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Our Team
Who We Are

Get to know the faces of the Renaissance Academy. We are all passionate about making a difference in the lives of the youth who step through our doors by providing a well-rounded arts education. 


  • Linda Shirley
    CEO, Head of School

    Linda Shirley
    CEO, Head of School

    Linda was fortunate to grow up studying violin, piano, music theory, drama, as well as ballet and other styles of dance. Out of high school, she became a skilled business administrator for the Vancouver School Board and then the Vancouver Principals’ Association. After marrying and starting to raise a young family, she returned to her artistic roots and built a home music studio in Steveston, out of which she taught music. 32 years later, she has grown her business into a full-fledged performing arts school and developed Vancouver’s first fine arts preschool. Linda has been a board member of the Community Arts Council of Richmond for over 20 years and and was Chair of the City of Richmond’s Childcare Development Advisory Committee for 12 years. Today, she publishes and distributes the Kelly Kirby music program throughout Canada and the US and has worked to develop additional materials to further enhance the program.


    • 3-time recipient of the Ethel Tibbits Woman of the Year Award
    • Richmond Chamber of Commerce Business Entrepreneur Award (2003)
    • City of Richmond’s Arts Education Award (2014)
    • Richmond Chamber of Commerce Business Leadership Award (2019)
  • Lily Cheung
    Director of Operations

    Lily Cheung
    Director of Operations

    Lily oversees the daily operations and ensures our business exemplifies our core values through personal interactions, dedications and commitment to every individual who walks through our school’s doors. A love of music and arts started at a very young age for her. At the age of five, she began piano lessons and later on explored many different avenues of art; painting, sculpturing and architecture design. Lily graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts, Majoring in Economics. After graduation, she moved to the world’s financial hub, Hong Kong, but quickly found that life in finance was not giving her sentimental fulfilment in her career. In her 5 years abroad, she started tutoring local students in private and public schools from nursery level to grade 12 and found she needed to move on with a career that blended her desire for teaching young children and her love for music and art. In 2009, she moved back to Vancouver and started her life-long career at The Arts Connection. This role has provided her with a career that matched her background studies in Economics and passion for the arts for young children and youth. As a devoted mother of two boys who have gone through basically every single program here, she has seen first hand the true benefits of creating resilient and determined individuals through a well-rounded fine arts academic program. Lily is honoured to work with a wonderful team of creative thinkers who consistently show the same perseverance and never-ending passion for what they do: to nurture, foster and develop young minds.

  • Adena Ovens
    Accounting Director

    Adena Ovens
    Accounting Director

    Adena’s love for the arts is evident in her piano compositions, her drawings and her paintings. Yes, she is Linda’s daughter and yes she began working in the family business when she was 16 years old. There she gained hands-on experience at our Paddington Station Fine Arts Preschool, taught the Kelly Kirby Piano Method and worked part-time in the accounts department. Her passion for early learning led her to a career in Early Childhood Education where she graduated at the top of her class. After taking over management of our daycare location at No 2 Road, Adena and her family moved to the beautiful town of Vernon where she now works remotely as our accounting director, since her second passion is a love of numbers. She enjoys singing for and with her 4-year-old daughter while opening up the world of early learning and the arts to the next generation of our family.

  • Laisa Schutz
    Marketing Manager

    Laisa Schutz
    Marketing Manager

    Our marketing manager extraordinaire, Laisa is a constant learner and an avid collector of degrees, diplomas and lists (she loves lists). In a past life, she was a lawyer. Now, she manages our marketing department, which involves developing our strategy, creating our new brand, repositioning our company and building our online presence. She’s a fast-paced, quick on her feet kind of person, always on the go, thinking about the next ten moves deeply analytical but also creative. Laisa started dancing a couple years after she started walking, and hasn’t really stopped moving since. But her true love was singing. And that hasn’t stopped. If she’s not singing or reading then she’s probably enjoying summer at the beach or at a lake, or it’s winter and she’s skiing (the latest addition to her free-time activities list—she does love lists).

  • Leticia Benevides
    Marketing Coordinator and Graphic Designer

    Leticia Benevides
    Marketing Coordinator and Graphic Designer

    Leticia grew up in a creative environment, with a big family that loves to create their own stuff. An easy-going person who loves nature and a good cup of coffee (as the good Brazilian that she is), she has worked in design and marketing for the past 10 years. She’s always looking for the latest programs and technologies and loves to be updated on everything that’s happening in this field. Leticia works closely with the marketing team to maintain our online presence. She designs assets to support the new brand and content to use and supports all the departments with graphic designs and marketing strategies to help them to grow. Leticia likes to enjoy a beautiful day on the beach, painting to relax, taking photos and discovering new places to explore. 

  • Mehernaz Parakh
    HD Administrator and Clerical Supervisor

    Mehernaz Parakh
    HD Administrator and Clerical Supervisor

    Mehernaz has been with us for over six years now and she enjoys working with an awesome group of strong, empowering women. She leads the administrative team and helps with human resources since the school has grown so much since she first started working here. She and the admin team are the glue that binds the different programs together and they bring structure and organization so that registrations and the implementation of programs run seamlessly. Mehernaz is happiest outdoors and you would find her hiking our beautiful rainforest or Coast mountain trails on any given weekend. Her travels have taken her to some fun places including three active volcanoes (Costa Rica and Hawaii), hiking upstream a colourful canyon (Utah) and the Land of Fire and Ice (magical Iceland). 

  • Helen Massey
    Accounts Assistant

    Helen Massey
    Accounts Assistant

    Originally from England, Helen has been living in the Lower Mainland for the past 12 years with her husband and two boys. She’s been with us for almost 4 years, starting out as the evening receptionist. As well as currently working in the accounting department, she is also responsible for payroll and updating Amilia with all our exciting programs. When she’s not at work, you will find Helen enjoying the many parks our area has to offer or spending time with her family baking and playing board games. 

  • Kaylie Cheung
    Renaissance Kids Admissions Administrator

    Kaylie Cheung
    Renaissance Kids Admissions Administrator

    Meet Kaylie, our amazing Admissions Administrator at Renaissance Kids. She looks forward to seeing every amazing smile every morning and watching the children discover the world around them with hands-on exploration, story-telling and arts & crafts. Kaylie is an absolute pillar to our school. She’s our go-to for everything concerning Renaissance Kids. She knows every family by heart and is help to assist each one to make sure their individual needs are always met with precision and care!

    She earned my diploma in Hospitality Management and worked as an administrative assistant in the corporate environment for the last 10 years. Her brother had two kids and she became instantly attached them and felt my career taken a turn towards childhood education. She enjoys spending time with them and enriching their lives in the creative realm. Her ultimate goal is to continue being a positive role model for them.

    “Working with children has become a passion and I enjoy helping to create a caring and loving environment in which children can flourish”

  • Teresa Hao
    Renaissance Kids Program Admin and Assistant

    Teresa Hao
    Renaissance Kids Program Admin and Assistant

    Teresa moved to Canada with her family in 2005. She finished high school in Richmond and completed her undergraduate and graduate degree at UBC. Before joining Renaissance Kids, she dedicated herself to non-profit work with hopes to make our community a better place by creating opportunities to foster a strong sense of belonging and cohesiveness. It was also through non-profit work that she became acquainted to the school environment and subsequently decided to work in the field of education.

    At Renaissance Kids, her role is to bring together the school, families, and teachers, and coordinate internally to deliver top-notch services to our families. With this mission in mind, she looks forward to hearing from and working with all of you!

    Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her family and playing with her bunny, and visiting beautiful places across the globe.

  • Rita Chiu
    Renaissance Kids Junior Kindergarten Manager

    Rita Chiu
    Renaissance Kids Junior Kindergarten Manager

    Combining her passion for dance, visual arts and Early Childhood Education (ECE), Rita develops and delivers the high-quality curriculum at Renaissance Kids. She ensures we abide by all licensing requirements and company policies, which require a constant evaluation and reflection of the needs of the children in our care, evolving our programs to keep up with the ever-changing field of ECE. Rita also communicates with our families, working in close partnership with them to foster their child’s growth and learning. A mother of three boys under 6, she grew up and lived in Steveston all her life and it is one of her greatest blessings to be able to watch her children grow up in this wonderful, adventurous, caring and genuine community. 

  • Karen Proulx
    Renaissance Kids Illuminators and Virtuosos Manager

    Karen Proulx
    Renaissance Kids Illuminators and Virtuosos Manager

    As the Renaissance Illuminators and Virtuosos Program Manager, Karen oversees three classes of students ages three to four. Karen ensures that teachers are supported in delivering an enhanced curriculum for their students in a safe and stimulating environment. Working at Renaissance Kids since the summer of 2012, Karen has really valued the opportunities she has been given in many different departments in the school.

    Karen loves spending time with her family and making art with her 2 year old son. As an avid music lover, Karen has a vinyl record collection that some might call eccentric! Karen’s favourite places that she has travelled are Cuba and Paris, and she hopes to see many more parts of the world in the years to come.

  • Kate Dinis
    Spark, Wondercamps and Enrichment Programs Manager

    Kate Dinis
    Spark, Wondercamps and Enrichment Programs Manager
    Kate is our Spark, Wondercamps and Enrichment Programs Manager. She has worked at the Arts Connection for almost 10 years and she’s grown so much (with us) over the years. Her educational background is in psychology and counselling, which means she’ll be happy to talk to anyone about the importance of fostering good mental health in childhood.
    In her free time she enjoys being part of both a book club and a supper club as the great bookworm that she is (talk to her about any book, she’s probably read it already).

    “I look forward to the many laughs and memories she will make with our students this year. Be Kind, For Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle – Plato

  • Peace Adebayo
    Spark Coordinator

    Peace Adebayo
    Spark Coordinator

    Peace is one of the Renaissance Academy of Learning Before and After School Program Coordinator. Before she joined Renaissance Academy at the Arts Connection, she had worked as an Academic Counsellor and client support officer at Distance Learning Centre, University of Ibadan, she was a Freelance Proofreader of Edited Course Materials at Distance Learning Centre, University of Ibadan. Peace has also worked as Administrative/Support Officer with Association of west African Book Editors. During her Nigerian Youth Service Corp, she served at Irewole Local Government Ikire, Osun State, Nigeria as Social Development officer.

    Peace thrives on building relationships with the students and families in the Spark program. She has served not only as a role model but has also mentored them to become more helpful, responsible, creative and resourceful.

    Peace had her training in Nigeria at the University of Ibadan where she got her B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in psychology and counselling respectively. In Canada, she had also completed a program of early childhood education assistant at Douglas College British Columbia in 2012, and she is in the process of completing her early childhood Basic Certificate at Burnaby Community & Continuing Education.

About our team

  • “Kate is always so helpful and I am very thankful for the opportunity to have a spot in this amazing program. It is such a reputable school with amazing caring and experienced teachers. Thanks, Spark team!”

    Carolina Dubowits, Spark Parent

  • “I have only spoken to Rita three times and was impressed by her knowledge and leadership. She had helped me and my family to improve my son Sky's overall performance, provided me with countless suggestions about independent school education and drafted reference letters for Sky's application. It saved my family time and effort, and most importantly, Rita's guidance had made it easy for me to teach Sky at home so he performs well in school and at home. Thanks for everything, I could not have asked for a better place to have my son enrolled for his early childhood development.”

    Vincent Cui, Renaissance Kids Parent

  • “We are really happy with the spark program and feel so fortunate that Cayden is part of the spark family. The teachers are friendly and caring, Kate is always there to help and have our questions answered. “

    Gao Hui, Spark Parent