Sooke School District #62
International Student Program
200-814 Goldstream Avenue
Victoria, BC V9B 2X7 Canada
PROGRAM CONTACT INFORMATION
Sooke School District #62
8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday – Thursday
8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. Friday
MEET OUR STAFF
Ms. Laura Schwertfeger
Laura has worked in the Sooke School District since 2009, as a teacher of English Language Arts and French Immersion, and then as an administrator in the International Student Program since 2010. She has a passion for bringing together people from different cultures to increase intercultural understanding. Laura has lived and worked in five different countries, and is conversationally fluent in German, Spanish, and French. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and American Literature and Language, a Bachelor of Education degree in Secondary Education, and a Master’s of Business Administration.
Ms. Amber O’Quinn
District Vice Principal
Amber has worked in the Sooke School District for 15 years, and has been working with the International Student Program since 2015. Born and raised in BC, Amber studied History and Spanish at the University of Victoria, and completed a Post-Graduate Certificate in Teaching ESL at Queen’s University. She has taught a variety of subjects including Spanish, ESL, First Nations Studies and Social Justice and is currently completing a Master’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies at Royal Roads University. Amber has personal experience studying abroad in Argentina, and enjoys working with international students as they experience a new culture and improve their language skills.
Ms. Nancy Blundell
Nancy has been working with international students for over twenty years. She began her career with the University of Victoria English Language Center, then in 2008 joined the Sooke International Student Program. Although born in Vancouver, she has spent the majority of her life on Vancouver Island. She holds a B.A. in International Studies and a M.A. in Pacific and Asian Studies. Nancy has lived, worked and studied in two countries (Australia and Taiwan) and loves learning about and working with people from other cultures.
Ms. Heather Hines
Heather was born in Halifax and has lived in many provinces throughout her life. After settling in Victoria, Heather received her diploma in Office Administration at Camosun College. After years of experience in various municipal and private positions, Heather’s path led her to Sooke School District where she has been working for the past fifteen years, thirteen which have been with the Sooke International Program. Heather loves to travel, and on the weekend, you can find her gardening, golfing or walking the local trails.
Ms. Christine Bollenbach
Christine has been supporting international students and local Homestay families for the Sooke International Program since 2015 when Royal Bay Secondary School and the new Belmont Secondary School first opened to students. She has lived in 2 countries and is originally from the Canadian Prairies where she earned a H.B.A. in Sociology followed by a Diploma in Public Relations from the University of Winnipeg. Christine enjoyed a gap year living with host families and experiencing new cultures from around the world. In the past, Christine and her own family have hosted international students in their home. These experiences continue to influence her as she supports students and Homestay families to create the best possible experience.
Ms. Kristine McCormick
Kristine McCormick joined the Sooke School District in 2021 in the position of Homestay and Activity Coordinator. Kristine grew up in a small town, on Lake Huron, in Ontario. Kristine went on exchange to France in Grade 10 and it was a highlight of her teenage years. She graduated from Brock University, shortly after moved to Victoria, and worked for 6 years as a Homestay Coordinator at the University of Victoria. She is an avid runner, happy cyclist and aspiring surfer, and has found her niche supporting our students and our homestay families.
Ms. Nastazja Pedersen
Accounts and Records Clerk
Nastazja has been with the Sooke International Program since 2015 as clerical staff, providing support to the district’s newcomer families as well as completing the day to day accounting needs of the department. Originally from Poland, Nastazja’s family trips to Europe had shaped her interest in fostering multiculturalism and led her to graduate from York University with a H.B.A. in Anthropology and a M.A. in Art History. In her spare time, Nastazja is an aspiring writer and photographer who enjoys exploring the BC coast.
Ms. Julissa Bernal
Health and Wellness Co-ordinator
Julissa was born in Mexico. She first came to Victoria in 2005 as an International Student in the company of her husband and her three children. Then, she became a permanent resident in 2012. Her background as a teacher and her immigration experiences allowed her to start her professional career in Canada as a Settlement Worker in Schools. For four years, she worked for a non-profit organization supporting refugee and newcomer families to adjust and integrate into Canadian society. She holds a teaching degree from Mexico, and she is currently completing her degree in Social Work at the University of Victoria. She has a passion for multiculturalism, wellness, and mental health. In her spare time, she loves to run, do yoga, and take long walks in the company of her dog Vanilla.