Our Teachers and Staff
Jamie is a 20-year veteran teacher in the Lower School, joining WW in the year 2000. She taught grade 3 homeroom classes initially and then moved into her role as Resource teacher providing individual and small group support programs. Jamie finished her BA at York in 1998 and her BEd at Western in 2000, with her Spec Ed AQ. She’s the mom of two teenage girls, and when she’s not teaching, she loves to play tennis, do yoga and walk her standard poodle Ozzy.
Maria joined WillowWood in September 2019 as a High School Math teacher. She studied Civil Engineering at Seneca and Lakehead between 2014 and 2019 and brings a wealth of varied experiences with her – she has been a Math Professor and Statistician, a Lay-out Artist, and a Land Surveyor. She coaches Volleyball, loves Anime, and finished the first version of the game Diablo.
Robin joined us in August 2004 to help in the office, and describes herself now as a Girl Friday because she wears so many hats. She works currently as Librarian, Lower School Pod Teacher, Assistant Office Admin Staff, Assistant School Photographer, Bus Travel Coordinator. She is a huge Blue Jays fan, a Grandma, a Country Music fan, and Fred’s older sister.
Jeff Clayton started with WillowWood in 1996 as a volunteer, joining as a Middle School homeroom teacher in 98. He moved over time into the High School, and into the Office, and now works part-time as Communications Director, along with teaching Film and English. Jeff also makes art when he’s not working – comics, music, film, writing – and his favourite part of teaching is the jokes.
Walid started working at WillowWood as a HS Drama teacher in 2000 after finishing his Degrees at York University (History and Education). His role has since evolved, and he is now the Head of the English Department, teaches English and History, and is the HS Summer School Coordinator. Walid leads the Student Council and is the Teacher Rep on the Health and Safety Committee. Fun Fact: Walid wrote a play titled 'By Any Means Necessary' that won an award at the Sears Drama Festival in 1993.
Adrienne joined WillowWood in 2014 in the Lower School as a shadow and has since become Principal Jill’s “right hand”: Lower School Coordinator. She attended McGill for her undergrad and Masters in Education and Educational Psychology, finishing in 2012. “While I enjoyed my academics, and sitting down to study and learn, I am also very active and need an outlet for my energy. From when I was a kid, between studying for tests and writing essays, I trained in martial arts. I achieved a black belt at a young age and continue to train whenever I can. Using martial arts and other athletics as an outlet helps me focus and stay mindful during my day-to-day life.”
Zachary Lawrence joined us in February 2016 as a High School English teacher – but within a year or two, he’d also taken AQ courses in Computer Programming and founded High School courses in the same, which are well-attended. Zach earned his Honours Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education from the University of Toronto.
He is a giant Technology enthusiast – he also co-leads the Robotics Club with Bryan and is the go-to for all tech issues in the school. Zachary was a central member of the team who enabled WillowWood’s online class capabilities during the COVID semester of 2020, so he’s an actual hero, too. He recently shaved his head bald and found he loves it.
Joanna joined WillowWood in September as the High School Visual and Media Arts Teacher. She studied drawing, painting, metalwork and new media during her OCAD degree. She also has a degree in English and Creative Writing, a Bachelor of Education, TESL certification, and a Masters in Applied Linguistics from 2018. Aside from all this education, she loves music, dancing, making her own clothes and cooking Indian food. In addition – she used to foster rescued cats, and knows how to bottle-feed kittens!
Stacey joined WW in 2002, initially as a Grade 5/6 teacher, and now as a Resource teacher providing individual and small group support programs. Stacey earned her Bachelor or Arts, Bachelor of Education, and has her Special Education AQ. She has two amazing children, loves to travel, read, and be with friends and family.
Jelena joined WW in 2008 as a High School teacher (Social Sciences) after studying at York for her Bachelor of Arts and then her Bachelor of Education. In addition to teaching, Jelena is the Athletic Director for the school. Jelena moved to Toronto as a refugee in 1995, and remembers her first job in Canada fondly: working at Licks on Queen Street. She enjoys travel, good food, and spending time with friends and family.
Bryan joined WillowWood on his actual birthday, in September 2000. He has been a Middle School teacher since, providing a calm center to the drama-filled classrooms of young teenagers. He earned an Honours BA from U of T, and a Bachelor of Education from OISE. Bryan collaborates widely in WillowWood’s Podcast Club, Robotics Club, Student Council and Coach (Ultimate, Bowling, and Softball).
Bryan is an avid collector of comic books and sportscards. He is a veritable media mogul, with a solo podcast (Comics and History) and a YouTube channel containing over 200 flipped classroom channels of his own design. While he was born sometime in 1953, Bryan looks nowhere near as old as his birth certificate states. Scientists and archaeologists speculate that he is a clone and/ or a time traveller.
Miss Kim joined Willowwood Sept 2019 and teaches Grade 4. Kim has a Master’s Degree in Education (applied psychology and human development) from U of T, and will be starting her doctorate of education Part-Time in the Fall, focusing on children's mental health and special education. Before WillowWood, Kim worked as a Primary/ Junior/Spec-Ed teacher with the Peterborough Catholic Board; before becoming a teacher, Kim was a social worker. Kim has two children.
Matt joined WillowWood in 2015 after working with us in a placement during his Bachelor of Education at York U. He also has earned his Bachelor of Biomedical Science Degree at the University of Guelph 2010. He’s taught French, Science and Physics in our High School, along with spearheading and running the My Willow online platform and related digital services. He is an effective meditation teacher and has impacted many students and teachers with his calming guidance. On the other hand – Matt is an inveterate sensation seeker and can be found climbing trees and scaling cliffs in his spare time. When Matt was younger, he worked as a medical researcher in the field of Pediatric Ophthalmology at SickKids in Toronto and Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia and started a business to help young artists across Canada gain notoriety and a steadier income from their work.
Jenn joined WillowWood in 2019 as our Grade 5 homeroom teacher. She studied Journalism at Loyalist College from 2009-2012, did an Honours Bachelor Degree at York, and then headed to Lakehead U to earn her Education degree. She taught in London, England for 10 years – which is where she fell in love with Harry Potter and was inspired to bring witches and wizards, magical creatures, and various animals into her classroom. She invites you to come visit!
Steve Taylor joined us in 2007 as a Science teacher, eventually becoming Head of Science. He left to do an MBA and has returned since in a Business and Marketing role (and teacher). He earned degrees from Western (Bachelor of Science in Biopsychology) and Ryerson (Masters in Business Administration). Here’s Steve: “I love kids and I love plants. They are actually quite similar. One approach does not work for all of them. Even though they all need soil, water, fertilizer, and sunlight, they require it in different amounts, and in some cases, they need different types. Get to know your plants, find out what their specific needs are, and figure out how best to address them. Do it with patience and persistence and you will watch them grow and thrive. There are of course differences as well. One is that plants always smell good ;)”
Ty has been a teacher at WillowWood since September 2017. Being a middle-school teacher as well as the lower-school French teacher, he has been able to enjoy getting to know much of the WillowWood community and appreciates many of the positive moments he has experienced. Ty studied Physical Education at Brock University prior to taking his B.Ed at York University. He is an avid traveller who has lived + visited over 14 different countries and enjoys exploring different cultures, cuisines, traditions and environments. Ty coaches Dodgeball at WillowWood to lower and middle school and on his free time works towards improving his handstands. He is looking forward to having another great year ahead in the 2020-2021 school year at WillowWood!
Heather joined WillowWood in 2017 as a High School teacher. She studied History and Education at Lakehead University, and teaches Social Sciences with us - Nutrition, Gender Studies, Contemporary Issues, and Geography. She also coaches an enormous number of Athletic teams (and is a competitive athlete herself) and hails from the curling capital of Canada! She enjoys gardening and cycling and has a very cute dog.
Jeff Ramage came to WillowWood as an Educational Assistant, but when the school learned of his incredible artistic talent and his kind nature, he was quickly hired full time. Jeff runs the Music Department, overseeing many aspects of our Theater program and teaching students about theatrical Sound and Lighting. He also teaches Civics and Careers, English, Music and Sound Tech courses. He's also a talented visual artist and loves learning new instruments and musical styles. In his interesting past, Jeff R worked Correctional Service Canada working with federal inmates in Minimum, Medium and Maximum Security. "I still bump into guys who have done their time or earned parole," he says. "I’m usually shocked that they were let out."
Sari joined WillowWood in 2007. Initially she worked one-on-one with students, then taught in the Lower and Middle School. She became a TOSS teacher in 2012, fully revamping the program with a colleague, and is the head of that program today. Sari attended Concordia University (Child Studies BA) and then worked as a social worker in group homes and working with children). Sari also works with many charities, including Reena Foundation, Sick Kids' and Toronto Western Hospitals. Her family home is a famous Halloween stop, annually decorated with lights, fog, scary sounds and terrifying dioramas created by her husband. Sari loves her summers in Jamaica.
Suzanna joined WillowWood's High School in 2018 as a Drama and English teacher. She graduated from Queen's University with an English BA and then her BEd in 2003. She digs roller derby and circus arts, and coaches Curling at WillowWood. She is also a musical coach for our annual Musical, and runs the Yoga Club. She has family members living in the Czech Republic and in Sri Lanka.
Heather Zganec started with WillowWood in 1991 as a classroom volunteer and part-time office assistant. Heather now manages the My Willow database and is the front office point of contact for many of your questions regarding the day to day goings-on at WillowWood. Heather likes to be creative when she’s not at work – knitting, crocheting, and designing party favours – and spending time with her family.
Dena - WillowWood's High School Counselor - has been a long time WillowWood staff member - since 1989. She loves supporting students, loves working with their families and, in her spare time, loves playing with her dog Benny. She has lots of love.
Hilary was born and raised in Toronto and attended York University to obtain both her undergrad and teaching degrees. Her passion for the performing arts was fostered at a young age, through competitive dance and musical theatre, and she cherishes the opportunity to share her enthusiasm with the WIllowWood community as the director of the annual school musical. Hilary enjoys spending her free time in nature, with her family and friends nearby. Since the first time Hilary walked through the WillowWood doors in September of 2008, she knew she had found her “forever home”. 13 years later, she is still looking forward to opening her classroom doors and extending her WillowWood family.
Mellissa started with WillowWood in September 1999 as an EA and since then has held many roles across the grades. She transitioned into being the full-time Foundation class teacher in 2005 where she's had the privilege to nurture, encourage, and foster the love of learning with the youngest of our students. Currently, Mellissa is the Camp Director for our Lower and Middle School Summer Programs, part-time classroom teacher, and functions in an Administrative Support role for Lower and Middle school. She coaches and is an avid soccer fan, enjoys singing, listening to others, and sharing smiles. One of the joys of her life is being a wife and mother to her three children. Her favourite saying is, "Today is a new day!"
Khayyam joined WillowWood in 2019 as a Business teacher. He studied Undergraduate Economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, took a Graduate Degree in Economics at the University of New Hampshire at Durham. Somehow, he was not yet done with studying! He went on to study for an M.B.A degree at the Institute of Business Administration. Besides teaching, Khayyam's other passions are music, reading, traveling, and sports. Khayyam is often mistaken for a lost hippie.
Sari joined WillowWood from the York Region District School Board in 1999 as a high school math teacher. Over time, Sari moved from classroom teaching to Guidance where she still is today. When Sari is not working, she loves to spend time with her family and friends, exercise and read all about food and nutrition.
Rosie joined WillowWood School as a Drama and English Teacher. She is a Scholar who holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and a Teaching Degree from the University of Panama. Rosie also has a Masters Degree in Education and an International Education Specialization from the University of Toronto (in which she was the Valedictorian student); earning academic awards at both universities. She moved into an administrative position with the role of International Student Coordinator - responsible for developing and maintaining ESL programs and courses to enhance student and community life and is now known to students across the Globe as a second Mother. She is also our IELTS Coordinator and is fluent in three languages. She loves to teach, travel, learn, and grow.
Adam is entering his 5th year as a High School teacher here at WillowWood School. He graduated from Trent University with a B.A (Honours) in History & English before attaining his B.Ed. Adam has over a decade of experience working with children with special needs and truly sees the importance of fostering a strong teacher-learner relationship as being pivotal to learning. His passions are Hockey, Golf, poetry and cooking new foods. His goal is to ensure a fun, inclusive learning environment in which students grow to understand themselves and the importance of the decisions they are making now. Be it through teaching or coaching, Adam looks forward to learning more about you soon!
Kemeny joined Willow Wood in September 2017 as an Education Assistant in the Foundations Class. Over the years, she’s worn many hats, including part-time teaching in lower & middle school, administrative support, and currently coordinates the Aftercare Program. She studied Psychology & Communication Studies at York University, and has a vast professional background in a variety of business, non-profit, and educational roles. She enjoys playing the guitar, karaoke, and cycling.
WillowWood’s favourite Gym teacher went to WillowWood for 6 years when he was a wee boy! He says it “helped shape me as a student and person,” and he returned to teach with us after studying at the University of Guelph. He is the very proud father of one puppy (Carter) and one human baby girl named Haydyn! Andrew can always be found munching on pumpkin seeds.
Jason joined WillowWood in September 2019 as the grade 6 homeroom teacher. He has an Hon.B.A. from the University of Toronto and graduated teachers' college at O.I.S.E. He loves to travel and has been to over 20 countries. He is also a supervisor at the historic Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre in downtown Toronto in his spare time. He is an avid basketball fan, GO RAPS! He also enjoys playing videogames, especially NBA 2k.
Bunny Snider has worked at WillowWood as an Accounts Manager since the school opened in 1980 on Willowdale Ave. Bunny – short for Bernice - has been director Joy Kurtz’s best friend since the two of them met on the Toronto Islands in 1940. She is a life-long traveller who currently enjoys Mediterranean Cruises, but in the day took more adventurous trips accompanying groups of unruly WW students on trips to nearly every country in Europe (“There are lots of good stories,” she says, “On one, we lost our luggage and had to spend 4 days in the same clothes.”) Several of Bunny’s kids and grandkids are WillowWood alumni, and she is an aunt to Counselor Sari Kafka.
Alvin began teaching in the WillowWood High School in 1998, mainly teaching Math, Physics and Chemistry. Alvin’s been a working student since High School, and worked for five years in Saudi Arabia. He is known and loved for his kindness and dedication to his students and their learning. Alvin enjoys exploring the city on foot or on a bicycle, loves travelling and learning different cultures, traditions and languages. His other interests include outreach programs, architecture, minimalist interior design, technological innovations, and cooking/baking.
Shirley joined the WillowWood family in 1993 after graduating from the University of the Arts, in Philadelphia PA, with a double major in Illustration and Art Therapy. She continued her education in Art Therapy in a two-year graduate programme at Hahnemann University Hospital (also in Philadelphia). Currently, she runs social skills support groups for the Lower and Middle Schools and teaches Visual Arts to the grade 7 and 8 classes.
John joined WillowWood in 2004 as High School Math teacher, network administrator, and web designer. He finished the Pedagogical college in 1978 and became a teacher of elementary classes when he was only 18 years old. John continued his career in math and in 1978 graduated from the State University of Chisinau. He worked at the Academy of Science of Moldova as a math scientist, and a math professor. He studied computer science and became a Microsoft and Compaq Certified System Engineer. John coaches table tennis, and chess.
Guy began teaching High School at WW in November 1987 after earning degrees in Math and Computer Science from U of T. He graduated with distinction and was on the Dean's List. A life-long learner, he continued with courses in Accounting, Statistics, and Business Law. Guy taught at the College level in addition to his High School teaching and is rumoured to have built his own house.
Interesting story - I was on my way to Japan to teach English and needed to do a practicum. I do not remember why I chose WillowWood, but I ended up helping Sheila in Grade 5. Sheila and I really hit it off and I enjoyed teaching and helping with all subjects. On my last day of practicum, I was offered a job at WillowWood, and the rest is what we call history. There were very few ESL students when I arrived, only two in the lower school, so I was initially hired as a jack of all trades. I am very proud of how I helped grow the ESL department and of all the students I have helped over the years. Needless to say, I never made it to Japan.