Courtney Best is a Sooke resident and was born and raised on Vancouver Island. Courtney has worked with different mediums from a young age, exploring watercolors, acrylic and oil painting, charcoal, clay, india ink, photography, and more. She has attended art classes at Vancouver Island University.
Inspired by books and nature, Courtney loves to weave her artistry with these themes. She is an avid reader and is keen to share her passion for expression and storytelling with her students. You can find Courtney in the forest, hiking, foraging or identifying plants, or on a local beach enjoying the waves. She is influenced by the natural beauty we are surrounded by and loves to focus on details such as the structure of fungi, or the colours on a leaf.
Courtney has worked in the Sooke School District as an educator since 2018 and brings her passion for exploration and learning to Amber Academy for her first year as an instructor here.
Deborah van Hattem-Koff is an illustrator and artist from Sooke, born in the Netherlands. She is also a member of the Sooke Arts Council. Deborah has been drawing, painting and illustrating from a very young age and has been taking art history, drawing and painting classes since the age of 12.
Deborah is also a workshop teacher. She organizes "Sip and Paint” art classes at the Artisan's Garden in Sooke, and also hosts painting classes for children. Additionally, Deborah is a henna artist, creating temporary body art using henna leaf paste.
Deborah's artwork has been displayed and sold in several shows in Victoria, Sooke, the Netherlands and Fort Langley. She recently worked on designing 100 hand illustrated cards for the cast and film crew of the popular Hallmark Channel TV series, "When Calls the Heart".
Deborah has been teaching at Amber Academy since September, 2018 and enjoys passing on her artistic skills and sharing her creativity to the younger generation. She loves to inspire and enable others to have fun creating and discovering the artist within.
Megan Evans is a visual artist living in Sooke, born in Victoria BC. She is a member of the Sooke Arts Council and had the honor of being juried into the 2023 Sooke Fine Arts Show for her acrylic painting Crowned Prince. Megan has painted from a young age and has taken art courses through Camosun College, local workshops and online through Ginger Cook’s Academy of Fine Art and Acrylic Painting.
Megan has taught painting workshops at the studio of the Sooke Arts Council and seasonally participates as an artistic vendor in the Sooke Night Market at the Sooke Region Museum. Additionally, Megan creates resin art and mosaic wall art using hand cut glass tiles. Megan has also dabbled in watercolors, plaster of paris sculpture, origami, and mixed media/collage art.
Megan has participated in many local shows and regularly has paintings hanging at Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre. She is also a member of the Coast Collective now under the Arts & Culture Colwood Society and has participated in annual shows such as Bloom and Gifts and Wishes.
2023-2024 will be Megan’s first year teaching at Amber Academy and she is looking forward to sharing her enthusiasm for creating art. She hopes to empower young artists on their journey to discover their own unique style and to have fun with the creative process.
Trish has been teaching music and theory for more than 28 years. She was born in Holland and lived in various cities as a child through her father’s postings with the Canadian PPCLI band. Growing up, Trish’s home was always filled with music from jazz, opera, classical and popular and she appreciates having had a musician as a father.
In 1995 Trish moved to Victoria, British Columbia and set up her piano studio. She now resides in Sooke where she continues to teach piano.
Rhys Pugh grew up in Powell River and Prince George, BC before attending the University of Northern British Columbia. After receiving a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Arts (History) he decided to pursue a career in education and received his Bachelor of Education from UBC with the West Kootenay Teacher Education Program. Working as a teacher on call, Rhys discovered he had a passion for teaching elementary music. This combined his lifelong interest in music with his skill at playing piano, singing, and production. In 2014 he accepted a position teaching music at Sooke Elementary and has been there ever since. Besides teaching, Rhys also plays in a cover band and a jazz trio and he is an avid runner.
Nicole was born and raised on the west coast of British Columbia. Over the past 30 years she has mastered many artistic mediums such as stained and fused glass, bead work, collage, encaustic and silk screen printing. More recently she has designed and created her own line of women’s fashions.
Since 2009, Nicole has been involved in many youth art projects such as teaching art workshops, volunteering in the schools, co-facilitating youth art camps, and co-facilitating three whole school mural projects in Sooke, B.C. Nicole was a Girl Guide and Pathfinder Leader from 2013 - 2018. Nicole has been creating dance costumes, skating costumes, and theatre costumes for local organizations since 2007 and has been teaching at Amber Academy since September, 2017.
Paul brings to his role over 30 years of experience in the dramatic arts, both on-stage and behind the scenes.
Since his move to Sooke in 2011, Paul has taken on various scripted roles in plays and musicals here, including in Godspell, Afterlife The Musical, Annie, Fawlty Towers, Tommy, Snow White, Cinderella, Treasure Island, and Camelot. He has also been an active participant in improvisational theater over the years, including most recently forming a local performing group.
Paul's involvement in the theatrical community extends beyond performing. He has experience with various production roles, and currently serves as Vice-President on the Sooke Harbour Players board of directors.
Outside of his theatrical pursuits, Paul previously volunteered as a leader with Scouts Canada.
Paul enjoys working with kids (and people of all ages) as they use imagination, creativity and stagecraft to bring characters and stories to life.
Georgia is a photographer and creative raised in both Kelowna and the UK. Georgia has been serious about photography for about 4 years with a diploma in digital photography from the Centre for Arts and Technology which she received in 2021. CATO taught Georgia what it really means to be creative and how to bring ideas to life.
Inspired by famous photographers such as Annie Leibovitz or William Wegman, Georgia is very consistent with creative portraiture in her work, she loves to work with bright colour and contrast. Often creating her own photography sets out of various materials or scouting locations.
Georgia also is skilled at editing images, and graphic design. Outside of Amber Academy Georgia will often shoot event photography or collaborate with other artists in the community. Georgia also works as an event coordinator and host for a paint night company and as a waitress.
Matt originates and spent his childhood in the south-east of England, but left to study in Edinburgh where he completed a BA in Stage Management & Theatre Production at Queen Margaret University College, graduating in 1999.
After graduating, Matt spent the following years working for various technical companies in and around Edinburgh, participating in the yearly Edinburgh Fringe, numerous events and installations including going so far as northern France where he participated in the installation of new attractions during the expansion of Disneyland Paris in the early 2000s.
Since coming to Canada, Matt has participated in various events, including the Victoria Fringe, before changing careers and starting his own electrical contracting business.
Matt is pleased and excited to be able to step into the role of Technical Instructor and looks forward greatly to developing the program.