It is no accident that I have devoted my professional life to creating safe spaces and experiential programs that better the lives of children and communities and create meaningful connections in workplaces.
I am from an exceptionally large family. I am the ninth child that my mother gave birth to. Additionally, my parents fostered eleven children across my life, three of whom lived with me for most of my childhood. People often thought I lived in a group home – but, nope, that was just my family! It wasn’t always easy, but I feel so grateful to my parents. Because of them, I saw the incredible gifts that result from giving children of diverse abilities, backgrounds and beliefs a safe space to be themselves and celebrate each other through play and connection.
From a very young age, I had a love of dance and movement (one that I shared with my foster brother Jason, who had Down syndrome). I studied ballet throughout my life, dedicating my teen years to classical training, eventually studying with the professional divisions of the Royal Winnipeg and Alberta Ballet Schools. Although I loved dance, how I was studying it never felt quite right – not until I decided to pursue my passion for children, community-building, and well-being, and saw that I could bring these things together to create change.
Dancing is one of the most vulnerable things for so many of us – especially in front of other people. I first realized this when I joined a L’Arche community in Ottawa, where I started movement programs for residents with diverse abilities. Very quickly, I learned that if I could make every person feel safe enough to move in whatever way felt right to them, they could dance in community. And I saw the incredible gifts that came from building enough trust and safety to be vulnerable with others.
After I left L’Arche, I studied social work, and went on to work at a parent resource centre while continuing to teach children’s dance classes. The more I worked with kids, the more I realized how our culture was no longer taking care of their emotional health. Children were losing the time and space to play. Their play had been replaced with entertainment and skills-based activities. I saw how deeply children needed a place to digest their world. A place to PLAY and to FEEL. They needed a space that was dedicated to letting their inside selves come OUT.
From this realization I was inspired to create my own movement and arts-based experiential discovery programs – first for children and youth of all ages and abilities with my dance companies called Tournesol and Dandelion Dance™. Much has happened since those early days. Today, I have folded my programs at Tournesol into the I Can Dance Book Series so that educators everywhere can bring the gifts of expressive play into their classrooms.
In recent years, I have expanded my work to include the creation of innovative and collaborative workspaces for corporations and other organizations. By delivering immersive professional-development experiences, I am helping corporate leaders build safe and inclusive workplace cultures. My clients tell me that they are now realizing the full potential of their talented teams.
My goal now is to further the emotional well-being of children, youth, and adults everywhere through the power of relationship, the arts, experiential education and community. I work to reach as many educators, senior leaders, helping professionals, and policymakers as possible by speaking at conferences about the power of bringing feeling and human connection back into the classroom and workplace. I lecture on child development at Vancouver Island University, provide keynotes and workshops to working professionals across the globe, and work as a certified facilitator through the Neufeld Institute. And I frequently consult with schools and parents to help them address specific challenges affecting the children and youth in their care.
My work has evolved and taken many different forms over the past 25 years. But at the core of everything I do is my commitment to the emotional growth and well-being of individual people and organizations.
Hannah Beach is an award-winning educator, author, emotional health consultant, and keynote speaker. She is the co-author of the best-selling book Reclaiming Our Students: Why Children Are More Anxious, Aggressive, and Shut-Down than Ever—and What We Can Do About It, with Tamara Neufeld Strijack, a trauma-informed resource for teachers and parents rooted in the relationship-based approach, now being translated into multiple languages internationally (including French, Polish, Russian, Chinese, Ukrainian and Korean) and has been adopted by school boards across Canada. She was recognized by the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 2017 as one of five featured changemakers in Canada.
Her bestselling I Can Dance book series, supporting the emotional health of children through movement, play, and expression, won a 2017 Gold International Moonbeam Children’s Book Award and has been adopted by multiple English- and French-language school boards across Canada.
Hannah received the City of Ottawa’s annual Celebration of People Education Award, which recognized her expertise in developing innovative, inclusive programs and resources. Her work with children has been shared and highlighted in distinguished venues across the country, including the Senate of Canada, multiple universities, as well as national and international conferences.
As the founder of celebrated experiential discovery programs at Dandelion Dance™ and Tournesol, Hannah has spent over 25 years developing and delivering programs for children, youth, and adults. She is a Neufeld Institute Authorized Presenter, delivers professional development services across the country, provides emotional health consulting to schools. She also speaks at national and international conferences about the power of bringing more feeling and human connection into the classroom and workplace.
Hannah is an emotional health and play-based learning consultant for Britannica Education, where she develops courses which are facilitated by the Britannica Education team across the globe.
Hannah is married and has three children. She lives on the West Coast of Canada.