while building friendships and learning more about the culture of the Inuit and First Peoples.  Finally making Yukon her home, here Colleen and her partner continue to share in the nurturing of their two amazing young boys.

Colleen has also had the opportunity to compete as a high-level athlete in athletics and triathlon, racing in places like Mexico, California, and Hong Kong. Some of the areas she holds current training in include elementary and junior high school education, recreation management, leader in flat water canoeing, Nonviolent Crisis Intervention, Commit to Kids through the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, Respect in Sport Activity Leader, and Wilderness First Aid.  She has owned and operated 3 successful small businesses, including a hobby farm with a focus on small animal livestock, berries, and bees.  Colleen’s goal was to have her sons experience firsthand the respectful production of their own food, and sharing the process and produce with their peers and others in the community.

Colleen’s general philosophy includes the growth of human experience through exploration and discovery on the land, in the community, and in the home.  Her teaching method emphasizes the practical when learning with children, youth, and adults while interacting and connecting with the land and each other.  Colleen has developed and models good listening and observation skills often taught by respected elders in the sharing of their stories, teaching about the ways of life and respect for the natural world. She encourages exploration of imaginative and innovative ideas using the outdoors and community as the stage.  Mediocre is not an expectation she has of her students as she believes that once a student is placed in a safe, creative, and empowering environment, as part of a community of learners, the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

She is currently undertaking a Masters degree in Education with a focus on innovative mathematics.  You will often find Colleen exploring the land seeking out new plants and fungi, as well as spending time learning how to navigate the Yukon river.

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Anya Zimmerman - Gr. 6/7 Teacher

Anya was born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon and has always had a passion for the outdoors. Growing up on the traditional territory of the Ta'an Kwäch'än Council and the Kwanlin Dün First Nation was a privilege that Anya credits with developing her strong connection to the land and our environment.

After receiving her Bachelor's Degree in Human Kinetics from the University of British Columbia, Anya worked as an Educational Assistant at the Individual Learning Centre in Whitehorse. It was here that she found a true passion for working with youth to make education a more positive experience in the community. This experience motivated her to return to school and receive her Bachelor in Education through the Yukon Native Teacher Education Program at YukonU. This uniquely local education program offered a perspective and training in education that was both meaningful and transformative for her, further developing her passion for land-based education.

Anya strives to promote fun and positive educational experiences to enrich the lives of children and youth of all ages. She comes from a strength-based perspective and has always had a positive and hopeful approach while working in education. She believes students thrive best when they are in an atmosphere where they feel safe, respected, and appropriately challenged. By creating a community of engaged students and leaders, she hopes to provide an environment of acceptance, connection and belonging.

When she’s not teaching, Anya can be found riding her mountain bike, skiing, canoeing or hiking. There is nothing Anya loves more than being in nature.

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Carrie Harbidge - Wild Fridays Teacher

Carrie was born in Calgary, Alberta and grew up in the Rocky Mountains exploring and camping with her family. This spurred her lifelong passion for the outdoors and nature. As such, she went onto complete her Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Calgary in Environmental Science.

Little did she know that one of her first  projects as a new grad in the NWT, would spark a love for the North and ultimately led her to spending over ten years in Nunavut. After working on environmental assessment projects with the Nunavut Research Institute and Environment Canada, Carrie felt a pull to make a bigger difference. She returned to school to complete her Bachelor of Education degree. After completing her B.Ed. in Lethbridge AB., Carrie moved back to Nunavut as a classroom teacher and as the Environmental Education Specialist with the Government of Nunavut. During a short hiatus from the North, Carrie worked as a field school teacher with the not for profit Raincoast Education Society on Vancouver Island. There she delivered experiential land based educational programming in local schools.

Carrie is very grateful to be living back in the North on the traditional territory of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and Ta’an Kwach'an Council and now calls Whitehorse home. Carrie believes in building a classroom community that embraces the inclusion and involvement of all students, staff, and community members and connects them with the local environment. She loves integrating science and literacy and applying     these concepts to practical on the land experiential learning.

When she’s not teaching, her days are spent outdoors exploring with her husband and two kids, skiing, canoeing or baking in her kitchen.

Janine Jewell - Logistics Coordinator 

Janine is a passionate educator with a very diverse set of skills.  Her teaching journey began 15 years ago at the Canadian Ecology Centre in Mattawa, Ontario where she created and ran a variety of outdoor experiential programs for students from 7 - 18.  The following year she made her way west to teach on Vancouver Island, but it was a summer road trip through Alaska and the Yukon that led her to fall in love and ultimately settle in the North on a permanent basis.

Janine’s teaching, work and travel experiences are rich and varied.  As an educator, she has filled every teaching role from elementary generalist to high school specialist, in every subject from French Immersion to Music, Social Studies, Science and English.  Janine is particularly excited about literacy and loves helping students find their own passion for reading.

At Yukon Wild School Janine wears multiple hats, working both behind the scenes on program development and school support, and also working directly with students as a specialist teacher.  On top of all this, Janine is the mother of 3 young children and runs her own private business.  Yukon Wild School is the culmination of much dreaming and planning and Janine is thrilled to see this vision come to life!  When she is not busy supporting Yukon students, Janine can be found out on the land, camping, skiing, gardening and enjoying time with her family.

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Yukon Wild Camp Staff

David Pharand - Camp Director

David has been living, working and learning in Whitehorse since 2004. Much of his time has been dedicated to helping others explore the amazing mountain biking trails and rivers in and around Whitehorse as a guide on multi-day adventures. David is currently a teacher candidate in the Yukon Native Teacher Education Program (YNTEP) and is looking forward to bringing his passion for the outdoors into his teaching practice.

David enjoys wilderness paddling trips when he is not guiding others. David is forecasting a beautiful summer filled with more incredible adventures, making fabulous friendships, and working alongside amazing people.  He is stoked to make this an awesome summer experience for your raddest little humans!

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Canadian Wild School Staff

The Yukon Wild School is part of a greater network of talented educators.  Meet some of the faces behind the Wild School movement:

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Jeff Barrett, Founder and Executive Director of Canadian Wild Schools grew up near the ravines of the Don Valley river in Toronto, the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.  From an early age, he had a passion for the outdoors and adventure that later took him on countless adventures to all 7 continents and across the Canadian Arctic.   He has taught outdoor education at Upper Canada College in Toronto, Outward Bound, Summit, and Alive Outdoors. He founded Routes Adventures Inc., a wilderness adventure program for youth in transition, developed and ran a bear-viewing lodge for the Kitasoo Xai Xais Nation in the Great Bear Rainforest in BC, guided many expeditions to Antarctica and the Arctic, founded a community ecotourism program in Arviat, Nunavut, helped with the development of a tourism industry for the Carcross Tagish First Nation in Carcross and has been involved in many other eco-tourism and ecoresort programs and developments from Alaska to Oman.  He founded Canadian Wild Schools in order to create a more meaningful educational experience that would ignite his own children’s curiosity and love for learning, while also gaining important real-world life lessons and skills along the way.  He is passionate about developing a new generation of changemakers that also have the passion, the drive and the education to make a meaningful impact in our future.

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Ali Bush - Director of Teaching and Learning / Teacher
Ali believes that for students to thrive, they must be fully engaged. Ali’s goal is to inspire her students to be critical thinkers, creative problem-solvers and life-long learners. She believes that learning activities must be dynamic and interactive, and she uses her energetic approach to encourage participation in an interactive and hands-on way. Ali also believes that if we want students to learn from the world around us, they must respect our environment and cherish all that it has to offer.  Prior to her career in education, Ali was an avid athlete competing at the provincial level in various sports. Ali passes her passion for healthy active living on to her students as she engages them in the outdoor environment. Ali possesses a wealth of warmth and positive energy which is reflected in her students as they gravitate towards her and learn to model her leadership. Ali's musical abilities should not go unnoticed either. A talented saxophonist, Ali was a member of the National Youth Band, where she performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Now with a specialty in music teaching, Ali is working hard to incorporate music into our Wild School community.  Ali is a driven individual who keeps us all on track! When she's not taking minutes at our meetings or reminding us of what we forgot, she can be found out on the bay paddling, chasing us through mountain bike trails, hiking, running, and snowboarding.

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Brayden Plummer - Director of Education
Brayden grew up in rural Ontario exploring the woods and farmland surrounding the Nith river. On his 9th birthday, he was deemed ready to be initiated into the world of Fly Fishing. This gift became a lifelong obsession that led to the discovery of his calling in Education and helped support him through his post-secondary educational studies in literature and philosophy. Leaving the river, he began to teach experiential and outdoor education for a variety of centres and school boards. After teachers college, he reluctantly made the transition to a more traditional educational setting at Pretty River Academy where he taught for 15 years. During a challenging time for PRA Brayden assumed the role of Headmaster and helped grow the school population from 64 to 110 students in 3 years. In 2017 he launched his educational consulting company Out of the Woods Education to provide solutions for the challenges he identified in the education industry. Looking for an outdoor school for his own children Brayden connected with the Wild School and stars aligned. After getting over kicking himself for not starting something like the Wild School 20 years ago he was honoured to become part of the team.  Brayden’s educational philosophy revolves around some simple truths: Nature is the best classroom, strong foundational skills in literacy and mathematics are key to future success; Respect, fun and hard work are paramount for teaching; and, teaching students how to think critically and to have a passion for learning are the greatest skills for achieving sustainable happiness.