Black Gold School Division

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Board Member Profiles

Devonna Klaassen

Devonna Klaassen

Chair

Term: 1st

Ward: Devon

Educational Experience: 

I currently hold a Psychology degree from the University of Alberta, and am an enthusiastic life-long learner.  One of my guilty pleasures is reading research related to educational theory and practice.

Most recently, I completed the Brain Story Certification offered by the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative – a course that compiles comprehensive brain science research to provide a deeper understanding of brain development and how experiences shape brains, and the resulting consequences for life long health.     The concept feeds well into education and into policy development, speaking to as a community, how we can most effectively support children and families for optimal development.

I have attended extensive Professional Development on Adult Education Training, Leadership Management, Active Communication, Employee Engagement, and Human Resource Management.  I also completed the Leadership Edmonton program – a full year course focused on studying common patterns of humans in failure and success in order to thoroughly understand ourselves, and in relation how we can innovatively work together to successfully problem solve and apply leadership from a big picture perspective. 

Family/Residential Information:

My husband, two young children (Black Gold students) and I live in Devon near the beautiful river valley.  We are family passionate about learning and reading, and love to spend time outdoors.

What do you bring to the Board of Education table?

I strongly value the importance of education – both for our children and the community.  I am passionate about fostering student well-being (both physical and mental health/wellness), nurturing a culture of inclusion and diversity, and cultivating resiliency in our children.

I am honoured to advocate on behalf of my community at the district level, and value the relationships and input from students, staff, and community members.

I am self-motivated, hard-working, and eager to use my experience, energy, and enthusiasm to serve and strengthen our education system and our community – for today, and for the future. 

Having served on a number of boards, and spent many years working in senior management at a Crisis Centre, I honed many skills that support my work on the School Board, including budget management policy writing, critical thinking, problem solving, human resource management, active communication, strategic planning, grant writing, and meeting management.   

What do you value most about Black Gold?

I truly value the culture of Black Gold – a family that is united in a goal of Inspiring Success for students and staff alike.

What are you most excited about this year?

Each year is an opportunity to build and grow on a solid foundation and take Black Gold to the next level.  I am honoured to be working with a vibrant senior administration and board, and excited to continue engaging with local school councils and families in order to best meet the needs of our Black Gold students, staff, and families.

Extracurricular Interests:

Activities I enjoy to support my own health and well-being are yoga, cooking, reading, and digital scrapbooking.

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Robyn Steed

Robyn Steed

Vice Chair

Term: 1st

Ward: Beaumont

Educational Experience: 

Mount Royal College/University of Calgary
BCIT Accounting Diploma program

Family/Residential Information:

My family of seven resides in Beaumont. My husband and I have five children ages 13-21. Three are currently enrolled in BGSD and two attend university. Our two dogs and two birds also keep our house lively and loud. 

What do you bring to the Board of Education table?

Engaged listener; open-minded; community advocate; collaborative, respectful team player.

My experience in public speaking, relationship building drives me to work on community engagement, hearing what our stakeholders want and need and developing mutual understanding of what the board does, so we are all continue working towards student success.

What do you value most about Black Gold?

I value that our division is forward thinking and student driven, collaborative and respectful. Our staff are innovative and want nothing more than the success in our students.

What are you most excited about this year?

I love meeting new staff each year, learning more about our unique programming, listening to the creative, insightful ideas from staff and students. Our arts programs district wide amaze me each year and I look forward to being entertained by the variety of drama, band and arts events our schools put on! This year will be a great year to see our division flourish even more with our new Superintendent!

Extracurricular Interests:

I am active in my children’s extracurricular activities and work full time in addition to my role as trustee. I enjoy biking, hiking, cooking and travelling.

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Esther Eckert

Esther Eckert


Term: 1st

Ward: County East

Educational Experience: Bachelor of Education + graduate level courses in Education.

Family/Residential Information:

New Sarepta has been my home since 1983.  We live in my husband Roy’s childhood home. Our family includes two adult sons and four grandchildren.  I’m not joking when I say there are four generations of stuff piled around our house and farm. In addition to enjoying my German Shepherd dogs, I love cuddling with my four pound German Biewer Yorkie, Halley. 

What do you bring to the Board of Education table?

My experience of over 22 years in public education offers a unique perspective.  Understanding the classroom, students, staff and challenges faced from first hand experience is a valuable asset. As a former and current business owner, I recognize the importance of relationships, fiscal responsibility and the benefits of working efficiently.  

What do you value most about Black Gold?

Black Gold School Division is well respected throughout the province. We are privileged to have outstanding, highly qualified individuals leading this district at all levels.  Our staff, whether in central office or in the schools, demonstrate their commitment to our students and education day in and day out. It is a district to be proud of.

What are you most excited about this year?

It’s a new chapter in our organization.  I’m looking forward to visioning, strategic planning and team building with our new superintendent.   Our division is growing, which brings opportunities, as well as challenges. We face continued uncertainty in education as a whole, but the team leading the division is creative and resourceful.  We are poised to become an even better district as we work together.  

Extracurricular Interests:

Music is important to me.  I sang with Sweet Adelines until recently. 

My love for dogs fills my spare time.  I breed German Shepherds, am a professional dog trainer and operate a boarding kennel for medium/large breed dogs called DogLandia.

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Rebecca Eilander

Rebecca Eilander


Term: 3rd

Ward: County Central

What do you value most about Black Gold?

I value the fact that we are a team…a family, if you will, and we care about each other and support and help one another.

What do you bring to the Board of Education table?

I’m a very kind, compassionate, empathetic person that is passionate about kids and community. I always speak the truth and from the heart and care very deeply for those around me.

Family/Residential Information:

I live just outside of Calmar. I have two sons that have been through the Black Gold School Division. 

What are you most excited about this year?

My oldest son has Graduated  (2017) and my youngest will follow suit/tuxedo this school year (2020). 

Extracurricular Interests:

I love the outdoors, camping, canoeing, campfires, spending time with family and volunteering in the community. 

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Barb Martinson

Barb Martinson


Term: 7th

Ward: Leduc

Family/Residential Information:

Leduc is my “hometown” and I attended schools here. My children and now my grandchildren attend some of the same schools.

What do you bring to the Board of Education table?

I am a good listener and always open to new ideas.I am a positive kind of person always trying to make the best of any situation. Being patient and having a sense of humour is also a personal quality I bring to the board table.

What do you value most about Black Gold?

The wonderful employees (all) who do their best to create a welcoming,safe and caring school environment for students so they can be the best they can be.

What are you most excited about this year?

A new school is always exciting-new faces,new opportunities,modernizations of school facilities, and hopefully an announcement for a much needed High School in Leduc ,meeting with education partners,and the list goes on. I am privileged and passionate to be part of a team that values inspiring success in all students.

Extracurricular Interests:

I enjoy gardening, spending time with family, going to Pigeon Lake and playing wallyball .

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Shawna Ofstie

Shawna Ofstie


Term: 1st

Ward: County West

Educational Experience: 

I am a lifelong learner and constantly research and become involved in things that are important to me. The phrase that I often use is “no school or school community is the same” and “we all have different needs and ways to teach”. This goes for students too, “no child or person is the same” and “we all learn uniquely”. Although I did not attend College or University, I immerse myself in the project or job I am involved in and learn through experience and research. I am hands on and been successful in all of my jobs and volunteer efforts by teaching myself, learning my way with the help of my bosses and colleagues showing me the way, when I need it. 

Family/Residential Information:

Five years ago my husband and I purchased the acreage near Warburg where I grew up and has been in the family for 42 years . My husband runs our home based sign and promotional business out of our garage and we love to entertain when we can. Residing and calling Thorsby our home for the 12 years previous to this, I am passionate about both communities. We have three teenage boys who have bounced back and forth between Warburg & Thorsby Schools, still not knowing which is home to us so we choose both. Our two horses, two cows, two dogs, two cats and three kittens bring life to our acreage.

What do you bring to the Board of Education table?

I, like many others, am passionate about communities, children & schools. I love to work as a team and support our school division. Relationships and communication is key to achieving goals and supporting our schools so I work hard to build good relationships with our board, our administration, our staff and our government. We have learned as a board to “agree to disagree” on topics where our opinions differ but many times have been able to come up with a compromise as a group. As I learn more, my goal is to try to have as many government services and communities work together to support our schools effectively and efficiently in all areas. Living and going to school in the rural area of Leduc County I find myself trying to educate and support our rural schools and looking for opportunities especially where there is a decline in enrollment. Enrollment decline in turn is a decline in funding for that school. On the flip side, I don’t want to “take” from our larger urban schools who have the capabilities of offering many great opportunities to our students and we all deserve the best education we can get. Finding mental health supports for our children and their families is so important, especially in schools to get support and early intervention if possible. This is one of the reasons I volunteer in my communities to learn more and in turn bring it back to our board and our government so hopefully with the help of others, “we can make a difference”.

What do you value most about Black Gold?

I value the support and community feeling I have experienced in my 2 short years as a Trustee. We have a great group of individuals and team working hard to educate and support our children. While volunteering at the schools my children attended before my term, I saw and witnessed the support and community feeling at a local level and now I see it from a whole new prospective.  Visiting all 32 of our schools over the school term has opened my eyes to the great things happening in Black Gold.

What are you most excited about this year?

I am excited to learn more and continue to support our schools. There have been many changes since the spring in Black Gold and in Alberta with us hiring a new superintendent (Bill Romanchuk) and the election of the conservative majority government and I’m looking forward to working with them.

Extracurricular Interests:

My passion is volunteering and serving my communities: chair of Warburg FCSS Advisory board, an co-animator rural mental health project, chair Warburg/Thorsby doctor attract committee, member Thorsby Taylor Park fundraising/planning committee.

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