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Our Team


Marilyn Field

Executive Director

Marilyn has more than two decades of fund development experience within the areas of post-secondary education, arts and culture and social services. Previous employment included YWCA of Calgary, Glenbow Museum and Wilfrid Laurier University. Prior to contributing to the non-profit sector, Marilyn worked in the world of corporate sales and administration. Volunteerism has always played an important role in Marilyn’s life and has included involvement with Calgary Folk Music Festival Society and a variety of other cultural and community organizations as well as participating on various public school councils including terms as co-chair and education coordinator.

Helen Nowlan-Walls

Director, Donor & Community Engagement

Helen has been working in Alberta’s not for profit sector since her arrival in the province in 2003. Originally from the UK, she spent several years in Fredericton before heading west where she lived and worked in both YYC and YEG before finally settling in Calgary.  Her career has seen her working to further the mandate of organizations focused on the arts, healthcare, and education, while her volunteer work has focused heavily on animal welfare.  Public education has always been a passion of Helen’s, even before her own family came along, but with 2 young children embarking on their own educational journeys in CBE schools there is  a deeply personal connection to her work at EducationMatters.  Helen was hit by a double decker bus while cycling, struck by lightning twice while cycling, and broke both kneecaps while cycling.  Helen no longer owns a bicycle or engages in any 2-wheeled activities.

Craig Reardon

Manager, Finance and Administration

Craig is a lifelong Calgarian who is married to Ann and is the father of 5 adult children. After completing all of his schooling in Calgary; including at the University of Calgary, he received his Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation in 1986. Following a long career at Encana Corporation where he retired as Vice-President of Administration, Craig assumed the role of Director of Finance and Operations at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Calgary (now Trellis) for several years. In that role he was responsible for all aspects of Finance, Audit, Information Technology, Real Estate and Building Operations. Based on his passion for helping young people achieve the educational and social skills that they need to thrive and be the best that they can be Craig has volunteered his time as Treasurer and President of the Rideau Park School Parents Association, Treasurer and President of Pacekids Rehabilitation Society for Children with Learning Disabilities, as a Coach and Board Member of the Wildcats Football Association of Calgary for the past 25 years.

Kathryn Schilman

Grants and Student Awards Officer

Kathryn comes from a large family of 6 children and several nieces and nephews.  She graduated from the University of Lethbridge in 2004 with a undergraduate degree in Psychology, where she also volunteered with the Campus Women’s Centre.  Since graduation, she has worked in retail management, interior design and most recently, spent the last 7 years working in the non-profit sector.  Education and helping others have always been passions of Kathryn’s and she is excited to apply these passions to her work with EducationMatters. Kathryn is also a graduate of Central Memorial High School.

Evelyn Martinez

Administrative and Special Events Officer

Evelyn was involved in the field of medicine for 20 years in the Philippines before she decided to immigrate to Canada in 2010 and start a new life and career with her family. As a new immigrant, she took advantage of government programs like the Office Administration Program (OAP), offered by the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association (CIWA). She did her practicum as an administrative assistant with the Heart & Stroke Foundation (HSF) and eventually became a full-time employee in their Fund Development and Community Engagement department. She loves learning new skills and working with databases; if you need to translate data, she’s your gal! Since working with HSF, Evelyn discovered her passion in working with non-profit organizations and helping other people achieve their full potential. You could say that, because of her transition from medicine to non-profit, Evelyn likes to re-invent herself and take on new challenges.

Alicia Hope-Ross

Donor Relations & Communications Officer

Alicia is a rare born and raised Calgarian and attended Calgary Board of Education schools from kindergarten to grade 12. Alicia graduated from Mount Royal University’s Broadcasting program in 2007 and jumped right into the world of news reporting and anchoring. Developing a passion for storytelling and a deeper love for community led Alicia to the non-profit industry, where she has worked for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, the MS Society, STARS Air Ambulance, and as a communications and fundraising consultant for various other Calgary charities. Alicia is also a volunteer with the Calgary Stampede Promotion Committee.

Allie Acker

Donor Engagement Specialist

Allie is a Calgary Transplant, moving from Chilliwack British Columbia in 2017. Once in Calgary, Allie jumped right into community volunteering with several organizations and working as a Professional Fundraiser. Since graduating from the University of the Fraser Valley she has worked with non-profits planning events and stewarding donor relations both in B.C. and Alberta. While working in different sectors of the non-profit community she has developed an enthusiastic spirit to support our youth. Ensuring the future generation of Calgary is well equipped to handle the leadership of our community is a personal mission of Allie’s. When Allie isn’t volunteering with Girl Guides of Canada, Ronald McDonald House, or Commons Church, you can find her looking for adventure. Always the animal lover, and outdoor enthusiast you can find her wandering a dog park or local trails making friends along the way. You might even find her trying to encourage her two reluctant cats, Oliver and Todd, to join her on a trail walk.

Board of Governors

Hanif Ladha

Board Chair, EducationMatters
Managing Director, CLS Suites

Hanif Ladha is the Managing Director at CLS Suites, which provides residential short/long term corporate housing for executives in Calgary and Edmonton. Hanif has an MBA from the Ivey School of Business from Western University in London, Ontario. He has years of management experience in the oil and gas industry, and held various senior leadership positions specializing in environmental management, stakeholder relations and regulatory compliance. As a passionate community volunteer and an advocate for education, arts, and youth, he currently serves on the Board of Directors of Alberta Theater Projects and as a board Member on FOCUS Humanitarian Canada.  Hanif previously served in various volunteer positions as the Member for Settlement Portfolio on the Ismaili Council for Canada, Chairman on the Ismaili Aga Khan Youth & Sports Board and the Aga Khan Education Board, and Aga Khan Foundation Canada. As a strong proponent of quality education for all students, he believes in supporting the under-privileged and those in need.

Dr. Richard Sigurdson

Vice-Chair, EducationMatters
Past Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Calgary

Dr. Richard Sigurdson has spent almost three decades in academic and administrative roles in universities across the country. Immediately prior to his move to Calgary, Sigurdson served as Dean, Faculty of Arts and Acting Provost, University College at the University of Manitoba where he also held the Duff Roblin Professorship of Government. A political scientist by training, Dr. Sigurdson has published on a variety of topics, from the history of political theory to the Charter of Rights in Canada. As an administrator, his focus has been on internationalization, indigenous teaching and learning, and improving the student experience. The son of two public school educators and father of five children (including one currently enrolled in a CBE school), Dr. Sigurdson has a long-standing commitment to public education and promoting its value to the community.

Amanda Field

Secretary, EducationMatters
Legal Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Suncor

Amanda Field is the in-house Legal Counsel and Corporate Secretary at Suncor. She was admitted to the Ontario Bar in 2006 and the Alberta Bar in 2007, and prior to joining Equinor (formerly Statoil), worked in Toronto, New York City and Calgary in private practice with large national law firms, with a practice focused on corporate finance, securities, and mergers and acquisitions. She is also an engaged member of several professional associations, including as part of the Executive of the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators, Canada Chapter, winning a member of the year award in 2016. Amanda is a native Calgarian, and a graduate of the CBE system, having attended the French immersion programs at Chinook Park Elementary School, Bishop Pinkham Junior High School and Western Canada High School.  She is, and has been, actively involved in the Calgary community in numerous volunteer capacities in a variety of organizations, including Alberta Ballet, National Music Centre and Calgary Opera, and has been a member of the EducationMatters Student Award Selection Committee since 2012.

Sean Pollock

Treasurer, EducationMatters
Managing Director – Project Advisory & Finance, RBC Capital Markets

Sean Pollock is a Chartered Financial Analyst. He currently works for RBC Capital Markets as a the Managing Director of Project Advisory and Finance.

Tarjinder Bhullar

Governor, EducationMatters
Manager, Office of Respect and Inclusion, Calgary Police Service

Patricia Bolger

Governor, EducationMatters
Calgary Board of Education Trustee

Patricia is proudly serving her first term on the Board of Trustees serving Wards 6 & 7. Patricia brings a broad perspective to the role of Trustee. She is a former teacher, having taught in Edmonton and Calgary-area public schools. She is also an instructor at the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education. Patricia holds a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood Education) degree and a Masters of Education (Science) degree, both from the University of Alberta. Patricia is also an active community volunteer and CBE parent.

Patricia believes that a strong, inclusive public education system benefits everyone and that all children deserve access to excellent educational programming. Cities and communities are safer, more productive, and resilient when all students receive high-quality education and are wholly supported. Patricia looks forward to working collaboratively with her fellow trustees, parents, citizens of Calgary, and all stakeholders to continue to advance our world-class education system, the Calgary Board of Education.

Originally from Edmonton, Patricia and her husband Paul have lived in Calgary for almost 25 years and raised their three children (and cats) here. She is an avid sports mom, reader, and gardener. In her downtime, Patricia enjoys travelling and being outdoors in our beautiful city or unwinding at the lake.

Matt Boudreau

Governor, EducationMatters
Senior Consultant, IG Wealth Management

Gerry Burger-Martindale

Governor, EducationMatters
Community Member

Gerry Burger-Martindale has been a member of EducationMatters Student Awards Selection Committee and Grants Committee since 2009. Gerry actively participates in various EducationMatter functions and events held by schools who have been provided with grants and student awards. She was previously involved in school activities during her daughter’s 13 years within the Calgary Board of Education (CBE). Her positions range from President and Key Communicator within school councils, to leading a city-wide parent advocacy group (that work closely with CBE and Alberta Education), to organizing several Municipal Trustee election forums. She has over 30 years’ experience at the Calgary Public Library and is currently the Central Library’s Senior Transition Lead. In 2001, her passion in education and literacy led her to volunteer within a high school library in South Africa, and in 2007 she and her family worked on an elementary school library project in Tanzania. This is Gerry’s 10th year volunteering with EducationMatters, and she continues to play an active role in advocating the vision and mission of this organization.

Martin Cej

Governor, EducationMatters
Partner, Longview Communications and Public Affairs

Martin Cej is a partner at Longview Communications and Public Affairs. He grew up in Calgary and attended Bishop Grandin High School before heading east to St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. Martin is the former Vice-President of Public Affairs and Communications at Canadian Pacific Railway. Prior to that, he spent more than 20 years as a financial journalist, including serving as an Anchor and Managing Editor at BNN – The Business News Network, an editor at The Globe and Mail and CBS MarketWatch, and as a reporter and editor at Bloomberg News. His postings included London, Stockholm, Madrid, San Francisco and Toronto. Now residing in Calgary with their two children, he and his wife, former National Ballet of Canada Principal Dancer Jennifer Fournier, are committed to supporting and growing the performing arts in the city, and integrating them more fully into the education system. Martin is also passionate about incorporating exercise, movement and play in support of active learning.

Dana Downey

Governor, EducationMatters
Calgary Board of Education Trustee

Dana Downey was elected in 2021 in Wards 1 and 2 in northwest Calgary.
She believes the importance of public education cannot be overstated and that it truly serves the common good. Dana is committed to the continuous improvement of our public education system by listening, learning, collaboratively solving problems and taking action. At the Calgary Board of Education, students come first, and Dana has demonstrated this value in her work as a teacher. She has over 10 years teaching experience and seven years with the CBE. Dana is passionate about supporting all students in reaching their personal and academic potential.
In her role as a resource teacher, Dana worked directly with students, families, colleagues, administrators, specialists and community agencies to advocate for student success. Dana was part of a team that funded, planned and built a community garden and outdoor classroom at John G. Diefenbaker High School, where she was a teacher mentor of the student environmental club. Dana has also worked for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, developing and delivering fine arts programming in Indigenous communities across Alberta. Dana has a Bachelor of Fine Arts (visual art) and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Lethbridge. She also earned TESOL certification from Mount Royal University and has taught English language learners at the high school level. Dana continues to study teaching and learning and enjoys continuous professional development.

Marla Martin-Esposito

Governor, EducationMatters
Chief Communications Officer, CBE

Marla Martin-Esposito is the Chief Communications Officer for the Calgary Board of Education. In this role, Marla leads all aspects of communication and engagement services.  This includes media relations, community engagement, internal communications, government relations, management of websites and other communication tools. Her past experience also includes more than 25 years in various roles including marketing, advertising, community investment and investor relations in large corporations and consulting firms. Over the past 10 years, Marla has been active volunteer in minor soccer. She has recently accepted a director position on the Calgary Minor Soccer Association Board.

David McKinnon

Governor, EducationMatters
Associate, Bennett Jones LLP

David McKinnon is an associate at Bennett Jones LLP, where he conducts a broad litigation practice. Born and raised in Calgary, David passed through the halls of Chinook Park Elementary, Bishop Pinkham Junior High and Western Canada High schools before going east to attend the University of King’s College and Dalhousie University in Halifax, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Combined Honours) in Contemporary Studies and Political Science. He returned to Calgary to attend law school. David has travelled to various countries including Japan, France, Spain, Thailand and Turkey, bringing back to Calgary a wealth of cultural knowledge from his experiences. A father and an avid believer in building and fostering relationships, David supports community efforts that enhance public education for Calgary students.

Mike Shaikh

Governor, EducationMatters
Community Member

Mike Shaikh is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants. He is a Director of various private, public and not-for-profit organizations including a Board Member for the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation as well as a past Chair of Calgary Police Commission. As an entrepreneur and businessman, Mike is aligned with the goals of EducationMatters in ensuring students succeed in school and are ready for adult life.

Nikhil Sonpal

Governor, EducationMatters
Founder & CEO, Mobility Quotient

Melanie Sortland

Governor, EducationMatters
Owner & Founder, XO Ice Cream & Waffles

Mélanie Sortland is the Manager of Community Initiatives & Events at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation and has over 15 years of experience in marketing, communications, project management, community engagement and fund development. She previously worked at Canadian Pacific as the Director of Community Investment, Sponsorships & Events. Since 2018, Mélanie is also the founder and owner of XO Ice Cream & Waffles. Born and raised in France, and a mom of two children, she is a long-time believer that education is the fundamental precondition for strong societies and understands the value of having the best public education system possible in Calgary.

Honourary Ambassadors

Joanne Cuthbertson

Community Member

Joanne Cuthbertson was the first elected Board Chair of EducationMatters, the founder of SPEAK (Support Public Education – Act for Kids) in 1997 and the recipient of the Calgary Award in Education that same year. Joanne is a passionate and unrelenting advocate for young people, public education and issues of quality of life in the community. She has been involved in organizations with similar values as a volunteer, board member, mentor and champion. Presently, Joanne serves on the Alberta Bone & Joint Health Institute Board of Directors and as a Director of the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards Foundation, and continues on Glenbow Museum’s Development Committee. She is a Co-Chair of the Calgary Consortium for Peace Studies and a founding member of the Dean’s Circle in the Faculty of Environmental Design and of the advisory committee for the O’Brien Centre for the Bachelor of Health Sciences Program. Joanne continues her association with the University of Calgary as Chancellor Emeritus through the Faculty of Education and is a proud recipient of the 2008 CBE Distinguished Alumni Award.

David Pickersgill

Community Member

David Pickersgill served five years as a CBE Trustee, stepping down in 2004. A long time community volunteer, he has served as Vice-Chair of EducationMatters, Co-Chair of Calgary Rocky View Child and Family Services Authority, Co-Chair of Calgary Rocky View Steering Committee for redesign of Children’s Services, President of Big Brothers and Big Sisters Society of Calgary, Director of Mountain Plains Community Services Society, Director of Street Teams Society and Advisor of Rocky Mountain Y.M.C.A. Youth Leadership program. The former chairman of a Calgary-based precast concrete structures manufacturer, he is currently Chair of the Board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada and Vice-President of Safe Haven Foundation of Canada.


Audit & Finance

  • Sean Pollock (Chair)
  • Mike Shaikh
  • Hanif Ladha (Ex-Officio)

Fund Development & Communications

  • Martin Cej (Chair)
  • Marla Martin-Esposito
  • Melanie Sortland
  • Hanif Ladha (Ex-Officio)

Governance & Leadership

  • Amanda Field (Chair)
  • David McKinnon
  • Mike Shaikh
  • Richard Sigurdson
  • Hanif Ladha (Ex-Officio)


  • Melanie Sortland (Chair)
  • Gerry Burger-Martindale
  • Shiv Ganesh
  • Jason Ribeiro
  • Dr. Richard Sigurdson
  • Patricia Bolger
  • Hanif Ladha (Ex-Officio)

Student Award Selection

  • Gerry Burger-Martindale (Chair)
  • Joy Bowen-Eyre
  • Donna Crawford
  • Louise Fernandes
  • Shannon Giroux-Wong
  • Leslie Newton
  • Glen Ong
  • Linh Tran
  • Annie Wong
  • Dana Downey