About Our Instructors

Cole Benoit

Cole is the founder and head bitters maker at The Apothecary Bitters Company, where he specializes in small batch bitters made from all natural botanicals. His passion in this field has led him into teaching others about bitters, often through seminars and events. Constantly experimenting and creating, he’s also active in cocktail and spirit consulting, designing cocktail programs and working with brands such as Long Table Distillery, where he co-created the first amaro in BC.

Christine Bickson

Christine Bickson has many years of experience working with people, as a business person, a naturapathic doctor, and now as a yoga teacher. Christine is a certified 500hr Purna Yoga teacher, trained with Aadil Palkhivala and Savitri. Purna Yoga aligns with the goal of practicing yoga into your nineties, focusing on safety, working with your body’s boundaries, and finding movements to increase flexibility in our spine, hips, shoulders, and every joint in the body. Christine is also trained in Heartfull Meditation, Functional Synergy, Restorative Yoga, and Kinesiology of Yoga. Christine brings pragmatic and simple ways to journey toward spiritual connection, physical strength, flexibility, and an inner sense of clarity of spirit.

Melissa Clark

Melissa H. Clark has devoted a lifetime to the visual arts. Her technical skills along with her creative ability are well recognized with collections around the world. Melissa continues to develop her knowledge in traditional methods, however she thrives on self-exploration. This is evident in her many awards from local shows to being listed as a promising young artist by the National Gallery of Canada.

Melissa is the owner and operator of Acorn Art and Image. Melissa holds a Kwantlen College Visual Arts diploma and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Studio Arts and a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of British Columbia

Egan Davis

Egan Davis is an award-winning gardener with a lifelong passion for horticulture.  His diverse background includes garden design, landscape construction, botanical garden operations and greenhouse and nursery production.  He managed collections at VanDusen Botanical Garden and was the foreman at Park & Tilford Gardens.  Through his outreach activities such as television, radio, print and lectures at conferences and garden clubs, Egan has been a strong advocate for the horticulture industry.  By serving on the board of directors of HortEd BC, Egan has been involved with developing industry standards and policies.

He has been a leader in the industry for many years by participating in senior roles at BC Landscape and Nursery Association events.  Egan has taught horticulture in botanical garden, college and university settings and he brings the same passion and infectious enthusiasm for gardening to his teaching.  When Egan is not teaching or working in the garden, he loves to explore the natural world by hiking and travelling to exotic ecological destinations.

Katharine Dickinson

Katharine Dickinson has a postgraduate from The Slade School of Art, London, U.K. She has worked as a professional illustrator and artist for twenty years.  Katharine has expertise in a variety of traditional media. She paints portraits by commission and landscapes for exhibition.

Teaching art is a passion; Katharine works with Vancouver and Burnaby Art Galleries, in public and school programs. She strongly believes in the power of education and drawing as a method for understanding the world. Her classes are engaging, emphasizing seeing and the principles of drawing from life. Students have fun while learning the necessary skills to develop their own artistic vision.

Leanne Hildebrand

Leanne majored in Music Performance and graduated from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto in 1996. She is passionate about art and handmade paper. She has collected handmade paper from different countries.

Leanne has 8 years of experience making handmade books. Which were sold at the Suho Memorial Paper Museum in Taipei. She started learning to use Japanese hand-dyed paper (washi) to make pictures about 14 years ago in an Japanese art form called Chigiri-e studying under several masters in Taiwan. She has had three well-received exhibitions of these pictures in Kaohsiung, Taiwan and Vancouver. View examples of her art here.

Jennifer Lipka

Jennifer Lipka’s enthusiasm and passion for gardening shines in her workshops. She has spent the last 10 years gardening organically at her local community plot and patio, and inspires her students to grow successful gardens all over the city. She shares her knowledge from Kwantlen on organic gardening, botany, seeds and harvesting and is currently enrolled in a Bachelor’s of Environment and Sustainability at UBC.

Ron Long

Ron was a staff photographer at Simon Fraser University for over 36 years. During this time he had a parallel career teaching photography at adult continuing education programs. The most notable of these was at Kwantlen University where he taught a ten month photography program.

Kate Maliha/Love Your Age Fitness

Kate’s experience in the health and fitness industry spans over 25 years and includes many facets of leadership within the field of exercise and active aging. Kate has an MA in Human Kinetics from the University of British Columbia with a focus on exercise and aging.  Kate is a Certified Medical Exercise Specialist (ACE), a Certified Functional Aging Specialist (FAI), and has further specialization in balance and fall prevention.  Kate’s continuing education focus centers on current research in Gerokinesiology, including brain health, functional aging, corrective exercise, and medical exercise.  Kate is the founder of Love Your Age Fitness (loveyourage.ca) a company which provides fitness classes and mobile fitness services to mature adults throughout the province of B.C.  Kate leads a team of talented active aging exercise specialists  who help clients age vibrantly by improving their health and function.

Timothy Martin

Timothy leads his classes from a place for both the light and dark aspects of yoga. He holds space for students to reconnect with their bodies on a deeper level than just only the mechanical with a focus on looking inward for answers. A colourful, vibrant personality you will find that Tim redefines what students think a yoga class, a yoga student and a yoga teacher should be. He meets students where they are and encourages acceptance and love through each and every breath.

Janis Matson

Janis Matson has brought a plethora of knowledge, education and experience along with contagious enthusiasm to her talks and classes at VanDusen Botanical Garden since 2011. As the owner of Shoreline Landscape Design in Burnaby for over 20 years, she enjoys using her creativity in the challenge of making garden spaces look and feel good.

Janis graduated from BCIT’s Landscape Design and Horticulture Diploma program and then continued her education receiving an Arborist Certificate, Organic Soil Management Certificate, Provincial Instructor’s Diploma and Floral Design Certificate. She has recently become a Red Seal Journeyman in Horticulture. She is also an horticulture instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and a faculty instructor with Burnaby Community Education Horticultural Residential Landscape Technician, Hardscape and Apprenticeship programs.

Dana Mulder

Dana Mulder is an elementary school teacher with the Vancouver School Board and has worked in children’s programming and education outreach at VanDusen Botanical Garden since 2011.  With a special interest in capturing the beauty of nature through working with natural mediums, Dana practices natural dying, mineral pigment painting, and seaweed pressing with her young students as well as adults.  Always aware of the ethics of sustainable harvesting, she is keen to share her passion for the wonders you can create from your own backyard.

Ken Ouendag

Ken Ouendag completed training with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides & Training in 2017 to become Vancouver’s first Certified Forest Therapy Guide. He founded Nature Connected Forest Therapy Walks, offering public and private walks that are inspired by the Japanese tradition of shinrin-yoku. His walks invite people to explore new ways of connecting with nature, while opening the door to the healing properties of forests and other natural environments. Ken currently offers Recreation Therapy programming to older adults living in long-term care.

Sam Sivertz

Sam has an honours degree in Evolutionary Biology from UBC focusing on an evolutionary tree that lives in the sandbars of Spanish Banks. Sam worked on three UBC collections for the opening of the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, and was a volunteer instructor at the Vancouver Aquarium. Sam has been the VanDusen Plant Documentation Technician since 2009, and also writes the “Tree of the Month” feature. She teaches classes on tree identification, poisonous plants, and native shrubs for the Vancouver Botanical Gardens Association, and gives talks for organizations including local garden clubs, the Vancouver Tea Festival, and MOSAIC. Sam’s focus is on science education and the collection and organization of scientific data

Susan Pearson

Susan is an established Vancouver artist and illustrator loved for her cheerful artistic style, inspiring lessons, and patient and supportive teaching style. Susan’s work has been chosen for city banners, posters, t-shirts, and for promoting urban events such as the 2010 Olympics, Bike to Work Week and the Dragon Boat Festival. She recently published her first illustrated book, “Anna May’s Cloak”.

Deborah Redfern

Deborah Redfern has been a movement educator for several decades. She began her studies in Iyengar Yoga and has been a Restorative Exercise Specialist in Nutritious Movement® for the past six years. Most recently she completed Modern Yogi certificate. Deborah specializes in evidence-based gentle yoga, a magical yoga-meets-science approach that benefits both beginners and seasoned yogis alike. The focus is on creating a sustainable movement practice both on and off the yoga mat. You will learn techniques to build sustainable strength and resilience, so that you can do more of the things you love to do in your day to day life with ease.

Justin Schneider

Justin Schneider is a certified Permaculture Designer, and holds a Diploma in Organic Land Care. He completed a degree in Education, and is currently a Landscape Horticulturist at VanDusen Botanical Garden. He has been working in the horticulture field for over 15 years, in Canada, Costa Rica, and New Zealand. He enjoys teaching concepts of sustainable gardening and design, and loves to inspire others to follow the wisdom of Nature.

Yael Stav, PhD

Yael is a sustainable design professional, with expertise in living walls and urban agriculture in Israel, Australia and Canada. Her PhD work focused on designing sustainable vertical gardens. She enjoys teaching and advocating for integrating more plants into urban environments. She also enjoys gardening in her domestic micro-farm and in community gardens. Her studio, Invivo Design, located in Vancouver, is involved in educational and design projects related to green infrastructure.

Casey Werfl

Casey Werfl was a head gardener at VanDusen Botanical Garden for over 10 years, with more than 15 years of experience in the industry. He holds a Horticulture Certificate from Capilano College and is a certified Journeyman Landscape Horticulturalist.  Casey enjoys teaching foundational methods in an interactive workshop setting, aiming to inspire those who wish to enhance their knowledge and skills in the gardening world.

Katolen Yardley, MNIMH, RH (AHG) -Medical Herbalist

Katolen is a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists, in private practice in Vancouver and author of the book “The Good Living Guide to Natural and Herbal Remedies” bringing a wealth of experience and knowledge to VBGA Education. You may recognize her from her past appearances on Global Television Morning News, where she offered herbal information to the public from 1998 – 2015. Learn more about Katolen here.