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Faculty Team

The Vancouver Learning Centre is served by two experienced professional teams:

  1. Registered Psychologists:

    Geraldine Schwartz PhD
    Judith Magrill PhD

    The psychologists deliver:
    In addition, the psychologists provide a whole array of psychological services to monitor and manage each program. These include:
    • Immediate problem solving responses to behavioural, emotional, cognitive and academic issues
    • Parent support in child advocacy, school interface, goals and choices
    • Development and maintenance of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) programs
    • Ongoing faculty professional development

  2. Qualified and Experienced Teachers:

    Andrew Taylor MA, Head Teacher and Vice-Principal
    Patricia Raye BEd
    Leslie Pashby BSc BEd
    Kelsi Gillies BA BEd
    Shannon Black MSc BEd
    Stephanie Ballard BA BEd
    Karen Bentzen BSc BEd
    Marianne Robinson BA BEd
    Melissa VanDiermen BA, BC Independent Teacher, TESL, SETA
    Jill Alport BSc BEd

    The teachers provide:
    • Creative and dynamic teaching responses to individually designed programs one-to-one
    • Respect and emotional support to each learner in a positive, proactive professional relationship
    • Respect, transparency and information to each family
    • School collaboration where appropriate
    • Attention to ongoing professional development and best practices in their academic fields

Both teams are led by Dr. Geraldine Schwartz as Senior Psychologist and Principal.

*The Teaching Team is led by our experienced Director, Andrew Taylor

Each learner’s program has two or more faculty members led by a Team Captain, who coordinates programs and is directly responsible to parents and teachers for transparent, proactive and timely contact.

In addition, faculty members have developed expertise in teaching particular kinds of learners. These onsite experts oversee and update materials used in their area; attend professional development opportunities to keep up to date on new findings in their field; review books and research reports; and provide advice and deliver professional development to other faculty members. In this way the VLC faculty keeps their fingers on the pulse of the new findings in Educational Neuroscience and in “best practice” that translates into teaching on the VLC floor without delay.

Meet the Faculty

Psychology Team

Geraldine SchwartzDr. Geraldine Schwartz is the Principal and senior psychologist at the Vancouver Learning Centre. She is a registered psychologist in BC and a member of the Canadian Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology. She holds a PhD in Psychology and Education, an MA in Educational Psychology, a BA with a major in psychology and a Teacher’s Diploma. She has long-term classroom experience in teaching from primary grades through secondary and post-secondary levels.

Dr. Schwartz is a scientist-practitioner and applies her understanding of brain function to diagnose and assess learning problems, disorders, strengths and styles. She designs creative, individualized programs to enable students and clients to achieve the best possible outcome. Hundreds of students have achieved outstanding results in the years since the 1980 inception of the Vancouver Learning Centre. For more information about the services offered by Dr. Schwartz please go to

Dr. Judith Magrill is a school psychologist, registered with the College of Psychologists of B.C. She earned her Masters and Doctoral degrees from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. She specializes in psychoeducational assessments for all school-age children. Dr. Magrill is also the Vancouver Learning Centre specialist in the assessment of young children from 3-6 years. She brings to the Vancouver Learning Centre an insightful perspective into the school system. She helps create individual assessment reports based on the child’s unique learning profile, and assists in the development of a targeted program for optimal achievement. Judith has also had experience as a tutor at the Vancouver Learning Centre, and she brings this understanding to her work with the faculty. As a member of the faculty team, Judith adds to the energy and success of the Vancouver Learning Centre. When Judith takes a break from her busy work schedule, she loves to ride her bike, play sports, travel, read, as well as spend time with her husband and three children.

Teaching Team

Andrew TaylorAndrew Taylor (MA) Head Teacher and Vice-Principal, is the front line contact for inquiries about the Vancouver Learning Centre’s services and for securing an appointment for a psychological and educational assessment. He will provide detailed information about how the Vancouver Learning Centre can provide a solution for difficulties a student is experiencing in learning. Andrew is also the Vancouver Learning Centre specialist in gifted children and youth. Andrew is a talented and energetic teacher who has been with the Vancouver Learning Centre since 1998. He is a versatile instructor with specialty in senior level math, physics and literature. He has also taken a keen interest in developing the Learning Centre’s enrichment and development programs for gifted learners. He has taught at the post-secondary level in BC and Ontario, and brings an appreciation for excellence and pride in learning to all his classes. Andrew counts rowing, triathlon, music and art among his non-professional interests. He is also the proud father of three delightful children, who can occasionally be found toddling through the Learning Centre inspiring students and faculty to smiles and laughter.

Patricia RayePatricia Raye (BEd) has been part of the Vancouver Learning Centre teaching team since 1991. She teaches all aspects of communication through language: phonics, reading, grammar, writing, and literature. History, telling the story of humankind’s development is an area of particular interest. She has designed the Learning Centre’s modern worldview program that teaches social studies as a series of interrelated events and technologies that have caused a “shift in our perception and a shift in our direction.” Her teaching encompasses history, geography, economics and philosophy. Patricia is the Vancouver Learning Centre specialist in the coaching and mentoring of college and university students as well as in preparing youth and young adults to provide excellence in performance in their PSAT, SAT, and GRE exams.

As a graduate of the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, Patricia is also an artist/designer of sculpture and custom decorative lighting. Additionally, she has participated in a variety of the citizenship and mentoring programs offered through the Vancouver Learning Centre and Creative Learning partnership.

Leslie PashbyLeslie Pashby (BSc BEd) is a native of Vancouver. She brings a diverse range of educational and teaching experiences to the Vancouver Learning Centre. Leslie’s dual backgrounds in sciences and arts have made her a resourceful and valuable member of the faculty. She has earned her BSc (McGill) and BEd (University of Western Ontario), and teaches students of all ages. Drawing on her international teaching experiences in both Mexico and Thailand, Leslie brings enormous enthusiasm and skill to her students at the Vancouver Learning Centre. In her spare time, Leslie enjoys traveling, outdoor activities and time with her friends, her husband and two young children.

Kelsi GilliesKelsi Gillies (BA BEd) grew up in Kitchener, Ontario and moved to British Columbia in October 2009. She obtained her BA in Contemporary Studies through Wilfrid Laurier University and her BEd through a concurrent program with Nipissing University. This program allowed her to have six different teaching placements and teach a variety of age levels and subjects from Grade 4 up to Grade 9. Some of the subjects Kelsi has had teaching experience in are math, science, English, computers and social studies. Kelsi’s degree in Contemporary Studies will allow her to interpret and deliver the Vancouver Learning Centre’s World View program in a creative way.

Kelsi has had numerous experiences working with individuals with special needs and would like to continue her educational journey by obtaining her Special Education Degree. Kelsi is excited to bring her energy, creativity and love for teaching to the VLC. Kelsi believes in lifelong learning and is looking forward to continuing her learning with the Vancouver Learning Centre. In her spare time Kelsi enjoys reading, hiking, cooking and spending time with family.

Shannon BlackShannon Black (MSc BEd) is Director of Administrative Services with responsibilities for scheduling and liaison with parents and students. Shannon hails from both Victoria, BC and Halifax, NS. She loves being back on the west coast and being a part of the Vancouver Learning Centre.

After completing an honours degree in mathematics at Acadia University, Shannon went on to earn a Master’s degree in mathematics from McMaster University, with a research focus in mathematics education, and a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of British Columbia. Before joining the Vancouver Learning Centre team in 2011 Shannon had 5 years of experience as a tutor and teaching assistant in calculus and statistics, and had also been a sessional faculty member at McMaster University, teaching introductory calculus.

Shannon is the Vancouver Learning Centre specialist in higher mathematics at high school, college and university levels. She is also a part of the administrative team and is in charge of scheduling classes.

Shannon firmly believes that anyone can learn and succeed given the right circumstances and loves helping others gain the knowledge, understanding and abilities that they need for success in life. She also has a keen interest in educational psychology and enjoys being able to learn more and incorporate this into her teaching practice.

In her spare time Shannon enjoys, swing dancing, crocheting, playing volleyball and socialising with friends!

Stephanie BallardStephanie Ballard (BA BEd) was born and raised in Vancouver. She completed a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Bachelor of Elementary Education at the University of British Columbia. Stephanie has a wide variety of teaching experience in local independent schools. She has worked as a kindergarten teacher, high school tutor, and grade six math and science specialist. Stephanie is committed to helping every student achieve success, and she is looking forward to working in a one-to-one learning environment at the Vancouver Learning Centre. She is interested in using current educational psychology research as a way to target individual support. In her free time, Stephanie enjoys reading for her book club, swimming, playing guitar, and travelling.

Karen BentzenKaren Bentzen (BSc BEd) was born in Vancouver and has lived in the Lower Mainland for most of her life, though she spent a few of her adolescent years in California. She earned her Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education degrees from UBC, specializing in secondary biology. She is passionate about teaching and has been in the education field for many years. She spent six years working one-to-one with students with learning disabilities, and has been a tutor for ten years. Karen has also spent time overseas teaching underprivileged students at an inner city school in London and is passionate about ensuring that all students are given equal opportunities. Her main goal is to motivate her students to reach their full potential. She is excited to be part of the VLC staff!

Marianne RobinsonMarianne Robinson (BA BEd) is from Pointe Claire, Quebec, but grew up all over Canada, landing in B.C. in 1994. She completed a Bachelor of Arts in English at Simon Fraser University in 2014, and a Bachelor of Education with a concentration on Self-Regulated Learning for middle-years students in 2015 from the University of British Columbia. Marianne brings 12 years of experience working in social services with children, youth and adults in various settings to the VLC.

It is important for her to create a sense of community within a learning environment in order for students to have a safe and meaningful experience. The foundation of her teaching practice is grounded in the techniques of Self-Regulated Learning, First People’s Principles of Learning, and Educational Neuroscience. She believes that every student brings with them a wealth of knowledge to the one-on-one teacher-student relationship and can contribute actively to the learning experience.

Marianne is also an artist, poet, and all around life enthusiast! She loves making music and poetry with her friends in Canada and the US, working on various writing projects, playing her flute and learning Spanish.

Melissa VanDiermenMelissa VanDiermen (BA, BC Independent Teacher, TESL, SETA) is a proud Vancouver native with a variety of educational experiences. She finished her BA at Trinity Western University and taught in independent schools. She is excited to use her variety of teaching experiences to benefit students who attend the VLC. After spending a few years teaching, she went on acquire a Special Education Certificate. Working more than seven years in special education in both public and private schools, Melissa has an expert understanding of learning difficulties/disabilities and in helping them excel both academically and socially. Her passion is to help each student recognize their natural abilities and encourage them in the enjoyment of learning. One of her recent positions included pioneering an ESL language centre at Trinity Western University. She especially enjoys opportunities to collaborate with others and use creativity to enhance the learning experience.

In her spare time, you can find Melissa tickling her funny bone at Vancouver Theatre Sports, perfecting her Salsa dancing moves, or volunteering for the Mood Disorders Association.

 Jill AlportJill Alport (BSc BEd) grew up in Regina, SK, but has lived in Vancouver for the past 7 years. She earned her Bachelor of General Sciences degree as well as her B.Ed degree from UBC. Her education specialty is in Secondary Biology and she has an interest in teaching math and drama. She has experience working as a Residence Advisor at UBC, a tutor of math and science, and a coach and director of improv theatre. In her spare time she loves performing improv, playing board games and enjoying the Vancouver rain!

She has always been interested in teaching and learning and is pleased to be putting her skills to work at the VLC. She is committed to discovering new and interesting ways of relaying knowledge to students and she is passionate about helping students reach their potential.


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