Our team is a group of passionate educators that want to make a lasting impact in the lives of our future leaders and in our community. To see our educators in the field is truly watching a master craftsman at work. The ability to teach a class of students while also accounting for weather, risk and other moving and fluid factors in the backcountry is profound. It is truly a unique individual that is not only capable of this but thrives on it! These are the Blue Mountain WILD School Instructors, a truly special breed of leader.
Jeff Barrett - Founder/Executive Director
Jeff 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.
Jeff has taught outdoor education at Upper Canada College, 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 Artic, founded a community ecotourism program in Arviat, Nunavut, built a tourism industry for the Carcross Tagish First Nation in the Yukon and has been involved in many other ecotourism and ecoresort programs and developments from Alaska to Oman.
He founded Blue Mountain WILD School in order to create a more meaningful education 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.
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.
Ali completed her undergraduate degree in Human Kinetics at the University of Windsor. She then completed her Bachelor of Education at Nipissing University Schulich School of Education with a teaching speciality in Physical Education and Outdoor Education. 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.
We are very grateful to have Ms. Bush as a part of our team and we look forward to seeing where she'll take us next!
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 WILD School and stars aligned. After getting over kicking himself for not starting something like WILD School 20 years ago he is 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.
Lauren Willms - Teacher/Administrator
Lauren developed a passion for connecting with nature at a young age spending summers in Muskoka, attending and working at Glen Bernard Camp in Sundridge, and enjoying winters skiing on the escarpment. Lauren's experiences of learning through outdoor and experiential education in her formative years proved incredibly resonant.
Lauren completed her undergraduate degree at Queen's University and received a B.A.(Honours) with a medial in Vocal Music and Drama. After completing a Master's of Industrial Relations and working in an office in HR, she knew something was missing from her daily routine and returned to her outdoor education roots and readjusted her focus on experiential education.
Lauren attended OISE (University of Toronto) to complete her Bachelor of Education and her Environmental Education Specialist Level 1. Lauren has experienced a wide variety of teaching environments from outdoor education to forest school and traditional private schools for students in kindergarten to grade eight in both Ontario and British Columbia. Throughout these experiences, Lauren's throughline has always been connecting children to nature and facilitating meaningful opportunities for students to experience their learning and nourish a lifelong connection to the Earth.
Lauren believes nature is our greatest teacher and is thrilled to explore nature as the backdrop for learning and growth at WILD School. When she's not teaching she can be found behind the lens of her camera, hiking, skiing, trail running, surfing, doing yoga or immersed in a great conversation
Curtis Shepard - Teacher/Camp Director
Curtis was born and raised in Brampton, Ontario where he explored the small residential creeks and forests in the suburban sprawl he grew up in, playing organized hockey and soccer. He always did well in motion, discovering early on that he was a kinesthetic learner, and in his teenage years was introduced to spelunking and hiking in the Niagara Escarpment. When he was not in school, at the skatepark, or working Curtis was planning trips to the corners of Ontario he had on his lists of places to hike, climb, and swim: Killarney, Tobermory, Metcalfe Rock, Mt Nemo, and Sault Ste Marie.
Curtis holds a BEd from Nipissing University Schulich School of Education and during his time there toured much of Northern Ontario by paddle, foot, and bus. Curtis’ most recent teaching pursuits took place in Seoul, South Korea where he taught kindergarten and grade one for several years. Through teaching kindergarten in an ESL program, Curtis developed his skills in teaching and managing younger groups of students through a wide array of experiential trips and lesson planning. Curtis took full advantage of being on the far side of the globe and spent a lot of his free time exploring all that Asia had to offer.
Curtis believes deeply in establishing and maintaining a connection to the land. His experience working a season on a regenerative perma-culture farm impressed upon him the value of caring for nature and entirely altered his viewpoint of interacting with the environment around us. When not out hiking, Curtis often expresses his creativity through skateboarding and believes that passion projects are an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle. Curtis’s own lifelong learning goals and experiences thus far have embedded in him a sense of wonder that he seeks to share with his students. With an undying curiosity, Curtis wishes to support young learners so that they may best discover more about the world and themselves. He brings a passion for finding wonder in the natural world, a calm approach to finding solutions, and a high level of enthusiasm every day at WILD.
Pam Green - Teacher
Pam has a passion for nature and sustainable living. Her respect and appreciation for our environment is inspired by the ethos and learning theories of WILD School and how this model of education positively impacts her students, influencing and preparing the young minds of today to be stewards of their planet tomorrow.
She is an experienced outdoor educator with a strong background in environmental conservation and nature interpretation. Previous teaching experience includes educating in outreach & indigenous communities across Canada.
Pam completed her BSc majoring in psychology at Trent University and obtained her teaching degree at James Cook University in Australia.
Her lifelong love of learning through doing and exploring stems from countless hours of childhood play in the forest of her backyard. Pam's journey has paved the way to where she is today, in her element, teaching outdoors, on foot, on skis, on snowshoes, in the sun, rain, sleet and snow!
When not at Wild School you might find Pam anywhere outdoors - at the barn riding and caring for her horses, on the water paddle boarding and kayaking or on the mountain skiing and snowboarding.
Pam truly believes nature has a purpose for everyone, especially her students, learning developing and building a sense of place in this world and how protect and preserve it for future generations.
Melisa Walczak - Teacher
Melisa loves working with young learners to help them build the foundational skills that will set them up for future success in school and in life. She encourages curiosity, creativity and problem-solving skills through hands-on inquiry based learning. Melisa likes to get kids excited about learning and strives to build a safe, encouraging learning community where each student feels seen, heard and valued.
Melisa not only has a passion for teaching with over 20 year of experience working with students from very diverse circumstances in a variety of settlings, she is also a lifelong learner herself. Melisa completed undergraduate degrees at Lakehead University receiving an Honours Bachelor of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism, a Bachelor of Arts (Geography) and a Bachelor of Education (Primary/Junior). She has also completed a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine Degree from The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. Melisa hopes to bring her passion for the environment, education and health to her students. When not working Melisa can be found outside exploring with her pup or inside making things.
Adam Bayes - Teacher
Adam began his love of the outdoors early on in life as he was dragged to local summer camps with his extended family. Although he was reluctant to go at first, he quickly came to learn the joys of being connected to nature. He loved this experience so much that he wanted to stay at camp for as long as possible and through the years ended up working as the Leader in Training Director for a camp in Bracebridge. As the camp grew, Adam was part of implementing the first highschool credit program within the camp and pushed his new students to be as successful as they could. He is passionate about experiential learning and finds it inherent within the right natural setting. Adam is excited to be able to explore the natural wilderness of Blue Mountain WILD School as it allows for incredible opportunities for the students.
Adam obtained both an English degree and a Teaching degree from Lakehead University in Orillia and was able to explore outdoor education through placements with the Simcoe County District School Board. He was able to work with many different schools across the board within their outdoor education stream and really sharpened his outdoor skills. Adam wants to explore how the impact of environmental immersion affects the mental health of those who are in it. He is passionate about learning more about the land around him and is excited to learn from his students and fellow educators. He feels incredibly lucky to be a part of such an incredible educational team at WILD School and is excited to bring his own talents and experiences to the table.
While not teaching at WILD School, Adam is exploring the Wye Marsh with his fiance Melanie and their two dogs, Maverick and Layla. He might also be found paddle boarding, kayaking, or canoeing. Adam enjoys being an enthusiastic leader who focuses on fun, passionate, and practical uses of education. He hopes to inspire his students to follow their passions and learn from the land around them
Wade Krishnan - Leadership and WILD Friday Coordinator
Wade grew up in the Durham region and has always had a special connection to nature and the outdoors. Exhibiting a passion for a wide variety of sports and adventure at an early age, Wade competed at a provincial and national level in wrestling, track and field and volleyball. He has always had a keen interest in rock climbing, mountaineering, snowboarding and camping. Whether portaging through Killarney, climbing and snowboarding Mt. Washington or riding his motorcycle throughout Northern Ontario, Wade finds time to connect with nature through all aspects of life. This love of sport and physical activity flourished to the point that he pursued an Honours degree in Kinesiology and Health Science.
After University Wade continued to educate himself with certifications as a Pedorthic Technician and a Pedorthic Clinician quickly finding himself treating patients and managing a successful multidisciplanry lower extremity orthopaedic clinic.
However, firefighting was always in the back of his mind as a way to challenge himself physically and mentally while also providing a way to give back to his community.
Throughout his firefighting career Wade has been certified to instruct in a variety of disciplines such as High Angle Rope Rescue, Slope Rescue, Ice/Water Rescue and Incident Command. As a Captain of an Urban Fire Department with 17 years of experience, Wade is responsible for the life and safety of his crew members in a variety of situations and thrives on his ability to lead them, motivate them and have them execute in a safe, cohesive and efficient manner at all times.
Wade has a love of teaching/instructing and helping others to be the best at what they do. He believes that the world is in need of great citizens and aims to help WILD students be just that. With a strong belief that children learn best when immersed in a natural environment that fosters their curiosity and independence, Wade wants to help each student find and develop the leader within themselves so that they are able to contribute and flourish in the world that lies ahead of them.
Garrin Carter - Instructor
Garrin grew up crawling through the woods and creeks of Southern Ontario chasing the local reptiles and amphibians. Many years later those wild places called him back in the form of a 7-month apprenticeship with Sticks and Stones Wilderness School on the hills of the Kimbercote property where he lived the survival and stewardship knowledge passed on to him.
Garrin is skilled naturalist and wilderness teacher. He’s the type of guy that can build a bow from scratch. He’s worked with many wilderness education programs including: Pine River Institute, Earth Tracks, Pine Project, Sticks and Stones Wilderness School sharing his love of naturalist skills and nature connection with a focus on long term mentoring.
Once again, the hills of the Beaver Valley have called him back to Kimbercote to join Blue Moutain WILD School and to share his passion and stories of this special place.
Carly Gurr - Instructor
Carly grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She spent summers on the water racing sailboats and the winters in the gym playing basketball. With an outdoors-loving family, she spent the rest of her time swimming in the lakes with her black lab, hiking the Acadian forests and cooking spiderdogs on open campfires.
Carly studied International Development at Western University in London ON, Teaching at Lakehead in Thunder Bay, and completed a Master of Science in Sustainability and Leadership in Sweden. Embracing her love of travel, Carly has lived all over Canada and throughout the world. She spent the last 6 years teaching at an outdoor school in Victoria, Australia where she took advantage of the incredible Alpine National Park to teach ecology, leadership, resilience, and teamwork through a variety of outdoor pursuits.
Carly believes school should be empowering, challenging and nurture students' curiosity. Her intention for Wild Fridays is to create the space for students to question, identify, experiment, learn, laugh, and connect.
When not at WILD School, Carly is probably chasing her two young boys through the parks of Collingwood.
Diane Niec - Part-Time Teacher
Diane moved up to the Blue Mountains area from downtown Toronto in 2020 and has never looked back. She is an educator, theatre performer, Pilates and yoga instructor, first time dog owner and a wellness and outdoor enthusiast!
Diane is a graduate of the University of Windsor with a degree in Musical Theatre and a Bachelor of Education. She pursued her theatrical passion performing and touring with Theatre Gargantua, a physical theatre company that creates original work. Diane enjoyed 20 years of
creative growth with the company, facilitating school workshops and even enjoying a performance run at the Royal Alexandra Theatre! During this time Diane completed her Pilates and yoga certifications and started working as a private and class instructor around the city. She also grew her musicianship by joining Univox Choir and being part of the worship team at St. Paul’s Anglican Church.
Diane then drew on her education background and taught at Gradale Academy; a school located at the Don Valley Brickworks. For ten years Diane taught primary grades where she used her passions and musical talents to implement the school’s first ukulele program, document the school year through photography and direct the schools’ concerts and
presentations. It was there that Diane discovered her passion for teaching in an outdoor environment. Watching the children gain confidence, respect and resilience from exploring and participating in outdoor learning brings a smile to her heart.
It is in this spirit that Diane is thrilled to join the community of like-minded individuals at BMWS!
Amanda Phillips - Educational Assistant
Amanda’s experience with the outdoors began at the age of two with yearly camping trips to Inverhuron with her grandparents. It was on these trips that Amanda learned about the serenity and joy of being surrounded by nature and the benefits of outdoor play. Mindful walks and days spent by the beach impressed upon her the happiness that can be made when engaging in the natural world. Amanda developed a great sense of creativity throughout her childhood and always enjoyed painting and sketching. Throughout her teen years she spent time hiking, camping, and playing competitive hockey.
After studying Engineering for a year and a half at the University of Guelph, Amanda decided to change her stream of study to the Arts and graduated with honours from York University with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy. Amanda used her strength in math to tutor students of all ages for many years and uses those experiences to support students in mathematics at WILD. Amanda believes that when fundamental reading and writing skills are mastered, there is nothing that cannot be learned. Her experience working day camps, teaching skating lessons, and tutoring math taught her the joys that result in teaching concepts of any kind to young minds,
Amanda’s core beliefs are centered in the idea that when every child feels secure and cared for, they can flourish with uninhibited growth. She supports the idea that emotional regulation skills are key to managing difficult situations throughout our entire lives and teaches such concepts from a young age. Mindfulness, meditation, and a balanced diet are all actions Amanda encourages her students to take part in as she practices with them. Amanda is passionate about helping others develop their sense of self to the fullest capacity and she believes that being outside is the ideal place for this to happen.
Sean Switzer - Camp Director
Sean grew up in the rolling hills of Grey Country, Ontario near the village of Flesherton. Sean’s active and outdoor pursuits began early hitting the slopes of Talisman Ski Resort at the ripe age of four followed later by winter weekends spent at Blue Mountain. His father, an avid canoe tripper, Sean, and his brother undertook annual canoe trips to Killarney Provincial Park and Algonquin Provincial Park where he honed his canoeing, camping and portaging skills. These skills were put to full use in high school where Sean spent a semester in the Environmental Studies Program at Grey Highlands Secondary School which culminated in a two week canoe trip to Tamogami Provincial Park.
After high school Sean attended the University of Western Ontario, receiving a four-specialised Bachelor of Arts in History with a minor is Ethical Philosophy. Never being one to shy away from new experiences and challenges Sean, following university, ventured off to South Korea to teach English. Loving the experience of teaching and living abroad this one year venture became a 10 year journey living in Seoul teaching kindergarten and exploring the region. Teaching in Korea’s competitive structured educational environment allowed Sean to cultivate his teaching and group management skills. During this time, he backpacked Southeast Asia for a year. A great person accomplishment was spending a month in Nepal, trekking through the Himalayan mountain region to Everest Base Camp and across 3-Glacier Pass.
Following his time teaching in Korea, Sean moved to Australia in 2020 where he gained his Masters of Primary Teaching from Griffith University in Queensland's Gold Coast City. The Masters of Primary Teaching program allowed Sean to take his practical teaching experience and apply it to educational theory and academic research surrounding how young people learn and how to best teach them.
Recently returning to his home, Sean joined the WILD School summer camp team as Director where he will be bringing his skills, life experiences and love for the outdoors to our WILD Camp program.