Stepping Stones and Self Expression

Bonnie Nish regards her career and life as a series of stepping-stones or transitions.

A stay-at-home mom, Bonnie was living with her family in California, about to do her masters degree when 9/11 happened – the catalyst for some major life changes.

“I came back to Canada, my marriage ended and I was supporting three teenagers on my own. I hadn’t worked in a while and needed a job, quickly,” Bonnie said.

Bonnie then co-founded and was running Pandora’s Collective, a charity dedicated to promoting the literary arts as a healthy tool for self-expression. Through Pandora’s she facilitated workshops at eating disorder clinics, worked with Youth at Risk and continues to give monthly workshops at drug rehabilitation centres, as she has for over 10 years.

Her background and experience in education allowed Bonnie to challenge an unprecedented 12 of the 18 courses required to complete a diploma program for school and community support workers, moving her back into work as an Education Assistant.

“I loved the job but always wanted it to be a transition, a stepping-stone into something else.” As a published writer and poet, Bonnie believes “As artists and teachers we need to find our authentic voices to give to youth, especially.”

She decided to expand on her coursework and complete a Masters in Arts Education, bringing together the many elements of her professional life. While working at an Elementary School, she met an Expressive Arts student on practicum, sparking her interest in this way of working.

Bonnie dived right into the Vancouver Expressive Arts program. “I fell in love with EXA, especially the intermodal aspects. Being able to move between the arts and seamlessly transition into another mode can really open things up for people.”

After graduating in 2013, Bonnie started her own private practice in Vancouver. “I love the way it works. People can be self-conscious working in art forms they haven’t had training in but EXA makes you feel so comfortable, it’s easy to go into the arts.

She also now teaches the poetry and storytelling modules in the Expressive Arts Therapy program, her favourite part of which is “being able to give people the resources and tools so they can blossom.”

Despite multiple major concussions forcing her to put her PhD in Expressive Arts Therapy on hold, Bonnie continued on her journey as a life-long student and is now working on a PhD in Language and Literacy Education at UBC with supervision from her mentor Dr. Carl Leggo. Her dissertation examines the healing process of coming back to an academic life after experiencing concussion and trauma.

Bonnie said, “Despite offering workshops before coming to Expressive Arts, doing EXA was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. There were so many incredible and passionate moments. It enabled me to grow and expand in ­­­what I was doing in ways I didn’t know I could.”

Bonnie will be teaching a Concussion Workshop on October 14th called ‘Remapping You: Reassemble and Gathering Together Again’. For more information, please visit

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