Meet the facilitators

Garth Nichols

 I believe that it is the elements of change and continuity that make  teaching the best profession for me. It is a profession that energizes me, keeps me young at heart, and hopeful about the future. As the definition of teaching becomes more and more difficult to pin down, I get more and more excited about the possibilities and opportunities that independent schools have to chart a path into the future of what, where, when and how the classroom can be. I am excited about Cohort21 because it is an opportunity to expand my educational and professional networks, and a chance to create and design a new type of professional development experience. it captures the idea that the best teachers are those that learn alongside their students.

I am teacher with over 20 years of experience in classrooms, working directly with educators and most recently in administration. I am immersed in school life as a coach for various sports, and as a mentor, faculty adviser. Check out my Linkedin profile to learn more, and my Twitter account. You can also find out more about me as one of the lead facilitators of the CAIS 2051 Project and the Cohort 21 Google + community So, you know a lot about me already…I look forward to learning more about you and your gifts as a teacher.

Justin Medved

Cohort 21 was born out of a frustration with professional development experiences that did not practice what they preached. Having attended numerous “21st century workshops and conferences” that were facilitated using using 20th century practices I felt that it was time to create the change that I wanted to see. Cohort 21 is a step in that direction. What happens when you bring together a group passionate CIS Ontario teachers and build a powerful networked learning community around them? Read their blogs to find out 🙂

Justin Medved is the Director of Learning, Innovation and Technology at The York School. He works with teachers, students and parents preparing and educating them for the demands of the 21st century. He is also one of the lead facilitators of the CAIS 2051 Project. You can read his thoughts and ideas on education, technology and leadership at by following his on twitter or the Cohort 21 Google + community.

Celeste Kirsh

celeste kirsh

Once upon a time, I decided to become a teacher because I really (really) love school and learning. I love not knowing something, and trying to find a way through a sticky puzzle. I love being part of something larger than myself and connecting with others in a community of seekers. I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes only after goals were reached that once seemed scary and lofty. I love uncovering who I am as a human by better understanding a subject area or deeply reflecting on a profound experience.

Being involved with Cohort 21 is one of the ways I remind myself that teaching and learning can be as innovative as the world we are preparing our students for. My experience last year really showed me a different way to teach and learn that is dramatically more aligned with my core values than the school I grew up in.
Presently, I teach Grade 7 English and Social Studies at the Bishop Strachan School. In addition to my passion for 21st Century Learning, I am also actively curious about diversity, anti-oppression in schools, positive psychology, mindfulness, dramatic play, riding bicycles, and outdoor education

Leslie McBeth

Leslie McBeth Profile PicTeaching, in the traditional sense, does not come easy to me. I’m not much of a planner, I have a strong distaste for using numbers to judge student accomplishments, and I loathe asking for help. But that said, teaching is undoubtedly the right profession for me and the most fulfilling job I’ve had (and I’ve had a few). Teaching allows me to be constantly learning alongside my students. Whether it’s because I suddenly need to become an expert on hydroponics, or find my way around India with a group of teenagers, teaching ensures that my need for new experiences is always stimulated, and my thirst for change is always satiated.

Change is one thing that I strongly believe we need to prepare our students for. In a world where app developers are making billions overnight and 14 year old kids are solving world problems from their parent’s basements, we see how the old concept of getting a job and working away at it until you retire is no longer a viable option. And if the purpose of school in the industrialized age was to prepare workers for a job, then the purpose of school in the 21st century is surely to prepare young people to be innovative, creative and entrepreneurial.

I am privileged to work at a progressive school with accomplished, motivated teachers. It is this collegial community that has also drawn me to Cohort 21. I am honored to be a part of the program this year, and I look forward to connecting with new colleagues and future friends as we learn to better design experiences that prepare young people for an uncertain (a.k.a. exciting) future.

Graham Vogt

Once I was a great student. I loved learning and I was keen. My parents actually worried about me for caring too much, for being obsessive. That was when I was ten. After that I wasn’t so keen anymore and before too long I was a disaster. I went to a massive high school that was over 100 years old and I set records (lowest grades ever awarded, most absences…). No, like I really did! University wasn’t a whole lot better, and so I trained to be an actor instead. I did that (act that is) for quite a few years. Mostly I had fun hanging out with my very close friend, writing two-handed plays and performing them wherever we could on all ends of this earth. As that flame dimmed, my passion for learning was re-igniting. I was 10 again. I’ve never looked back. Not only do I passionately learn, I passionately learn about learning. Perhaps somewhat desperately, I forever seek to truly understand the nature of that 15 year gap between me and a system of education. Somewhat more urgently, I seek to understand that same gap I witness in so many (too many!) of my students.  I must know how to heal this gaping and disturbing wound. In Cohort21 I have found an amazing home that has at once provided answers while exaggerating my thirst. I am obsessive again. Perhaps my parents should be worried.

Adam Caplan

To a worm in horseradish, the world is horseradish. These years with Cohort 21 as a participant, facilitator, coach and now Coach Mentor have been essential to pulling me out of the horseradish. As Coach Mentor, I play a significant role in Cohort 21 by deepening the experience of the Cohort 21 coaches, and act as a link between them and the facilitators. I feel lucky to work within such a passionate, positive community of thinkers and doers.

With the move from teaching elementary students at a small public school on Toronto Island to becoming St. Clement’s School’s first Technology & Teaching Coach, I now guide teachers to embed technology into the student learning experience using a 21st Century framework by encouraging innovation and risk-taking across Grades 1-12. My wishes for the world are that everyone would wear name tags and that we would have more time to listen to podcasts. Current interests: Reflection Portfolios, Instructional Pedagogies for Adult Learners, Open Data Practices for School Improvement.


Eric Daigle

Passionate about personalizing the learning experience, especially in the areas of project-based learning, experiential learning, and 21st-century competencies, I have recently joined the Cohort21 team, first as a participant in Season 5, then as a coach in Season 6, and now a facilitator.

I am actively building a new approach to pedagogy and curriculum in my classroom through a culture of inquiry and design thinking, as well as leveraging technology and real-world connections to improve student engagement and achievement. I have developed PD and whole-school initiatives around these topics and am a growing leader in these areas.

I am a teacher, instructional designer, writer, traveler, and proud father. I am both a Canadian and Australian citizen, having spent eight years living and teaching in Melbourne, Australia.

I believe we shape our lives through our imagination—by thinking of ourselves as artists we generate the possibilities and potentials we wish for— developing critical and creative strategies to solve complex problems and make meaningful change along the way.

As both a writer and teacher I have recently begun to brand myself the Poet of Pedagogy. I apply the same thematic design used to structure one of my poems as I do with innovating my professional practice—always striving to connect the individual experience to the greater metaphoric whole.

Lisa Bettencourt

When a team can function as a dynamic system and execute with precision that dynamite play. Communicating, progressing and operating in tandem to reach a common goal. Not, unlike Cohort21, this group accomplishes more together because we feel supported, encouraged and motivated to succeed. From this cohesion stems team camaraderie, connections and the confidence to try your best!

Coaching dates back to my roots and has grown to be an essential part of my life. It was a natural transition to my role at Ashbury College, where I am the Technology Coach and it transcends into my role with Cohort21.

Last season, I was delighted to get the opportunity to coach with the mentorship of many truly inspirational educators. This season, I am excited to branch into a facilitator role, with further potential for connecting with current and new members as we work together to reach for our goals. Let’s Go Team Cohort21!

Nicole Blair:

As a lifelong learner and changemaker, I view challenges as an opportunity and enjoy putting ideas into action and encouraging others to do the same.  I am passionate about the need for innovative and future-ready thinking in education and enjoy leveraging technology, and design thinking to deliver project-based learning, and professional development opportunities. The personalized, real-world teaching and learning model that Cohort 21 is built around resonates with me deeply, both on a personal and pedagogical level, and has positively influenced my teaching and learning over the past two years.

As a participant, I emulated the Cohort 21 model through my launch of the 20time Project at RDS, and as a coach, through co-creating and facilitating a Cohort 21-like Faculty Professional Development Model at RDS. I’m delighted to be a facilitator this year and can’t wait to be inspired by the Cohort 21 Community to take action and risks together, as we all endeavour to advance our teaching and learning in new and innovative ways.

Past Facilitators:

Ruth Eichholtz

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 2.55.49 PM
Since 2003, Ruth has been teaching math to a diverse bunch of international students in grades 5-12. She is particularly keen on helping students realize their own potential as mathematicians. Areas of interest include inquiry-based learning, interdisciplinary learning, and advanced Calculus, all within the IB framework.

Derek Doucet

Bio picI was never traditionally the “good student” who payed attention to everything in class and got great grades. In fact, many of my former teachers are shocked that I would even think of entering the profession based solely on karma. In my first round of teacher’s college applications in 2001, my motto was “Teach the skills, and the curriculum will sort itself out”. Needless to say, I was not accepted to any Bachelor of Education program that year! That said, this idea is at the core of everything I do, both in and out of the classroom.

As a member of the first Cohort 21 group, I was inspired by not only what Garth and Justin were presenting but by the people around me. I have been very fortunate that early in my career I was able to work at some great schools with amazing people, but this was different. We were actively involved in each other’s action plans, being introduced to amazing Edtech to enhance collaboration and assessment in the classroom, and we followed each other’s progress. It was unlike any other PD session I had every experienced, in all the right ways.

 I believe that education can, and should be better for our students. I believe that student voice, choice, pace and place should be considered when designing programs. I believe that starting with Why instead of What will help students become learners for life. And I believe that working with others and sharing experiences is the most effective and inspiring professional development going. Want to know more? Check out my blogtwitter, or my LCS Bio. Click here to see why I love my job! I look forward to learning and sharing with you.

Shelley Thomas

shelleythomasYou know that “Ah-ha!” moment, that split second that changes everything for a student? When ideas make sense and suddenly click? When the world is instantly illuminated in Technicolor? I love that. That’s the Holy Grail for most teachers. For many of us that’s what keeps us coming back. Watching wonder and curiosity take root and grow. But the “Ah-has!” don’t come easily. They require risk and vulnerability or, as Amy Poehler might say, “getting our hair wet”. They also require time. Good teaching has always been about that, I think. About finding that perfect balance.

I’m fascinated by the intersection of learning and technology. As technologies continue to emerge and morph, they shape our students’ current global, cultural, and social experiences. And while our teaching must be sensitive to this digital proliferation, we must aim to model innovative, idiosyncratic and select use of digital tools. In doing so, we enable our students to take calculated risks, maximize their creative and analytical potential in post secondary studies, the workforce, but more importantly, in their twenty-first century lives. I’m fortunate to work at a school where “Ah-has!” abound daily. Like most of you, I wear many hats. I am Head of Innovation and Instructional Technologies and a teacher of English Literature and Film Studies. I get to take risks and be creative everyday. Whether it’s nurturing the cinematic talents of students or lending a voice to the chorus of protest, my happiest moments have been ones when students have taken the plunge and found that they can swim against the current. While some of my teachers have been fictional: Holden Caulfield, Blanche Du Bois, Chaplin’s ‘Little Fellow’, (characters that took risks and moved against the crowd) my greatest teachers have often been my students. They continue to show me profound truths about life and beauty and art.

I’m excited to be part of the rich and vibrant Cohort 21 community. I’m looking forward to learning alongside everyone, making new friends, exploring uncharted territory in our classrooms, and contributing to a culture of exploration and reflection.

3 thoughts on “Meet the facilitators

  1. really interesting stuff, I just finished my masters “Using Geography to Develop 21st Century Skills in Learners”…I specifically investigated the development of heterogeneous learning teams…with great success

    I’m looking forward to navigating this site and your initiative…

    1. Hi Zach,
      We’ve just finished our first F2F session, so there will be lots to share. In the meantime, check out @a_tom_bomb and @m_dt_farley as two great geography teachers to connect with!

  2. Hi Zach, my former team at TVO was working on an app that would allow users to select topographic regions of Canada and 3D print them out. Would be more than willing to discuss it with you. Tweet me – @everyoneminus1

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