Elizabeth Kirkland

Elizabeth Kirkland, more commonly known as Liz, is a current NCBTMB Approved Continuing Education Provider and a passionate massage therapist since 1984. She has been licensed in the United States since 1995, where she took the NCBTMB test as a state licensee in Florida.

The following interview was originally conducted by Julie Pankey, Founder, JMPankey Partners Spa Consulting.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself Liz

A: I was born and raised in South Africa, growing up in Cape Town and Johannesburg. After high school, I apprenticed with Carlton Hair, doing make up for hair shows, but I knew I needed to go to school. I received my formal education from Face to Face beauty school, a CIDESCO and ITEC training site, which gave me a fantastic foundation in esthetics and massage therapy—which started me on a very exciting life in the beauty Industry.

After turning 21, I moved to the States after a rather unpleasant marriage and the help of my very understanding recruiter. I joined the United States Coast Guard. While stationed in San Francisco, I met my husband, and along came William David.

When my enlistment ended, I needed to get my American qualifications in order. I earned my Massage License from the Florida Institute of Massage, a 900 hr. advanced Sports Massage Program. Our licensing test was one of the first NCBTMB tests given. I then went on to specialize in horses, getting a diploma from Don Doran’s Equine Sports Massage program in Ocala, Florida. 

Q: Horse massage, that seems ahead of its time in the 1990’s…

A: Yes, it was exciting times! Six months after graduation, I was selected to represent the USA as a massage therapist as a member of the medical team for the equestrian venue of the Olympic Games in Atlanta.

For the next few years, I concentrated on the endurance circuit and had the pleasure of top ten placements for two consecutive years for horse and rider teams at the Festival of Champions in Gladstone, New Jersey. Needing to broaden my services and further my education, I went back to school for a Cosmetology license. 

Q: How did you develop your passion for education?

After graduation, I started teaching classes in massage at the American Spirit Institute in Williamsburg, Virginia, as well as at the Thomas Nelson Community College campus for the workforce development program.

Continuing my quest for excellence in education, I took post graduate classes through the Dermal Institute in Washington D.C., and received my 100-hour diploma. I was always learning, always growing—I later became a trainer for OSEA Malibu. It was a dream come true, as I shared Jenifer Palmer’s philosophy on seaweed-based skin care and natural healing. I had the pleasure of teaching at some fantastic properties, from the Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons, nationally and internationally to the mountains of Taos New Mexico and El Monte Segrado Spa.

At the same time as taking these leaps into skincare heaven, I had the pleasure of teaching Master Esthetics and Massage at the Institute of Health and Healing in Newport News, VA. It was great bringing back pictures to my students! Great inspiration!

This is where Seaside Education was Born. Sonya and I started     Seaside Education, a continuing education company for spa therapists, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, teaching classes in hair, skin, nails, as well as massage and business administration.

Q: Have you always loved the spa world?

I feel like I have always loved the spa industry. I have loved it in many different ways. Throughout my school work, I continued to work in the spa industry.

When my husband accepted a commission as a Warrant Officer in the Coast Guard, he was transferred to Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington D.C., and we moved to Northern Virginia. Once again, I started back in the spa industry, and was instrumental in opening Zoe, a full service spa in the Fairfax area. William later retired from the Coast Guard, and we moved to Williamsburg, VA, and then to Camden, NC, where I started working at the Sanderling Resort and Spa. At the ISPA conference in Vegas, I met a blast from my past—Stephanie Rest—who recruited me on an adventure to the islands at Regent Palms, Turks and Cacaos.

Q: What does the future hold for you?

 While on assignment, I was elected to the NACCAS Commission where I sit in my second term as Practitioner Commissioner. I chair the Education Quality and Compliance Committee. I have been an evaluator for massage therapy and cosmetology programs for 15 years. I serve as an evaluator for ABHES.org, as well as ACICS.org visiting schools, around the United States reviewing massage therapy programs. This choice of career has given me so many exciting avenues to share my skills and, at this time, which I want to continue. I am working on a project to grow the Caribbean International Spa Association Educational program, and Seaside Education is looking forward to a new partnership this year with JM Pankey Partners consulting company.

Additionally, I started Skin Care by Liz after working at a number of spas on the beach and found that I needed my anti-aging machines again. With a great product line, I can make my clients skin glow again!


Liz currently resides in Camden, North Carolina, where she plays in the dirt as a master gardener and grows organic veggies and daylilies on a 23-acre farm.

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