Meet Our Faculty & Staff


Rabbi Don Pacht, Head of School

Rabbi Pacht joined the VHA family in August of 2004, coming to us from Rochester, NY, where he served as Principal of General Studies and Adjunct Professor of Talmud for the Talmudical Institute of Upstate New York. He holds both Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Talmudic Studies as well as a Masters Degree in Education from the State University of New York, College at Brockport.

Rabbi Pacht’s familiarity with both Judaic and General Studies pedagogy makes him a unique fit for our school. Rabbi Pacht is also a Mohel, a Sofer, and is certified as a Shatnez Tester.

Ms. Alaina Smith, Principal, General Studies

This is Ms. Smith's 19th year at Vancouver Hebrew Academy, where she has taught Grade 6/7, Grade 4, Grade 1, and Kindergarten. In recent years, she became more involved in school administration as Director of Student Services. In 2010, she became Principal of General Studies, providing further opportunity to apply her experience, training and passion for education in a leadership role.

Ms. Smith holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science from UVic and a Bachelor of Education and a Masters in Education from UBC. She is currently looking at various options for beginning her Doctorate in Education. Before joining the VHA family, she worked for three years in West Vancouver, teaching Kindergarten and Learning Assistance.

In her free time, Ms. Smith enjoys spending time with family and friends, especially her 8 nieces, and going on adventures where she can take great photographs. She also enjoys scrapbooking, quilting, furniture restoration, and is a bit of a bookworm.

General Studies Staff

Miss Dana Whelan, Preschool

Dana Whelan has worked with children for over 9 years. Having first started out at summer day camps at the JCC to then working as a substitute and assistant in the various daycares and preschools in the community centre she realized that working with children was her passion. Seeing their creativity and development flourish truly makes her happy. After her time at the JCC, Dana then moved to work at Talmud Torah as the general studies teacher and worked as an assistant as she went to school in the evening at Vancouver Community College and graduated the program in 2010. Miss Dana is very enthusiastic to be teaching preschool at Vancouver Hebrew Academy.

Miss Andrea Voon, Preschool

Ms. Andrea Voon has over 15 years of experience working in preschools, daycare centres and as a nanny in Ireland and here in Vancouver. Ms. Andrea is a qualified Montessori preschool teacher and is currently enrolled in Northern Lights College to pursue her ECE and Special Needs license. Early childhood education and care is Ms. Andrea’s passion and she is very excited to be teaching here at the Vancouver Hebrew Academy.

In her spare time Ms. Andrea enjoys knitting, yarn dying, sewing and crafting. Ms. Andrea is also an avid reader and enjoys nothing more than reading a good book whilst knitting and snuggling her two cats.

Mrs. Melanie Dayan, Kindergarten, Grade 1

Mrs. Dayan is excited to teach Kindergarten and Grade 1 at VHA. Mrs. Dayan graduated with a Bachelor of Education, specializing in Elementary Education from the University of Victoria in 2010. Since then, she has gathered a wealth of experience working with young students. She has previously worked as a preschool teacher at Vancouver Talmud Torah, a summer staff at Camp Hatikvah and JCC Camp Shalom, and as a nanny.

Mrs.Dayan (nee Sanderson), was born and raised in Vancouver and attended grades 2 and 3 in VHA's current building, which was then part of the public school district. She enjoys spending time with her family, friends and husband, cooking and baking, gardening, exercising, listening to music, and knitting.

Ms. Darlene Wilson, Grade 2, Grade 3

Ms. Wilson is delighted to be a part of the VHA family as the Grade 2 and 3 teacher. After obtaining her Bachelor of Education degree from Brandon University in Manitoba, Ms. Wilson began her teaching career. She taught for 9 years in the public school system in Manitoba, then upon moving to B.C in 2009, she taught at Richmond Jewish Day School for 3 years. Throughout her teaching career she has been on numerous committees at a school, district and provincial level. Ms. Wilson had always wanted to be a teacher ever since she was a young child. Once her own children started school, she took the opportunity to go to university and pursue her desire to become a teacher. Ms. Wilson resides in Richmond and enjoys reading, walking, biking, crocheting, spending time with family and friends, and almost anything that involves being outdoors.

Mrs. Liron Silberg, Grade 4

Mrs. Silberg is excited to be teaching grade 4 this year. She started working at VHA as student services aide in 2010 and went on to obtain her Bachelor of Education degree from the University of British Columbia. Mrs. Silberg returned to VHA to teach Hebrew, as well as grade 3. She feels very fortunate to work in a warm and loving environment. She especially likes the small size of the school because it allows her to know all of the children.

Mrs. Silberg was born in Victoria and grew up in Vancouver. She also spent some time living in Israel as a child and an adult. Mrs. Silberg loves spending time with her family, going to sporting events, and being outdoors.

Mrs. Lisa Altow, Grade 5, PE for Grades 1-5 and 6/7 Girls

Mrs. Altow is thrilled to be a Grade 5 teacher this year. She has taught grade 1 at VHA, grade 2 at West Point Grey Academy, grade 5 at York House, and grades 4 and 6 in the public school system in Kirkland, Washington. She feels lucky to have been able to experience a variety of grades and schools.

Growing up in Bellevue, Washington, she knew she wanted to be a teacher since she was in Kindergarten. She practiced on her stuffed animals and then on her unsuspecting younger cousins. She received a BA in Psychology and her teaching certificate at the University of Washington in Seattle. She now resides in Richmond with her husband and four children. She enjoys reading, playing with her children, spending time with friends, watching movies, and baking.

Mrs. Claire Daly, Music, Grade 6/7 Girls, Grade 6/7 Boys

Mrs. Daly is delighted to be both teaching and learning from the entire VHA family. She grew up in a musically saturated environment with grown-ups’ loving support from an early age. She studied classical piano and guitar, and is very grateful to her mother for encouraging her to stick with it. As a busy teenager, she even went to piano lessons at 7:00am before going to school!

After graduating with a Bachelors of Art in Psychology, and a Bachelor of Primary/Junior Education she taught French in Saskatchewan and BC, in addition to early literacy programs at Oxford Learning Kerrisdale. She has led a “School of Rock” program for middle school students and also performed with an African Marimba ensemble as a support teacher in Brockton School's World Music Program in North Vancouver. Claire’s passion for all things music extends to movement, including different forms of dance, musical theatre, and also working as a choreographer for competitive synchronized swimming teams.

Ms. Genna Cohen, Grade 6/7 Girls, Grade 6/7 Boys

Ms. Cohen is excited to be teaching at VHA this year! She has taught for 8 years in Delta School District and in Los Angeles. She has taught everything from grades 3-12 and has worked predominantly as a language teacher specializing in French and French immersion classes for grades 6-12. She earned her Masters in Education from Simon Fraser University after completing her B.A and B.Ed degrees at the University of British Columbia.

Ms. Cohen is thrilled to be back home in Vancouver with her family and friends. In her spare time she enjoys going to the theatre, Zumba, baking, and knitting.


Judaic Studies Staff

Miss Tova Feigelstock, Preschool

Miss Tova Feigelstock graduated from VHA in 2004. She loves working with young children and is so excited to be back at VHA as the Judaic preschool teacher.





Ms. Mahla Shapiro, Learning Support Assistant

Mahla is thrilled to be a part of the VHA Team for three years now! From Toronto, Mahla came to Vancouver after completing a year at Midrashet Harova in the Old City. In Vancouver, Mahla obtained her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and subsequently, completed a Bachelor of Education at UBC. Mahla has worked teaching Visual Arts at the secondary level at a number of private schools in Vancouver and North Van. Mahla loves working with children, and exploring creativity through different channels. This year, Mahla is looking forward to teaching a Visual Arts curriculum she has created for grade four, as well as working one on one with students of different grades, and helping support the student body with Davening, Kriah, and Judaic Support. Mahla eagerly anticipates the educational growth and progression of her students! Mahla is also a professional artist, and completed two Visual Arts Residencies, in New York, and Ireland; and has shown and sold her own artwork in galleries and exhibitions across Canada, and internationally.

In her free time, Mahla maintains her studio practice, painting in her studio on Granville Island. She also enjoys hiking, biking, swimming and camping with her husband, Jeremy, and daughter Shiri, enjoying the outdoor lifestyle that Vancouver has to offer!

Mrs. Rivka Lichtman, Kindergarten, Grade 1

Mrs. Lichtman holds New York Professional Teacher’s Certifications in Early Childhood Education, in Students with Disabilities, and in Literacy (Birth through Grade 6). She has taught Grade 1 at Bais Yaakov Academy of Queens and has taught grade 7 Hebrew Language there since 2004. She is a much-loved teacher, who has endeared herself to the staff and students of which ever class or grade she has taught. Her knowledge and experience as a Hebrew language teacher will be most valuable in the continued development of the primary division of VHA. Furthermore, this knowledge will greatly enhance the entire Hebrew language program; as the school looks at ways to expand the program, Mrs. Lichtman’s experience in other schools will help tremendously.

Rabbi Avi Lichtman, Grade 2, Grade 4/5

Rabbi Lichtman began his teaching career in Vancouver in 2001, as a leader in the popular Seed program. Additionally, Rabbi Lichtman has been involved in JEP and in Project Hemshech, both programs designed to reach out and educate our youth. In addition to formal and informal teaching capacities in many fields, most recently Rabbi Lichtman has been a teacher at Yeshiva Teferes Moshe, where he is very popular and respected as one who is able to connect with students and be able to have profound influence on his charges. 

Rabbi Lichtman has extensive teacher training with well-known educator Rabbi Rottenberg. Additionally, he has completed training in the Lishon Hatorah Hebrew language program, which is the very same as is used here at the Hebrew Academy. As such, his expertise in this area will be crucial to the continued development of our Hebrew language program over the coming years.

Mrs. Devorah Brody, Grade 3

Devorah was born in Jerusalem, moved to New York when she was 14 years old and has been living in BC for the past 11 years. A master educator, in her more than 20 year career Devorah has taught almost every grade from preschool to twelfth grade. Currently she teaches grade 3 Judaic Studies at Vancouver Hebrew Academy. Devorah is full of life and joy; always dynamic, outgoing and engaging. She connects with her students and provides an environment that encourages growth and understanding, enabling each student to flourish. Devorah is married to Rabbi Hillel Brody and is super proud of her 5 awesome kids.

Rabbi Tzvi Goldman, Grade 6/7 Boys, Grade 4

Rabbi Tzvi Goldman will be starting his 13th year as a teacher at the Vancouver Hebrew Academy. He came to Vancouver from Israel where he had been living together with his wife Etti for the previous fiveyears. During those years he completed his Smicha and received his Teacher Certification. Rabbi Goldman has three children, Bentzy, Shira, and Teheela who will be students at our school this year, as well as his two older daughters Bayla and Nechama who are now VHA alumni. Rabbi Goldman very much enjoys playing sports and being out in nature. This year he is excited to be teaching the Grade 6/7 Boys and the Grade 4 Judaic classes, and is looking forward to a fantastic year.

Mrs. Shifra Feigelstock, Grade 6/7 Girls

Bio coming soon! 






Chanie Yeshayahu, Ivrit - Kindergarten to Grade 7

Bio coming soon!






Mrs. Adela Heffes, Student Services Assistant

Mrs. Heffes taught for over 9 years in Mexico City, at Elementary school as well as at Highschool, where she is originally from. She moved with her family from Mexico to Canada seven years ago. Mrs. Heffes graduated with a Masters of Education from the Hebrew University of Mexico, and she also has a specialty in New Techniques and Methodology to Teach the Tanach in Elementary and High School from the University of Jerusalem. She worked the last two years in our school as a Teacher’s Aide and she will continue in this role for coming year. She is currently working to obtain her Canadian teacher's credential to be able to work as a teacher in BC. She loves working with children as a group as well as one on one. In her free time, she loves to read, cook and exercise. She is looking forward to an amazing year.

Mrs. Gabrielle Sonnino, Student Services Assistant

Mrs. Sonnino is a newcomer to Vancouver, arriving in our lovely city from Brazil a little more than 2 years ago. After going through law school in Brazil and working as an attorney, she rediscovered a true passion within herself as a caregiver and teacher in Canada. Mrs. Sonnino has had experience working as a counselor in camp Gan Israel, staffing a daycare, babysitting, and now she’s thrilled to face this new challenge being part of the VHA staff as student services aide for the 4th grade.

Dancing has a special place in Mrs. Sonnino's heart. She has had danced jazz and ballet for over 10 years and taught jazz dance in Brazil, and for sure she’ll use that energy to get everyone excited in our every day.

Mrs. Yonit Segal, Student Services Assistant

Mrs. Yonit Segal moved from Israel to Vancouver in 2016. She has obtained a Master’s Degree in Physics from Ben Gurion University in the Negev, where she also completed a teachers certification program. She has taught Science and Physics for 3 years in Israel, and also instructed students in the Carasso Science Park in Beer Sheva. Morah Yonit is excited to join the VHA family, to teach Ivrit in Kindergarten and Grade 1 and to provide Kriah support to students in various grades. In her free time she enjoys reading, baking and exploring the outdoors of British Columbia with her husband and kids.

Support Staff

Ms. Nancy Scambler, Administrative Secretary

Ms. Nancy is a self-described "Prairie Girl", having been born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta. Since her graduation from the University of Alberta, she has worked in both administrative and direct service positions in the social services and education areas.  She loves cycling and enjoying the natural beauty of Vancouver. When not at work, she can be found quilting, card-making, baking, drinking tea with family or friends, or providing volunteer leadership to a program for children in Downtown Vancouver.



Mrs. Gayle Taylor, Financial Secretary

Mrs. Gayle absolutely loves her job doing the finances at VHA. The kids, admin, staff, parents, and Board make her position in the office wonderful. Mrs. Gayle and her husband, Jack, spent 18 years with their three children in Kenya. They loved that experience as their children grew up. The Taylors have been settled in Vancouver since the summer of 1999 and Mrs. Gayle has been working at VHA ever since. Her interests include scrapbooking, singing, hospitality, friends and family, and especially her nine grandchildren.

Mrs. Jolene Marston, Project Coordinator

Miss Jolene MarstonMrs. Jolene loves being part of the VHA family and is excited to start her second year with such fabulous staff, parents and students! She brings a diverse range of skills and is excited to get to know everyone better. Mrs. Jolene has a Bachelor's degree in Visual Arts and Psychology from Vancouver Island University and a certificate from BCIT's intensive six-month Technical Web Designer program. Previously, Mrs. Jolene worked as a Project Manager in her hometown of Nanaimo.

Mrs. Jolene lives with her husband, Kayle, and their three pets: their well-fed cats, Gomi and Isis, and their Shiba Inu dog, Kyoko. In her free time she loves reading, drawing, cooking, and hiking with Kayle and Kyoko.