The Ascend Team

Photo of Msgr. Jerry Desmond

Msgr. Jerry Desmond


Kamloops , BC
Photo of Mrs. Kelly - Tries

Mrs. Kelly - Tries

Superintendent of CISKD and Principal at ASCEND Online

Kamloops , BC

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”  ~Eleanor Roosevelt

I’m delighted that our diocese has begun the first Catholic DL School in the province of British Columbia.  ASCEND provides a place where Catholic parents and their children can be supported in their choice to put faith and family first. These are exciting times as we learn and grow together.

Distributed learning is a fairly recent development in education. It’s exhilarating to take on a new venture in the latter part of my career as a Catholic educator. My husband, Frank, and I have been married for 28 years. We are the parents of four grown children and the grandparents of three delightful little people. I’ve worked with the Catholic Independent Schools of the Kamloops Diocese (CISKD) since 1998, serving as Principal of Our Lady of Perpetual Help School from 1998 to 2006. In the fall of 2006 I was hired as the Superintendent of CISKD. It’s hard to believe that this will be my seventh year in this position.

I look forward to meeting many of you at learning camps and parent meetings in the coming months.

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Melanie Bartusek

Contact Teacher

It is an honour to work with homeschooling families who have enrolled with Ascend. My husband and I understand and embrace the choice we have to educate our children. We chose a small rural school in Saskatchewan to educate our children; moving deliberately to have them attend the Independent school. It was the best decision we made. I started working in that school in 1985 as a TA and going to university in the evenings. Eventually I began to teach and then administrated the school for 7 years before we moved to BC. BC is a unique province since it is the only province/territory that has an Independent School Act which protects the homeschooling families and Independent schools allowing them status and some funding. I have worked for 30 years within the Independent school system in various positions and I am passionate about education in all forms. I especially embrace individualized learning and family involvement. It will be another wonderful experience working with many families, coming alongside to facilitate education with Ascend Online.

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Mrs. Marilen Bautista

Having a place to go — is a home. Having someone to love — is a family. Having both — is a blessing. ~Donna Hedges

My first exposure with ASCEND started out as a parent to Sofia who was looking for an alternative school that can better challenge her and sustain her interests in learning. ASCEND has helped regain her self-confidence, manage her time wisely therefore spending more time with the family and even explored working part time during weekends.

I have spent 5 years working in Administration roles in some Catholic schools in the Philippines – St Francis Xavier School and St. John Baptist De La Salle.  For the past 10 years, I have shifted  my career into working for private companies in the Lower Mainland in the areas of HR, Insurance and Customer Service. In my previous roles, I got to utilize my Psychology degree gained from University of Santo Tomas(Catholic University in the Philippines) and my Diploma in Human Resources from Ashton College in Vancouver.  I am now again adhering to God’s calling to be an instrument of his love and proclaim the ministry of family by helping Ascend become a better place where teachers, students & parents collaborate and learn effectively under God’s guidance.

Parents usually find the school for their kids, but in this case my daughter found Ascend for herself and she has invited me to be a part of her journey but not as a parent anymore but as part of the ASCEND family. I am excited to work for Ascend and looking forward to the coming days ahead!

Photo of Ms. Sofia Bautista

Ms. Sofia Bautista

Course Design Assistant

“Yet we are the movers and shakers / Of the world for ever, it seems. ” – Arthur O’Shaughnessy
I started at Ascend two years ago as a high school student and now that I’ve graduated, I’ve chosen Ascend again as part of my next journey in education. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to combine two of my favorite hobbies, programming and graphic design, to enhance the learning experience of other fellow home learners at Ascend, while also starting the first year of my bachelor’s degree in computer science at Simon Fraser University.
Over the years, I learned that as students, young people are talented in many different ways, but often are not given the chance to hone and share those talents under God’s guidance. Homeschooling has helped me appreciate my talents while learning and growing in faith and through my work, I wish to share the same message to others. As said by Pope Francis: “Dear young people, do not bury your talents, the gifts that God has given you! Do not be afraid to dream of great things!”
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Mrs. Lee Ann Coté

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Terrace , BC

I am a homeschooled student who became a teacher, and now a homeschooling mom. While I attended Redeemer Pacific College at Trinity Western University in Langley, my roommate introduced to my wonderful husband, Jason.  Jason and I spent several years in Yellowknife, NWT where we learned to enjoy winter cookouts, photograph the northern lights, and began homeschooling our own children.  We’re now in Terrace, BC with 4 children and looking forward to a new chapter in our life that includes milder weather, a large Catholic homeschooling community, and skiing.

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Mr. John Davies

Contact Teacher / Special Ed Coordinator

“You don’t become a parent by bearing a child. You become a parent by bearing witness to his life.”

It’s been a journey of discovery as Alison and I first began teaching our older son at home in Grade 2 and 3, and then both boys in their high school years.  At that time I began working in online schooling with families that had children with special needs, many like ours.  It is truly a blessing to live in a part of the world where we have the opportunity and the resources to educate our children at home.  The quote I’ve shared is from Ann Voskamp, a person who has spoken into my heart and Alison’s through her blog.  So often it’s a perspective Ann has on life that makes me shift my thinking.  It’s about bearing witness to our sons, now 23 and 26, and the journey continues.

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Mr. Michael Filipski

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Michael’s passion for Catholic Education has guided him and his family to B.C. and to ASCEND.  In 2012, Michael completed his Masters of Religious Education at Newman Theological College, in Edmonton, Alberta.  Along with twelve years of teaching experience at the Catholic high school, junior high and elementary levels Michael aims to use the education and experience that he has have gained to help develop and promote the ongoing Catholic identity of ASCEND and to be a leader of faith for his students and staff.
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Mrs. Nicole Filipski

Contact Teacher – Special Education

“Childhood is a journey, not a race.”

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Mrs. Mary Gallagher

Contact Teacher/K-9 Coordinator

Shawnigan Lake , BC

“The most precious jewels you’ll ever wear around your neck are the arms of your children.”  ~Anonymous

In a great defense of fairy stories, Tolkien tells us that “we make in our measure and derivative mode because we are made…in the likeness of a Maker.” To me this expresses everything that is most exciting about learning and about our faith: namely, that we have the opportunity to make something beautiful of our lives by developing the creative gifts God gave us. After teaching several years, here in Kelowna and previously in Alberta, and now heading into my second year homeschooling with Ascend, I feel so blessed by the families I’ve come to know, and excited for the continuing journey with them, as with my own girls.

And what have I learned this last year? ……Hot chocolate makes math sooo much happier; quiet moments together are The Best; and families are as inspiring as they are whacky and unique. Finally, I’m learning that God wants all of us in this mission to our kids. Our job: to say yes to Him.

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Mrs. Shailah Gulyas

Contact Teacher/Special Education

I feel extremely blessed to have the opportunity to join the Ascend team. I have been an educator in a variety of experiences for the past 5 years.

I began my education journey with my Undergrad at TRU in Kamloops. Following a year working for the Kamloops Brain Injury Society I returned to school at UBC Okanagan to earn my Bed. In the middle of all of this I married my husband and raised our eldest daughter (now 12). It was during this challenging time that my goal and calling shifted to work closer to home and provide support to parents in their choices for their child’s education.  I believe that education starts and ends with the home.

My first two years of teaching was working as an SE support teacher in the homes of my families. This position allowed me the flexibility to teach and care for my growing family. I worked closely with the families and children one on one in their homes. With Ascend I will finally be closer to my calling as wife and mother as well as educator.  With my eldest in high school and my youngest at home, I feel blessed to be able to meld my love of teaching with my priorities in the home.

Currently we live in the East Kootenays. We are blessed with an amazing playground for skiing, mountain biking, and hiking. I am excited to begin my journey with Ascend and build my Faith based community.

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Mrs. Lorna Hessels

Contact Teacher

Surrey , BC

“By your work you show what you love and what you know.”
~St. Bruno

For five years, I taught at St. Michael’s Catholic School, in Burnaby. As a devout Catholic, I thoroughly enjoyed being in an environment where I could openly teach and express my faith.
I have been home schooling our children since 2003.

I treasure the time I spend with my children, helping them grow as individuals, in academic knowledge and most importantly in the knowledge and appreciation of our precious Catholic Faith. After six years of enrolling our children in a public school DL program and three years of traditional home schooling, I am glad to be a part of Ascend!

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Mr. Joel Hooper

Contact Teacher/Special Ed

Salmon Arm , BC
Luke 2:52 “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”
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Mrs. Stephanie Howie

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Vancouver , BC

“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”  ~Pope John Paul II

I am thrilled to be a part of the faith and family first vision at Ascend. My husband and I knew homelearning was right for us from the birth of our first baby boy. Now, with four young boys, we are confident in our decision and have not looked back. Homelearning has enabled our family to nurture faith, curiosity, and an environment that strengthens our commitment to grow together in faith and love.

I have an ongoing love and appreciation of science, math and music, definitive proofs of God’s existence and love. My education and more formal pursuits include degrees in Cell Biology/ Genetics and Education from UBC, ten years teaching mostly math and science at the middle and senior school levels at Vancouver College, an ARCT in piano, music liturgy leadership at various Vancouver area parishes, and management and accompaniment of a Catholic children’s choir. Coupled with my passionate faith in God is my determination that families remain the primary educators of their children; I am excited to journey with the Ascend family!

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Susan Isaac

Contact Teacher

In the end, the secret to learning is so simple: forget about it. Think only about whatever you love. Follow it; do it; dream it. One day, you will glance up at your collection of Japanese literature, or trip over the solar system you built, and it will hit you. Learning was there all the time, happening by itself.”

Grace Llewellyn

I have been involved with homeschooling and online education for 18 years. I worked in Alberta with the School of Hope, a Catholic online school and also THEE (The Home Education Exchange). My husband and I homeschooled both our boys from junior high through to graduation. I am very passionate about homeschooling as well as online learning, particularly at the high school level. I have an academic background in senior English, art and the social sciences and am presently working on my final project in the MA_IS (Masters of Integrated Studies) program through Athabasca University. I moved to Canyon BC (near Creston) over a year ago and we are building a straw bale home and living off the grid…what a wonderful adventure! I have been a Christian since my teen years and several years ago began attending a Catholic church. I spent two years in an RCIA program and last Easter officially became a Catholic. It has been an amazing faith journey! I longed to participate fully in the Eucharist and pray that I will always receive the deep joy and strength it gives me. God has led me to BC, the Catholic faith and now to ASCEND; I am so happy to be part of the team!

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Mrs. Carmella Mathieu

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Kelowna , BC

“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.”  ~Lord Tennyson

I am Carmella Mathieu, both a loving mother and educator for over 10 years. I decided to become an educator so that I could inspire children to learn and to help guide them through this process. I have been blessed with the opportunity to teach in some pretty unique environments, both in Canada and overseas.

Every experience I have had I feel that I have been able to take away so much from working with families and students I’ve met. From these experiences, I was also able to play a huge role in deciding the fate of my own children’s education, both as a homeschooling parent and their teacher in a regular classroom setting. I have taught a variety of grade and subject areas. I love learning myself and am super excited about joining the Ascend family!

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Mrs. Erika Salas

Contact Teacher/Special Ed/Learning Resource Coordinator

Vancouver , BC

“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action.” ~Blessed Mother Teresa

I am truly blessed with the opportunity to join the Ascend team as I have always firmly believed that parents have the God-given grace to be the first and best educators of their children. Having been blessed with a large family in which many of the children are homeschooled, I have witnessed the freedom that comes with the graces of homeschooling.

God has blessed me with a strong desire to work with parents of children with special needs. Having two siblings with special needs who were able to use their musical talents as outlets of communication has affirmed my strong belief that God gives each of His unique children gifts through which to express themselves.

I have over 15 years of music education in voice and various instruments. I received my Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, Music, and Education from UBC. I sing with Vancouver’s Elektra Women’s Choir and conduct the Caritas Children’s Choir, which offers parents the opportunity to give their children a Catholic-based music education. Throughout life’s difficulties, I encourage myself, and my siblings in Christ, to participate in the presence of our Lord in the sacraments, especially that of the mass.

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Mr Joshua Schweitzer

Contact Teacher/HS Coordinator

Powell River , BC

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

Throughout my life, I have experienced many different forms of learning, from public, to private, to homeschool education. Through all of it, I have come to value the holistic nature of a Catholic education, and I feel passionate about personalized learning, where students’ families are at the forefront. As the eldest of nine children, all of whom have been – and continue to be – members of the distributed leaning community, I know very well the autonomy and flexibility that comes along with this form of education. What a tremendous blessing!

Before I heard God’s call to pursue a career in education, I worked for Trinity Western University as an Admissions Counselor for four years following my graduation from TWU’s School of Arts, Media + Culture. While it may still be years before higher education is a relevant topic for you, I hope to help prepare all students and families for the sometimes-confusing journey toward post-secondary admission.

My wife Anne and I reside in Powell River with our two young boys, Dominic and Gabriel. Our family feels tremendously blessed to be a part of the ASCEND community, and I very much look forward to working with you and yours.

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Mr. Justin Siray

Contact Teacher

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us”

– Gandalf the Grey

I feel privileged to be part of ASCEND and its authentic vision of family based education. Growing up in the country, in a haven of sorts away from the hustle and bustle of the city I gained a great appreciation for my family, faith and education based at home. While not homeschooled for my entire education, my parents took a major role, guiding and preparing us through our school work and via their example of faith.

I have always had a fascination with the great outdoors and the many phenomena occurring around us, and God’s great hand in it all. Through this mindset I obtained my Bachelors of Biological Sciences from Thompson Rivers University and my Bachelors of Education from UBC. Both played major roles in my life and finding my vocation in teaching.

Currently I live in Argentina, a beautiful country filled with compassionate faith loving people with strong family values. My girlfriend Carolina’s family is one such example. With someone whose faith and focus on the family as strong as my own I know I will become a better educator and hopefully eventual husband and father. I look forward eagerly to teaching sciences and mathematics at ascend and building meaningful relationships with each student and family.

Photo of Mrs. Lauraine Angela Wakely

Mrs. Lauraine Angela Wakely

Contact Teacher/Special Ed/Learning Services Coordinator

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”… “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

I am so filled with joy and gratitude that we have an opportunity to learn and grow together through Distributed Learning.  God is so good!

Your children are blessed to experience your love and wisdom as their first educators.  You are providing a great gift for your family.

I love my vocation in education and have been extremely fortunate, with God’s Grace, to celebrate and share my passion for many years with students and their families with The Little Red River Cree Nation in Fox Lake, Alberta, and at St. Ann’s Academy in Kamloops, BC.  Now, I am very excited to begin this new journey with you.

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