PGB Connects- Episode 15


The Importance of Home, School and Community Connection

Every week we meet inspiring people. Ordinary people, who aren’t ordinary at all. It is such an honour to be able to listen to experts; people who devote their lives to whatever it is they are passionate about. Tonight was no different.

Tonight we had Eric Petersiel speak about the power community has in education.  Eric is the Head of School at The Leo Baeck Day School, Canada’s first Jewish IB (International Baccalaureate) World School and the only Reform Jewish Day School in Canada. Eric has served in a variety of communal leadership roles in Toronto during his 20 year tenure with the school.

Eric spoke about his teaching experience and the role Judaism has played in helping to develop what he calls, A+ human beings. In recalling the various positions that he has held over the years, Eric spoke about the vital role that community has played in each. In order to succeed, one must learn about their connection to one another within a community.

For Eric, it’s simple things like just knowing each student by name, which acknowledges their presence or joining in with students and playing football during recess. These experiences help set the tone for students, showing the role the school plays and providing a lesson for how we treat each other in a community. The way we treat each other in this setting, truly helps us to feel welcome and understood.

Eric gave other examples of community, like running into an old high school acquaintance, who was now an oncologist at Sick Kids. This was at a crucial time when Eric’s newborn child was ill. Although not close friends in high school, it was this connection that provided Eric with the oncologist’s presence and support, in a time of great need that was invaluable.

Eric noted that even in a year where we have been robbed of community, there have also been positive impacts. He recalled mourning a deceased family member through Zoom. Although it was sad to not have loved ones’ support in person, the silver lining was that he was able to participate with friends and family throughout the world. Jake’s Jam is another example of this sense of community, bringing people together from all different realms, to share in the joy of music.

So, even though we are missing the intimacy of hearing song, competing in athletics, or simply being at school; we still have managed to build a community from a distance. His final message was, to go forward and build an even better community!

Tonight, we were also fortunate to have Nancy Lerner, an educator with over 30 years of school leadership and experience in building professional learning communities. Her focus is on educating the whole child. Nancy stated that students are complex, and should not be defined by a singular learning issue or physical challenge. Yet, sadly, the education system doesn’t always look at children this way. Often, we latch onto one attribute, either a strength or weakness; ADHD, or a specific learning disability. Instead, we must understand that there is not one thing that defines them.

Nancy’s view builds upon the idea that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Let’s conference with each child on a weekly basis to build collaboration and care and use a team approach between parents/student/teachers. We need all of us, the whole team/community. For what happens at home, affects the child at school. They bring everything with them. Why is the child falling asleep? Maybe they have not eaten? Maybe their parents are fighting? Parents must be the partners in education and school must remain a safe place. For many children that don’t have that caring community around them, they rely on school for that overall sense of community. Our job as educators is to spirit students to be their very best and to see education as educating the whole person.

Logan Petersiel performs each week at Jake’s Jam Concerts on Zoom. Logan has taught us so much about authenticity and they are so passionate about the LGBTQ+ rights and mental health. Logan spoke about all the challenges of the year and the joy in belonging to a community that supports their authentic self. Logan treated us to a performance of, ‘We Are Going To Be Friends’, by the White Stripes.

Our Shining Star was William Carter. William participated in a financial literacy program for young students called, ‘Explorer Hop’ and was also part of an upstart program called, ‘Young Entrepreneurs Creating Change’. He spoke about this experience, which coincided with taking part in PGB. William and his team partnered with a local bakery to run a bake sale and raise funds for a cause. They earned $800 and donated half of the proceeds to Sick Kids. William liked being a positive example for his classmates. His experience showed just how business and charity can come together to provide a true sense of community.

A final check in with Lindsay at Kindness Corner and @One2GiveTo who launched a school supply campaign for vulnerable schools. They have reached out to schools asking what they need for their students, who are in isolation, and have run out of basic school supplies. An Amazon wish list is now posted on their Instagram. In just five days, they have amassed over 1000 containers of Play-Doh. Now, they are asking the community to contact local MPPs and let them know that Dollar Stores are essential to these vulnerable communities. These and other discount stores need to be opened up to access items that are otherwise, not affordable for many in need.

Thank you Eric, Nancy, Logan, William and Lindsay for giving your time, sharing such impactful lessons and showing us the value in this true community