2017 honouree

Deani Van Pelt, PhD

Deani Van Pelt, PhD

Dr. Deani Van Pelt first attended the Charlotte Mason Institute Conference in 2005. Since then, Dr. Van Pelt has tenaciously supported the work of the Institute as well as the general Mason community.

In 2007 Dr. Van Pelt contacted Dr. Carroll Smith (Gardner-Webb University) concerning writing a grant to obtain funds for a Mason education project. With support from Dr. Smith and Dr. Jack Beckman (Covenant College), Dr. Van Pelt wrote a grant proposal to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Upon receiving the grant in 2008, Dr. Van Pelt convened a group in Ambleside, UK to develop plans for a larger project. That group included Drs. Smith and Beckman, Lisa Cadora (CMI Board Chair), Dr. Jennifer Spencer (then a graduate student of Dr. Smith’s), and Dr. John Thorley (last principal of the Charlotte Mason College). From those meetings came the idea to digitize the Charlotte Mason Archive at the Armitt Museum, Gallery and Library.

Dr. Van Pelt prepared an additional SSHRC grant application in 2010 and its successful award enabled her to lead a number of Mason scholars and practitioners to the Armitt to digitize much of the collection. The team included Dr. Beckman, Dr. Spencer, Gladys Schaefer (CMI Board Member), Dr. John Thorley, and Marlene Power (Redeemer University College). Without Dr. Van Pelt’s work and dedication, the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection (CMDC) would not exist.

The receipt of several additional internal grants from Redeemer University College combined with the dedicated work of Marlene Power and many students hours, the CMDC was established at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Canada. The significance of this project may be best illustrated by the fact that the CMDC has been viewed over 66,000 times since it was recently added to the Internet Archive in October of 2016. In the past year, there have been well over 5,000 additional views of the CMDC directly through the original website at Redeemer College.

In establishing the CMDC, Dr. Van Pelt has facilitated access to the Charlotte Mason archive for thousands of individuals from across the globe interested in the study and application of Mason’s educational work and ideas. Prior to the digital collection, travel to the north of England was needed to peruse the archive. Her vision, grant writing and leadership have enabled widespread access to the archive and contributed to the expansion in the study of Mason’s approach to education.

Dr. Van Pelt’s work on the CMDC alone meets the CMI tribute criterion, which is to recognize key individuals who have brought the work of Charlotte Mason into the 21st century so that it can benefit many children. But Dr. Van Pelt’s work goes further. Her master’s thesis Charlotte Mason’s Design for Education (2001) was one of the first graduate theses in Canada prepared on Mason’s educational philosophy. In collaboration with her daughter, Meghan Van Pelt, she contributed a chapter, L’Umile Pianta, to the first volume of the Institute’s Essays on the Life and Work of Charlotte Mason. She has presented multiple plenaries and workshop sessions at the CMI conferences throughout the past ten years. Most recently, she helped to organize and lead the 2018 English Lake District Retreat at St. Mary’s Church in Ambleside, England.

Dr. Van Pelt has become an invaluable spokesperson for Charlotte Mason’s design for education as she represents Mason’s ideas broadly via video, podcasts, articles, and lectures. The CMI board is proud to honor the work of someone so dedicated to the work and ideas of Charlotte Mason and we look forward to many more years of working with Dr. Van Pelt as she continues to study and share Charlotte Mason’s ideas in Canada and beyond.


Deani Van Pelt, PhD, currently the president of a new independent school association in Ontario, Canada, is a former Associate Professor of Education and Director of Teacher Education at Redeemer University College and author of many studies in education policy for the think tanks, Fraser Institute and Cardus. Together with an international team, in 2008, Deani was awarded a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to digitize the documents in the Charlotte Mason Collection held at the Armitt Museum in Ambleside, UK. The results of the digitization project have meant access to Mason’s (previously almost inaccessible) works by a new generation of scholars and practitioners. Over the last decade, access to the collection through Internet Archive and the Redeemer University College Library website has stimulated increasingly widespread research and application of Mason’s ideas for education. Deani is passionate about excellent educational design and believes we have much to learn from Charlotte Mason for education in our times. She is thankful for the role the Charlotte Mason Institute has played in building and promoting the digital collection.

© 2018 Deani Van Pelt