Education Task Force Highlight: Jani Sutherland

The Education Task Force Highlight Series spotlights education leaders working to create new Certification Standards, education resources, and communication strategies that will benefit all members.

In this highlight, we sit down with Children’s Task Force member Jani Sutherland.

Which Task Force are you on?

The Children’s Task Force. I am an original member of the Children’s Committee that was started in the late 80’s when Max Lundberg was PSIA President and Jerry Warren was Education Vice President.

Current title?

PSIA-AASI Northern Intermountain Kids Division Clinic Leader and Examiner, PSIA-AASI Intermountain Kids Division Clinic Leader, instructor with Sun Valley Ski School.

Brief Bio?

I started teaching in 1973 at California’s Squaw Valley and worked as the Kids Supervisor from 1974-1979. In my role, I created the first all-day ski school program with lunch (The Lunch Bunch). In the early ’80s, I created and ran the first all-day children’s ski school in Canada at Blackcomb in British Colombia (the program still exists!).

Then, I returned to the states to work at Washington’s Mt. Bachelor where I was an instructor and then Children’s Supervisor until 1995. At Mt. Bachelor I created several all-day programs and expanded local programs. I was also a children’s clinician in the Northwest and wrote a children’s manual that was published and sold by the Northwest Division.

Next was Brian Head, Utah where I was Children’s Ski School Director. I created a new Children’s Center complete with a rental shop. I also expanded programs and created a program for local elementary school kids mid-week and a weekend program for older kids.

From there, I moved back to California’s Squaw until 1998, and I worked with SKI Magazine’s SKIwee program. I did a pilot program at Squaw and was a clinician and then Western Regional Manager until the program was dissolved. After that, it was Kids Vacation Center Manager, Steamboat Springs in Colorado and then I moved to Sun Valley, Idaho to work as the children’s supervisor. I currently teach in Sun Valley, and am the Northern Intermountain Children’s Education Chair, kids clinician and examiner for Northern Intermountain, and kids clinician for Intermountain.

Current role on the Task Force?

I am currently part of the people skills subcommittee and the e-learning subcommittee. We are working on strategic alignment. (little known fact: one year Fall Conference started on Halloween and I flew on two planes to Colorado in my witches costume).

Main goals?

Our main goal on the task force is strategic alignment and creating new standards. It’s been a lengthy project, and we spent a lot of time spinning our wheels in the parking lot before finding the road. It took five years of Fall Conferences and a lot of Zoom calls this summer to get to our final version. I think we’re there.

How will this benefit members?

Teaching and technical share the same language and expectations. People skills are different in the kids’ world than in the adult world and these are recognized. Scoring is the same for all disciplines. There will be continuity between disciplines during the exam processes.

Why is it important to you to work for the benefit of other instructors?

I have always believed children’s instructors need recognition and are just as valuable as any other teachers in our organization. Children are the deciders of where to go on vacation and they are also the future of our sport. They are not little adults and its fascinating to learn what makes them function as they do. The creation of the Children’s Specialist 1 and Children’s Specialist 2 programs by the Children’s Task Force gives teachers the tools to help them understand kids and give them the best possible experience. It also makes the instructor’s job easier.

Fun factor?

It’s a blast teaching kids because I can channel my inner kid (which is always near the surface) and be silly. If I am having fun, they are too. Kids learn through fantasy and play and I love getting into their world.

Best part of being an instructor?

Hard to narrow that down, but I think my experiences with Down Syndrome kids and kids on all parts of the spectrum have been the best part of my teaching. Definitely the most challenging, but that makes it all the more rewarding. The end result of sharing something very special with them and seeing them succeed is priceless.