Dr. Rhonda Nelson
Dr. Rhonda Nelson became the Executive Director of the Starbright Children’s Development Centre (then the COCDA) in November of 2013. Originally from Saskatchewan, Rhonda has an experience base spanning positions as a teacher, consultant, and Assistant Superintendent within the K-12 education system, as a Director of Education of a custody facility for youth, as a consultant and then manager within the Department of Education, as a sessional lecturer for the University of Regina, and as a private consultant for government departments. She holds a B.Ed and a B.A. from the University of Saskatchewan, and a M.Ed and PhD from the University of Regina. Having worked with not-for-profit agencies within her past various roles, as well as within her doctoral research, Rhonda has a deep appreciation for the passion and commitment to making a difference that is so evident within the personnel of Starbright.
Mieke Krus came from the Netherlands to Canada in 2014 and holds two Bachelor of Music in Education degrees, a Bachelor of Middle Management for Non-profit Organizations and a Post Graduate degree in Leadership and Organizational Development. She has over 15 years of management experience in residential healthcare as a Manager in residential homes providing support for adults and children with developmental and physical needs. Being an internationally trained professional makes her flexible and open minded. She contributes her experience and skills to help the Starbright team provide high quality intervention services.
Human Resources Manager
Terri Nakayama has been employed with Starbright Children’s Development Centre since April of 2005. A member of the Human Resources Professionals Association, Terri is the Human Resources Manager for Starbright. Terri has had several different positions while working with Starbright which provides her with an in-depth understanding of the various departments that make up the diverse professional workforce of the agency. As the mom of a son with diverse talents who was a client of Starbright, Terri understands both worlds – that of the family seeking services and that of the professionals providing it.
Heather is a Registered Clinical Counsellor with the British Columbia Association of Clinical Counsellors in good standing since 2001. Heather has vast experience in children and family counselling, and uses various approaches and interventions to tailor a treatment plan to meet each child’s academic, social, emotional and behavioural goals. In 2018, Heather achieved the designation as a Registered Play Therapist with the British Columbia Play Therapy Association.She is also a volunteer member of the Ethics Committee with BCACC as she has a strong interest in upholding the highest standards of clinical practice in her field, as well as assuring the rights and protections of counselling clients in BC.
Infant Development Program
IDP Consultant (Team Leader)
Karin Hesketh has her Masters degree in Pedagogy from the University of Leiden, the Netherlands. Karin lived and worked in several different countries, including the Netherlands, United States, Luxembourg and Indonesia. She has worked as an Infant Development Consultant at Starbright since July 2009.
Anke Purnell has worked at the Children’s Development Center since 2007 as an Infant Development Consultant. Anke has training in Early childhood Education and has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Applied Linguistics. She worked as a preschool teacher for over 13 years and managed a preschool program for 5 years. Anke had the opportunity to work for a preschool in Australia that served the needs of children with hearing loss. Anke enjoys working with children and families and finds the work very rewarding.
Karen Hartley has worked at the Children’s Development Center since August 2008 and with children and families for the past thirty five years. Her post secondary education is in Psychology, B of A Program, Early Childhood Education, Infant Massage Instructor and American Sign Language. Karen’s work experience includes ten years as a Child Development Program Director, 2 years as a College Instructor for the Early Childhood Development Program and the last 26 years as an Early Intervention/Infant Development Consultant. She spent eighteen of those years specializing in working with deaf/hard of hearing children and adults in Edmonton Alberta, and continues to be part of the Early Hearing Program team at Starbright. Karen’s passion continues to be working with children and families.
Shani Fehr has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, with a focus in Child Psychology. She has been in the childcare industry for 10 years, working with birth to school age. She has her Early Childhood Education and Care Diploma and has been specializing in Infant/Toddler Care for the last 4 years. Shani is passionate about her work with young children and connecting with their families.
Karina Frisque has been with Starbright Children’s Development Centre since 2007. She has a Master of Education degree from UBC Okanagan and has specialized training focused on supporting children in developing their daily living skills, communication, and social skills. Karina brings to the role of Infant Development Consultant a background as a Behaviour Consultant with significant knowledge of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Karina has a passion for working with young children and their families.
Occupational Therapist (Team Leader)
Suzanne Lauzon graduated from the University of Western Ontario and has specialized in the field of pediatrics for most of her career. Prior to joining the team at Starbright in 2001, Suzanne worked in residential care, hospital settings (including Alberta and British Columbia Children’s Hospitals) and schools (as both an educator and an OT) throughout Canada. Suzanne is certified in the SIPT (Sensory Integration and Praxis Test) and is on the RASP list. She also has a diploma in Special Care Counselling and is certified in DIRFloortime intervention.
Diana Kriel graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Occupational Therapy from the University Stellenbosch (South Africa) in 1982 and obtained Canadian Occupational Therapy Certification in 1994, American Board certification in May 2002. She has 26 years pediatric experience in evaluating and treating children with a variety of neurological and developmental disabilities such as: down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, asperger syndrome, sensory processing disorders, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. International experience provided flexibility as a therapist, with client centered practice and providing therapy in a variety of settings, (schools, preschools, playground, home, daycare, and sensory integration clinic). She has worked as a member of a transdisciplinary team, consulting to the child and family and providing community education on sensory integration and autism. Diana is certified in Sensory Integration testing, interpretation and treatment. Diana is a certified infant massage instructor. Infant development, promoting parent/infant bonding, and preventive therapy was her primary focus while working with medically fragile infants in the United States.
Katie Johnston joined the Starbright occupational therapy team in 2015. Katie graduated from the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program with the University of Alberta in Calgary. She has gained pediatric experience in various settings, including child development centres, schools, and adaptive programming in outdoor wilderness activities and summer camps.
Andrea Deen graduated from the Occupational Therapy program at the University of Alberta and has spent her career specializing in pediatrics. She has worked primarily in early intervention, the birth to kindergarten age range. Andrea has also been fortunate to have worked in different settings and in several different departments with varying areas of focus.
Cindy Granek graduated from the University of Western Ontario and has worked with babies and toddlers for about 40 years. With her extensive experience she has worked with a wide spectrumof conditions including neurological, sensory, feeding, autism, attentional, fine and gross motor, and prematurity issues. Cindy worked at a private OT clinic prior to joining Starbright,, here in Kelowna. Previous to Kelowna, she was an in-home therapistin Toronto for the majority of her career. Her focus is a client-centred approach encouraging parent/caregiver advocacy and competency. Cindy is certified in Medek therapy, sensory integration, NDT, direct handling and has completed many feeding, movement,and fine-motor courses.Cindy’s experience includes working in acute and chronic care pediatric facilities.
Catherine Brandon joined Starbright’s OT Department in September 2013. She completed her Occupational Therapy training at Queen’s University (Kingston, ON) in 2008. Catherine brings experience as a pediatric OT working in a variety of community settings, including communities in the NWT, Nunavut and Ontario.
Physical Therapist (Team Leader)
Carol Peter received her Bachelor of Physiotherapy degree from the University of Manitoba. She moved to Kelowna in 1990 and has been working with the children and families at Starbright since 1991.
Tracey White graduated in 1988 with a Bachelor in Health Sciences in Physiotherapy from McMaster University. Prior to joining Starbright in 1998, she worked in pediatrics in Ontario with both preschool and school age children in a variety of settings. She is a certified infant massage instructor. Tracey is an American Hippotherapy Association Level 2 therapist. She works in the Early Intervention Program and the Hippotherapy and Therapeutic Riding Programs (HATRC.)
Since convocating from the University of Saskatchewan in 1990 with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy, Lanna Brydges has worked in a variety of settings including all hospital units, home care, and private clinics in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Germany. Pediatric experience includes NICU, hospital and outpatient pediatrics and has now worked at Starbright since 2007. Lanna is an American Hippotherapy Association Level 2 therapist and works in the Early Intervention Program with the HATRC Program.
Jessica Kay obtained a Bachelor of Arts with an Honors' Specialization in Kinesiology from Western University in 2015 before graduating with a Master of Science in Physical Therapy from Queen's University in 2017. She has worked in a variety of settings in Ontario including private clinics, inpatient hospital units, and pediatrics in schools. She has knowledge and experience working with children of all ages, including those with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and other physical challenges. Jessica works in the Early Intervention Program at Starbright.
Speech Language Pathology
Speech-Language Pathologist (Team Leader)
Kathleen O'Connell joined the Starbright team in September 2014. She is a registered Speech Language Pathologist with 25 years experience working with preschool-school age children and their families. She has a Masters degree in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Alberta. Her professional interests include working with Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing children and language/learning challenges.
Diane Gretzinger has been part of the Starbright Speech Language services since 1996. She has a bachelor degree in Speech Language Pathology from the University of Alberta. Her 36 years of experience has predominantly been working with the preschool population. Diane’s professional interests have included creating parent training workshops for speech and language stimulation techniques, working with children with autism, hearing loss and those requiring augmentative communication systems.
Deni Skutshek (Casual)
Deni Skutshek is a Speech-Language Pathologist with over 40 years of experience. She has an undergraduate degree from University of Northern Colorado in Deaf Education and a masters in Speech Language Pathology from San Diego State University. Her areas of interest are hearing loss, sign language and incorporating music into intervention.
Lauren Carruthers (On leave)
Lauren graduated with a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2013. Lauren is Hanen certified for the It Takes Two to Talk and Learning Language and Loving It programs and also holds certification with the American Speech-Language Hearing Association. Lauren has worked with the preschool population in both public and private settings since graduation and has a particular interest in Augmentative and Alternative Communication.
Nicole Reck recently completed a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of British Columbia. She was born and raised in Kelowna. Nicole is a registrant of the College of Speech Hearing Professionals of British Columbia, and a member of Speech-Language and Audiology Canada. Through past professional experiences and practicum work, she has developed a passion for working with the preschool population. Her professional interests include Augmentative and Alternative Communication and working with children with complex communication differences.
Jenn graduated from McGill University with a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology in 2013. She has extensive experience working with preschool children and their families in a clinical setting. She is fluent in French and enjoys working with families from a variety of linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Her professional interests include working with children with autism, children with motor-speech disorders (ex: Apraxia), coaching/parent training, and she has recently developed an interest in feeding.
Courtney Lawrence (On leave)
Courtney Lawrence recently joined the team at Starbright in a casual role. She graduated with a Master of Science degree in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of British Columbia in 2017. Since then she has been working with preschool age children in different capacities, with special interests in supporting Deaf and Hard of Hearing children and children with autism. She is certified in the Hanen It Takes Two to Talk program.
Visual Language Facilitator
Irene Failes has been employed with Starbright since 1989. Prior to joining Starbright, Irene interpreted in Prince George, B.C. at the College of New Caledonia and Prince George Secondary School. In 1989 she began working for Starbright as a Visual Language Interpreter in our preschool program. Later, through the ICP Department, she supported Deaf and Hard of Hearing children in their community preschools, daycares and after school programs. Since 2008, Irene has also been working with the children in the Early Hearing Intervention Program. Irene continues to support Deaf and Hard of Hearing children in their preschools and/or daycares as well as supporting parents and caregivers in learning Sign Language through her role in the SLP Department. Irene is dedicated to providing a positive learning environment for these children and their caregivers.
Inclusive Childcare Program
ICP Consultant (Team Leader)
Jackie Shiosaki is the Team Leader of the Inclusive Childcare Program. She holds a Diploma in Early Childhood Education with Special Needs and Infant Toddler and a Degree in Psychology with minor in Sociology. She has worked with children and family in this community for over 20 years in various positions: daycare/preschool teacher, respite provider, inclusive childcare assistant, Thompson Okanagan Autism program, behavioural intervention, School District #23 teaching assistant, and consultant for Special Needs Adoption.
A diploma graduate of the Early Childhood Education Program with Special Needs and Infant Toddler, Cheryl Fralick has dedicated her career to working with children and their families. She has worked in Supervisory roles in group daycare, preschools and lastly and Integrated Parent Participation toddler group where she provided a fun, early learning environment for both children and parents. In 2003, Cheryl began working at Starbright as a Behaviour Interventionist for the autism program for two years. Since then, she has worked as an Inclusive Childcare Program Consultant. She considers her work a privilege and appreciates the continuous learning, growth and challenges that come with working with children and their families.
Heather Maschek has been with Starbright Children’s Development Centre since 2010. In addition to having the experience and education as a Certified Education Assistant, she brings to her role with the Inclusive Childcare Program a significant strength from her work as a Starbright Autism Program Consultant. Heather has a breadth of knowledge in behaviour support, facilitating social skills, augmentative and alternative communication, and in working with families and community caregivers. Heather delights in providing support that will empower those parenting, or working with, children to find ways to foster potential.
Shannon Nacey (Maternity leave)
Shannon has been with Starbright since 2015. She has worked as a Behaviour Interventionist, and more recently as a Senior Program Assistant with the Inclusive Childcare Program. She settled into the Consultant role in 2021. Shannon is originally from North Vancouver where she studied and obtained a Bachelor of Early Childhood Care and Education from Capilano University in 2017. Her experience comes from working in community childcare programs in several capacities such as program planning, family support, and supervisory roles. She has experience working with children from multiple age groups, including infants and toddlers to the school-age population. She is passionate about working with, and advocating for, children and their families to support community connection.
Andra graduated from the Medical School in Romania and specialized in Family Medicine. She moved to North America in 2006 and passed the American Board Exams, but life kept her in Canada. She chose to use her knowledge and experience working in the community and helping the people in need. She worked with people with special needs as a Clinic Coordinator and as a Research Site Director. The position she most enjoyed was working with children as a Behavior Interventionist at Starbright. In 2018 she worked for Starbright as a ICP Educators and in September of 2021 she took on the role of a ICP Consultant. Andra feels fortunate to have the advantage of understanding people with disabilities from a medical point of view and she is constantly amazed by their courage and strength in a society that is not always supportive. It gives her tremendous satisfaction to see them succeed - a success that can be achieved by creating the right opportunities from a very young age.
Daisy Sunder came to Starbright after completing her Bachelor’s degree in Child and Youth Care from the University of the Fraser Valley. She chose to focus her studies on early interventionand individuals with support needs. Daisy brings 6 years of experience from working in school, recreation, and childcare settings. She came to Starbright as an Inclusive childcare Educator in 2022 before transitioning into the consultant role. Here she continuesto celebrate diversity and foster inclusion in the community. She brings a strengths-based and relational approach to the ICP department to meet the needs of diverse children and their families.
Inclusive Childcare Educators
Our dedicated Inclusive Childcare Program Educators provide extra staffing support to promote and support inclusive practice within community childcare programs:
Cathy Hansen, Courtney Koepke, Jacqueline Beausoleil, Jennifer Schlosser, Kymm Allen, Linda Seinen, Lynne Ramsay, Raika Jahura, Shannon Parent, Shawna Swanson, Silvia Rosales, Terri Boles, Valisa Kay, Wynell Powers, Carolina Markoff, Leah Webster, Mindy Hilburn and Sandra Olk
Our Volunteer Board Of Directors
President Carol Meise – Manager, Cooper Medical Supplies
1st Vice-President Cathie Polasek, P/T research coordinator BA ECE
2nd Vice-President Paul Farina
Treasurer Craig Gronsdahl – CA, CFP, The Fraser Financial Group LLP
Secretary Terri Russell, Faculty member, Okanagan College
Jean Lanoue – Manager, Premier Salons
E.R. (Ted) Grimwood – Developer
Blair Forrest – Lawyer, Pushor Mitchell LLP
Madison Wilgosh, CPA – Accountant, BDO Canada LLP
Jason Picklyk – Firefighter, City of Kelowna
Post-humous Gratitude and Recognition
Dr. Clifford B. Henderson (Founding agency pediatrician, member of the Board of Directors 1966-2020)
Dr. Clifford B. Henderson – Pediatrician
Dorothy Deakin – Speech and Language Pathologist
Dr. Ron Ellis – Internist
Ruth Cresswell – Parent
Benjamin M. Lambert – Commission Agent, Imperial Oil
Lois Berry – Registered Nurse
Ian B. McCuaig – Teacher
Lori Hamilton, Finance Controller
Rebecca Smith, Administration Coordinator
Diana Becker, Services and Outcomes Coordinator
Jessie Farrell, Reception Coordinator
Betty Teigen, Family Engagement Coordinator