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Colleen Murray

School Director

Colleen is the Founder and Director of Arrowsmith Independent School and Preschool. She also happens to be the Mom of one of our students! She has a passion for educating youth that is 'second-to-none' and a desire to get it right when it comes to preparing youth for a promising and fulfilling adulthood.


Early in her life, Colleen developed the perspective that there's a way to approach learning that engages all children. When her daughter's previous school closed down, Colleen, along with her partner, Ryan, and their respective families, decided to begin fresh. It was their joint passion for a young girl's education that was the catalyst for the birth of Arrowsmith Independent School & Preschool in August of 2016.

When she isn't raising chickens and children, Colleen is an avid outdoors-woman.


Leslie Bremner

Principal & Grades 4 & 5

Leslie is our Principal and Class 3/4 Teacher and the mother of two of our students.  She holds a BC Teachers Certificate, a Bachelor of Education from Vancouver Island University, a BA in Journalism and Communication from the University of Regina, and has completed training in Waldorf Education. 


After teaching for several years in Japan and Ireland, Leslie and her family moved to Vancouver Island where she has taught a Waldorf-inspired, nature based curriculum since 2012.  She believes in a balanced approach to learning that provides children with quality academics, life skills, nature studies and an appreciation of art and music.

Leslie is also a certified Yoga teacher and spends her free time camping, gardening, and exploring with her two young sons. She is an avid runner and you might even see her competing in  local events!

Emily Gock

Teacher, Kindergarten & Grade 1

Graduated with an Education Degree from Vancouver Island University in 2017, Emily has a Minors in First Nation & Canadian History as well as a background in Spanish and 4-H. Emily is currently furthering her education by learning American Sign Language so she can extend her ability to communicate with others!


For as long as she can remember, Emily has dreamed of becoming a teacher for the main purpose of having a hand in providing students with a nurturing and memorable school experience. She strongly believes in creating a cohesive classroom community where students are provided with the proper tools to allow them to become independent and mindful young people. 


Emily has grown up in the Parksville area and is now living in Coombs with her fiancé, Takoda, her two cats, and her two ducks. She is passionate about reading, biking, hiking, travelling, nature, and animals. 

Susan Mercer

Teacher, Grades 2 & 3

Sue is a wife, a proud mother and grandmother, and believes in strong family values. She has been a teacher for more than 20 years across 2 continents.


Born in England, Sue spent most of her life in South Africa, where she received a Bachelor of Education from Witwatersrand University. She completed a further degree in Special Education with the focus on Remedial Education.


Sue taught Elementary school for many years in South Africa, and was Head of the Department of Science before immigrating with her family to Canada.  She continued teaching and took several courses to assist her with teaching and tutoring, before semi-retiring in Qualicum Beach.


As Sue says, "But once a teacher always a teacher" and when she crossed paths with AIS, became excited to teach again. She believes there is no greater reward than to share the delight a student experiences when beginning to read for the first time, or when she hears the words “I love school”. She believes learning should be fun, exciting, hands-on, and relevant, and her aim is to develop well-rounded individuals, who are both confident and competent to meet the challenges of today's demanding world. She believes we need to 'develop balanced kids in an unbalanced world' through a safe and caring environment, catering to all student needs.


Sue's love of art, nature, hiking and preserving the environment is a perfect fit for Arrowsmith. Her caring philosophy and love for her students is reflected in her daily interactions with them.

Pat Andrews

Teacher, Grades 6 & 7

Mrs. Andrews is inspired by and deeply connected to nature. She is excited to relocate to beautiful BC with her husband, where 2 of her 3 sons currently live, and where her 3rd son plans to relocate. With many years of experience in teaching in public education in Ontario, working with special needs children through Waldorf Healing Education and Remedial Training, homeschooling, teaching music in her own small Kindermusik business, working as a music teacher at a Montessori School, establishing and running a Forest and Nature School, and working with the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada, Mrs. Andrews brings a deep passion for lifelong learning to Arrowsmith Independent School.


Mrs. Andrews believes that learning to build positive, effective relationships is key to thriving. She embraces and supports a holistic approach to education, integrating outdoor learning, mindfulness, student-teacher co-created learning, and uncovering the curriculum through unique and creative methods. She is deeply grateful for the opportunity to learn alongside the Arrowsmith Independent School Community of Families.


Allison Shaw

Music Teacher

Allison Shaw began teaching in 1986. After several years of teaching in primary classrooms, she began teaching music for the entire school where she was working, from Kindergarten through Grade 5. Later, she ran music programs simultaneously at two different schools including students from Kindergarten through Grade 7.


Allison joins us on a casual and part time basis, and enjoys working with the students at both schools as our fabulous Main School and Preschool Music Teacher and Teacher-on-Call. 

Nicole Bidewell

Pre-School Manager/Teacher

Nicole began her career as an Assistant Teacher at a Preschool outside Vancouver before getting her Early Childhood Educator's certificate and eventually operating her own daycare center. She brings almost 20 years experience to her role as our Preschool Manager, and thrives on creating entertaining and educational programs for preschoolers.


She is also a certified Children's Yoga instructor and regularly incorporates yoga practices into the children's daily rhythms. Her focus is on building their life skills for emotional and mental well-being, and providing them with mindfulness practices for managing their emotions.

In her spare time, Nicole likes to go for long walks, do yoga, camp, hang-out with her two children, and in the wintertime, she enjoys curling.

Christene Mackay

Preschool Teacher

Christene comes to us as our new Preschool Teacher! She was born and grew up on Vancouver Island and recently moved back home with her family after living in Kamloops for 15 years. Christene holds ECE Certification and graduated from Vancouver Community College. She has over 25 years of experience in the field. 

While in Kamloops, Christene worked at the Kamloops Child Development Centre where she cared for toddlers, children aged 3-5 years, and with children who have special needs.

She is married and has a 22 year-old son and a 20 year-old daughter, a sweet puppy dog named Henry and two cats. Christene loves to challenge herself and really enjoys dragon-boating, doing stairs, gardening, and cycling. 

Sam Gaudette

Preschool  Teacher's Assistant & Main School French Teacher

Sam is excited to be a part of the Arrowsmith team. She is graduating this year from Teachers College with a degree in English, French, and Education. Sam has worked in a variety of teaching settings such as tutoring, Montessori schools, au pairing, and Forest school. She has also taught in both high schools, elementary schools, and preschools. She is passionate about nature, learning, and traveling. On her free time Sam enjoys exploring the island, doing yoga, reading, and cooking. As an educator she aspires to celebrate the uniqueness of each child, and to foster an empowering and safe environment where students are able to explore their passions and selves through a a holistic and nature based approach to learning. 

Lois Riley

Career Education Teacher

After a 20-year career in Human Resources working with entry-level job seekers, Lois felt that young people were not being prepared properly for real life. Her keen desire to change the education system led her to Arrowsmith Independent School where she has been able to put her office experience to good use, and engage in her passion of teaching life skills to young people.


Lois has a Masters in Leadership & Management and a second Masters in Counselling Psychology and researched the factors that influence young girls in becoming successful later in life (ask her about them!). As a result of her education, she was able to obtain her B.C. Teacher's Certificate and happily teaches students about money and how it works, emotions and how to manage them, and she teaches them about working together while they build things, like gingerbread houses...when she isn't managing the office!

Lois loves dogs, horses, hiking, skiing and her husband, Glen.