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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.

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Leslie Bremner

Principal & Teacher, Grades 4 & 5

Leslie is our Principal and Class 4/5 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!


Kristen Smith

Music K-3, Co-Teacher Band & Choir 

Kristen Smith began her elementary teaching career in 2007 after working for six years as a music therapist with people of various backgrounds and ages. Ten years into her work as a K-2 classroom teacher, Kristen was invited to take over the music program at her K-6 school. She loved helping the 600 students she saw every week, experience the power of making music together and seeing themselves as capable musicians. Kristen said goodbye to that school last June when she relocated to Qualicum Beach with her family.

When she's not sharing her love of music, you can find her walking the dog and exploring the area with her husband Jason, and daughter Isla.


Emily Crawford

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.


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 husband, her two cats, and her two ducks. She is passionate about reading, hiking, and travelling.


Sam Gaudette

Teacher, Grades 2 & 3

Sam is excited to be a part of the Arrowsmith team! She recently graduated 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.


Sam is passionate about nature, learning, and traveling. During 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. 

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Darren Michzlczuk

Teacher, Grades 6 & 7

Darren grew up on a farm in Alberta and was an avid sport enthusiast, playing anything from soccer to volleyball. He spent a large part of his young adult life teaching swimming lessons and lifeguarding all over the place including Miette Hot Springs and Fort Good Hope in the Arctic Circle.

Darren has taught every grade and subject including music and computers. His students have learned violin, guitar, ukulele and piano, performing at concerts and music festivals. Coaching and organizing tournaments for school sports is something he has done for every sport at all levels. He has also done this for math, memory and language. He describes himself as a math geek, language enthusiast and music lover.

He tries to keep every learning opportunity in the classroom relevant to life.

Darren enjoys the outdoors, playing music and time spent with his wife Tanya and 3 grown children.

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Pat Andrews

Education Support

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.

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Grant Freeman

Teacher, Intermediate Music

Over his year's as a teacher, Mr. Freeman played French Horn with the Prince George Symphony, The Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra, Symphony of the Kootenays, The Frazer Valley Symphony and The Westcoast Symphony. Mr. Freeman developed productions of 'The Lorax, The Beatles 'Yellow Submarine' and the Phantom Of The Opera. He has also composed a musical for students called 'Pick's Last Run' and produced cross-curricular media presentations that link Literacy and Fine Arts. He recently opened 'In-Sync Sounds Online Music Studio' and joined the staff of Studio29 for private teaching. 

Mr. Freeman's Bands and Choirs have excelled at music festivals throughout British Columbia and Alberta including the Whistler and Sun Peaks Con Brio Festivals and The Canadian Airlines Festival in Banff. He also took his bands and choirs to Disneyland where they performed at several venues and participated in Workshops. Mr. Freeman was also the Workshop Organizer and Director of a cross-curricular Summer Workshop in School District #20 called 'Music and Tennis'. Mr. Freeman has spearheaded the use of current technology including Digital recording, sequencing and multi-media, to exploit the interest of students in both classical and popular music.


Grant is an experienced music teacher and performer. He has enjoyed teaching Concert Band, Concert Choir, Guitar, Piano, Ukulele as well as Jazz Band and Choir at the Elementary, Middle and High School levels. He has also conducted, composed musicals, and taught Music Theory and Composition.


Brooke Higginbotham

Art Teacher

Brooke is a local artist and art teacher. With a BFA in Visual Art + Design with a concentration in Creative Writing, she has utilized creativity through painting, illustration, and kid's literature. Additionally, she has spent the past 10 years working with community centres, therapy centres, art centres, and schools. She finds endless inspiration in the rugged west coast and when she's not art-making, she can be found at her home in Whiskey Creek, gardening and hanging out with her two dogs and two cats. 


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. 



Opal Murray

School Mascot


We're proud to have Opal as a member of our team. Her kind and loving nature provides a calming influence for children and creates a safe and welcoming environment for learning. Kids love working with Opal, and her presence helps them feel more comfortable and focused. Your child will love the gift of Opal's calm and gentle companionship on the days she is with us. Opal is at the school 2-3 days a week.

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