Who We Are



After 20 years of teaching a range of subjects and grades in the public school system, early childhood settings, and concurrently at several Universities, Angela launched a career as an senior arts executive, program designer, interdisciplinary arts specialist, coach, and researcher. She created and launched Learning Through the Arts of The Royal Conservatory with parallel programs, Living Through the Arts, the Media Arts Program and the Active Ecology Program.

Angela began her career studying voice at the University of Toronto and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education before undertaking graduate work at The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto, receiving her Masters Degree in Curriculum, Teaching and Learning.

Most recently Ms. Elster graduated with a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies, Research, Leadership and Training in Expressive Arts: Therapy, Education and Consulting at the European Graduate School. A certified Early Childhood Educator and a certified Orff specialist with advanced training at the Orff Institute in Salzburg, Austria, Angela has focused her work on inspiring creative thinking, creative solutions, and interdisciplinary strategies, leading clients, students and participants to discover their own distinctive creativity, self awareness and potential.

In 2012 Angela cofounded the Centre for Creative learning with her close friend and mentor, Lois Birkenshaw-Fleming. CCL now takes its rightful place as philosophy where creativity, spirituality, healing, empowerment and the arts. On June 23, 2016 Ms. Elster was awarded one of Canada’s highest honours – the Meritorious Service Medal from the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada. The Meritorious Service decoration recognizes outstanding accomplishments that set an example for others to follow and bring benefit to our country.




An internationally recognized music educator, author, Early Childhood expert and Orff specialist, Lois focused on being a powerful force in the field of music education and special needs education. She has positively influenced early childhood educators, generalist teachers, music teachers and most importantly hundreds of thousands of children with her work at The Royal Conservatory of Music and the former Toronto Board of Education. Travelling extensively, she has given workshops and courses in every province in Canada, most of the 50 States across the United States, in France, Great Britain, Finland and South Africa.

Lois, Angela Elster’s dear friend and mentor for more than 35 years, in her retirement wished to provide a place where creative living and learning would thrive.  As such, she and Angela founded the Centre for Creative Learning to reflect what they both feel is critical to living a full and joyful life. The creative process is relaxing, healing and transformational. Integrating creative activities into your life on a regular basis can be a key component of self care and transformation. In addition, the arts engage our attention and emotion in unique and powerful ways. This deep engagement is central to learning something new and remembering it – embodying the new concept(s). When we are fully engaged – physically, socially, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually we integrate our learning. CCL offerings provide vehicles for the required deep engagement. Simply put, the arts improve the quality of our lives.

Sadly, Lois passed away on March 11, 2015. During her last three years of life she passionately contributed her time and ideas to the development of CCL. Her legacy lives on brightly at CCL and in the many teachers she has mentored as she meandered around the world. Lois has written many articles and is the author of Music For Fun Music For Learning (Appronons par la musique), The Goat with the Bright Red Socks, Musictime K-6, Come on Everybody Let’s sing, (Epanouissons-nous par la musique) and Music For All. She edited An Orff Mosaic from Canada/Orff au Canada: une mosaique and co-authored two books using music to help profoundly deaf children learn to talk and sing. Along the way Lois received many accolades. She is a Fellow of the Royal Conservatory of Music, an honourary member of the Ontario Music Educators Association and Carl Orff Canada and has received the Jubilate award from the Canadian Music Educators Association.


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Ginger Pharand has spent 20 years as an educator in the sciences and the arts. A native of South Carolina, she studied both Biology and English Literature at university in her home state, and has taught a variety of subjects in both fields at the secondary and post-secondary level around the world. She has completed graduate work in curriculum design and earned a graduate diploma in Creative Writing from the Humber School for Writers.

As part of her career as an educator, Ginger spent nearly a decade in Japan, where she taught and immersed herself in the art, culture, and language. She has lived in Canada since 2007.

Ginger is also a professional editor and a short fiction writer. As well as leading workshops and coordinating events for the centre, she brings to CCL a commitment to advocacy for the arts in schools and communities in Canada and around the world.


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  • Testimonials

    Jeanette Lynes

    The Westport Centre for Creative Learning is a wonderful, immersive experience, both a sanctuary and a creative hub. Whether you want to reflect while wandering the gorgeous grounds and gardens or engage in conversations around the fire, the Centre is an absolute gem - a welcoming oasis for the creative spirit in us all.

    Jeanette Lynes

    Ian Burgham

    It was a wonderful literary weekend writers’ workshop program at the Centre for Creative Learning that left everyone milling about the parked cars not wanting to leave CCL, not wanting to say their goodbyes, nor end the powerful magic of a perfect time devoted to craft and meaning.

    Ian Burgham

    Catherine Graham

    I was honoured to take part in the [Centre for Creative Learning’s] first poetry workshop weekend. The natural beauty, generosity and care behind this unique and exciting creative learning centre made my experience nothing but outstanding.

    Catherine Graham

    Steve Heighton

    I've helped to facilitate writing workshops in a lot of beautiful places conducive to creativity, but none more beautiful or more conducive than Angela Elster's [Centre for Creative Learning].

    Steve Heighton

    Dr. Chantel Lavoie

    [Westport Centre for Creative Learning] is not merely a portal by which to get away from all the forces that drain the spirit, but a means to arrive at something essential, something real in one’s own creative process.  CCL nourishes body and soul—like its pond stirred up by a gentle waterfall, time spent there is both tranquil and moving.

    Dr. Chantel Lavoie