ELLEN SCHWARTZ, FOUNDER AND TEACHER
Ellen Schwartz is an elementary teacher, community leader, author, and public speaker. As founder of Project Give Back she links her decades of teaching together with her personal passion for charitable causes. She co-founded Jacob’s Ladder, Canadian Foundation for the Control of Neurodegenerative Diseases.
Jacob’s Ladder raised over three million dollars towards research, education, awareness and therapy into neurodegenerative illnesses.
Ellen has written two books. Lessons from Jacob: A Disabled Son Teaches His Mother About Courage, Hope and the Joy of Living Life to the Fullest and Without One Word Spoken. Without One Word Spoken rated a National Best Seller by the Globe and Mail.
Ellen has been honored by the Israel Cancer Research Fund, Ve’ahavta, Aish Toronto, Sick Kids Hospital and Brilliant Minded Women. She was awarded a Queen’s Jubilee medal, the Meritorious Service Decoration by the Governor General of Canada, and a Canada 150 Exemplary Canadian medal.
MELANIE LEVCOVICH, CHIEF OF OPERATIONS
Melanie Levcovich brings a breadth and depth of experience from over 20 years working in Marketing and Operations across a number of rapidly growing companies. She was director of marketing for Informix, a billion dollar software company and Vice President of Marketing at Globally Boundless. She also has experience growing a company from scratch having conceived and led her own start up idealive. On the operations side Melanie has several years experience working with Macy’s in California, managing in a flagship store, streamlining promotion, buying and distribution. Melanie has a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University.
ANDREA HECHT, DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
Andrea is elated to be working with the Project Give Back organization as the Director of Growth and Development. Her goal is to continue to expand partnerships with new schools throughout the GTA and York Region.
Andrea’s teaching career began in 1992 with the York Region District School Board, working in a designated high risk school. She was a Primary Lead Teacher and Full Day Kindergarten Program Consultant. In 1999, Andrea started a Reading Enrichment Program and Ministry Licenced Day Nursery. In 2013 she branched off and started a new endeavour, with the responsibility of acquiring new school contracts and partnerships.
Andrea’s passion for education and helping others, led her to PGB and her friend and mentor, Ellen Schwartz. Andrea has enjoyed working with Ellen and her exceptional team, and witnessing the program benefits both as an educator and parent. She has embraced this new opportunity to inspire, including teaching the program at a Toronto area school. Her greatest passion is her three children and family. Andrea graduated from the York University Consecutive Education Program and holds a variety of Specialist Qualifications in her field.
ROZ FINE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Roz Fine is presently the Executive Director for Project Give Back and has worked in this position for 10 years. She enjoys working behind the scenes and interacting with the teachers and the staff. She feels honoured and privileged to be part of this wonderful program. In her position, Roz has the opportunity to read the students’ letters and feels fortunate to know exactly what each child’s presentation is all about. This gives her a sense of what goes on in each classroom and see the excitement in each project.
Roz is a former public school teacher with the TDSB who stopped teaching to raise her family. Roz has been a Volunteer with the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada for over 35 years and as such has held many positions from Toronto President to National President as well as holding various positions with the International Council of Jewish Women. She is currently the immediate Past President of the Board of Directors for NCJWC, Toronto Section Foundation which represents an integrated housing project in Toronto. As a Volunteer for this prestigious organization for so many years, Roz values the importance of giving back to the community. Roz is a proud mother and grandmother.
PENNY GOODMAN, ASSISTANT
Penny works with Project Give Back as the Charity Liason, assisting students and the PGB teachers in obtaining materials for their presentations. After both of her children were fortunate enough to participate in Project Give Back, she knew she wanted to be a part of the program. Penny also assists teaching a class with Ellen (which is the highlight of her week).
SAMARA BLEIWAS, TEACHER
Samara has been a teacher for Project Give Back since 2011. She is a former teacher and spent six years teaching in York Region in the primary and junior divisions. Samara now spends her time at home with her three young children and takes an active role volunteering and fundraising for her children’s school. Samara enjoys using her teaching skills and passion for giving back to her community to inspire young children to make a difference. Samara holds a Bachelor of Education from York University and a Bachelor of Arts from The University of Western Ontario.
CHERYL DANIELS, TEACHER
Cheryl has been teaching Project Give Back students for over 10 years and is a role model to all who know her. She has enjoyed bringing her experiences of teaching high school for 11 years, being actively involved in a variety of charities and raising her 3 daughters into her weekly classroom lessons.
Cheryl is constantly in awe of her PGB students as they demonstrate empathy, compassion and initiative to affect positive change in our world. She is amazed by how these students enthusiastically spread awareness of their chosen charity. They eagerly take on the role of teacher as they share their special passion with their classmates. The magic continues as she watches the whole class discuss, evaluate and analyze current social issues. This is where the change happens! Now PGB students recognize that they, despite their young age, have to power to make a difference. This is why Cheryl so values her time teaching this unique and inspirational program. Cheryl holds a Masters of Education from Columbia University, a Masters of Arts in History from the University of Toronto and an Honours Bachelors of Arts from McGill University.
ANDREA GLASSMAN, TEACHER
Andrea Glassman is recently retired from a successful and fulfilling 30 year teaching career; most recently at The Leo Baeck Day School in Thornhill, Ontario where she was proud to participate in the Project Give Back program with her Grade Five classes. She found it to be inspirational, informative, and heartwarming for her students and for herself. She is a confident, energetic and creative teacher who has focused her energy on instilling confidence and passion in her students.
LESLI GOLDSTEIN, TEACHER
Lesli is a longstanding teacher and mentor with the PGB program, entering her 11th year. Her early career focused on teaching organization, life skills, mental health, coping strategies and the Slingerland cursive writing program at an independent school. Lesli loves teaching PGB and watching her students grow throughout the school year. Their questions, comments, passion and empathy are limitless.
Lesli loves connecting with her students from previous years and witnessing the sparkle in their eyes then they talk of the program and want to “do it again.” She says, “I love hearing the amazing things they are doing now.” Showing kindness and a smile is so simple, yet it goes a long way in making others feel special, heard, seen and valued.
Lesli is a loving mom of 3 boys and spends much of her free time cheering them on in hockey, basketball and football. Otherwise, she enjoys traveling, biking and cooking. Lesli holds a BA (Hons) in Sociology from York University, an MSW from the University of Toronto, and a BEd. from OISE.
AMY GREENBERG, TEACHER
My name is Amy Greenberg and and although I am a PGB teacher, I truly feel like I am often the student. The students are our greatest inspiration and when they connect to what they are passionate about, there is nothing that can stop them. For over 10 years, I have learned from students who have shared their stories and let us all in. I have learned from students who have stayed quiet during class time, only to find out that they shared every story they heard at the dinner table at home. I have learned from students who showed empathy and compassion for their classmates during difficult discussions. And I have learned from students who email me years after I have left their classrooms to tell me about the amazing things they are doing to make this world a better place. Project Give Back is a one year program, but the beauty is that it is simply a seed that we plant in our amazing students and we have the honour of watching it grow. I am so proud to be part of this talented team!
MELISSA LIDSKY, TEACHER
Melissa has loved being part of Project Give Back team for over the last 10 years! Over that time, she has taught in variety of schools, and has taken on the additional role as Blogger and Writer of published articles regarding our program. In addition to Project Give Back, Melissa has maintained varying positions over her 25+ years of teaching at WIllowWood School, ranging from teaching and administrative roles including Interim Vice Principal as well as heading up Testing, Assessments and Remedial Programming.
Most recently, Melissa has followed the lead of her PGB students by following her passion and devoting her time to volunteering and working for TIFF. She is a proud mother of three and she has played an active role in her children’s schooling by serving on various school boards and Executives. Once upon a time many years ago, she graduated with her Teaching Degree from the Institute of Child Study at the University of Toronto. Melissa is pleased to have achieved longevity in a teaching career that has culminated with a program that speaks to her heart and serves as a reminder of the essence of educating and empowering all children.
MICHELLE WITTLIN, TEACHER
Michelle Wittlin has taught Project Give Back for the past 7 years and brings warmth and inspiration to her weekly lessons. She is thrilled to be a part of such a wonderful program that teaches children the power they have to create positive change in our world through kindness and compassion. As a mother and teacher, she wants children to experience the sense of achievement and personal fulfillment that giving back to the community can bring. These feelings of self-confidence and self-worth will reflect on all aspects of children’s lives. Michelle is a former teacher with the York Region District School Board. She has eight years experience teaching children at the elementary school level. She holds an Honors degree in English Language and Literature, and a Bachelor of Education from York University.
JILLIAN ROTH, TEACHER
Jillian Roth has worked with children in many capacities having obtained both her BEd from York University and her ECE from George Brown College. She worked as a private school teacher for several years and ran the Children’s Program for a cruise line prior to becoming a mother to her young son. As a parent, Jillian has become an active member of the parent board of her son’s school and has volunteered for several children’s charities, while running a special events company part time.
LINDSAY BATORI, TEACHER
Lindsay Batori has been a teacher with PGB for over 6 years now, and is a former elementary teacher with the TDSB. As a mother of two with a background in education, Lindsay’s life and teaching experiences add to her classroom lessons. She makes learning both meaningful and fun for her students and has always has a smile on her face.
Lindsay recalls a moment at a PGB school fair when a grateful parent thanked her for having such an impact on her daughter who often struggles. The mother was so inspired by the program and said it was her daughter’s favourite part of the week. Even shedding a few tears, the parent was so appreciative of the work that we do. This made Lindsay realize that whatever she gives to her students, she gets back 10 times over! Lindsay says, “The excitement and look in their eyes when I walk in every week is what inspires me. I just love those kids!”
JODY KIMELMAN, TEACHER
Jody has been an invaluable member of the PGB team for 5 years and counting. Jody’s focus in the classroom has always been respect for others and respect for oneself.
As a teacher, she is touched and motivated by a quote by that she shares with her classes when preparing for their speeches. “Don’t count the days, make the days count.” (Muhammed Ali). Jody is always inspired by the student’s thoughtful and meaningful interpretations of this quote. Through PGB, she instills the message of this saying to her students. This includes making the most out of every day, appreciating the time and happiness associated with each unique day and making that day better for someone else. PGB helps us to appreciate such wonderful moments through giving back, showing the world kindness and respecting one another’s differences.
Jody’s family is very involved at the Hospital for Sick Children and she feels very strongly about teaching her children about the importance of giving back to the community. Jody holds a Bachelor of Education from York University and a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics from the University of Western Ontario. She is a Primary/Junior teacher with specialist qualifications in Literacy and Guidance.
NICOLE BLACK, TEACHER
Originally from South Africa, Nicole taught in the private school system for 13 years, primarily in the younger elementary grades, as well as tutors students both in the school setting and at home. She holds a Bachelors degree in psychology and a Bachelor of Education from The University of Western Ontario. She is a busy mother of two and enjoys being involved in her children’s education too. She has brought her passion for learning with children while watching them grow and change to the Project Give Back team. As a Project Give Back teacher it is most inspiring to see the students assume the role of the teacher when they get the opportunity to spread their important messages.
REENA COHEN, TEACHER
Reena began her career in education 20 years ago in New York City. In 2001 she moved to Toronto and has spent the last 17 years teaching in the private sector. She is eager to join the Project Give Back Team and have the opportunity to combine her degree in education with her Master’s degree in social work. After seeing her own two children have such meaningful experiences in Project Give Back, she is excited to inspire other students to have the same opportunities. She is passionate about having children teach and learn from one another.
MICHELLE WAGMAN, TEACHER
Michelle Wagman is a seasoned elementary teacher having taught for the past 25 years at Bialik, the Kinder Connection and the TDSB. She is a Reading Specialist with a BEd from York University and a Master’s degree in early literacy from OISE.
Michelle has always been actively involved in her children’s schools and in the Jewish community. As a mother of three children, Michelle models the importance of giving back by involving her family in many community fundraising projects and initiatives. Michelle is a proud March of the Living alumni having chaperoned the trip in 2015.
Michelle is excited to join the Project Give Back team, and looks forward to fostering a nurturing, empathetic environment for her students.
JORDAN KATZ, TEACHER
Jordan Katz is beyond thrilled to be a part of the Project Give Back community. She has been an educator for around 15 years, having spent time in the private sector in Toronto and the public sector in the US. Her classrooms revolve around cooperation and respect, and her nurturing and enthusiastic demeanour encourage and instill self-confidence and passion in her students. She believes in Project Give Back’s message of giving back to the community and fostering a sense of empathy and compassion for others and for the world around. When not spending time with her four children, Jordan can be found volunteering in their schools, baking, taking walks with her dog, and reading. Jordan graduated from Washington University in St Louis with a Bachelor’s degree in Comparative Arts and History. She was awarded a Master’s degree from Teachers’ College at Columbia University in New York City.
RACHEL MACMILLAN, TEACHER
Rachel plans on bringing together her enthusiasm for social justice, with her experience teaching children, to help students broaden their perspective on the world around them and foster an interest in helping better that world. As a former kindergarten teacher for the YCDSB, Rachel brought a forward thinking view of education to understand the whole child and how each individual student learns best. Through the development with her husband of an orphan sponsorship program between her Toronto church and a village in Kenya, Rachel was able to help improve the lives of hundreds of children over the course of a decade; improving their education, health and social well being. She hopes to show the students how they too can make an impact on the causes they are passionate about. More recently, she has been kept busy with volunteering at her three sons’ school as a grade rep and a parent volunteer for many fundraisers; helping support causes on a local level. Rachel has a Bachelor of Education from York University and a Bachelor of Arts with a combined major in Child Studies and Psychology from Brock University.
SUSAN BARRON, VOLUNTEER
Susan Barron is a Master in Social Work and currently has a private practice specializing in the areas of individual couples and family counselling. She is thrilled to be a part of the PGB team as a volunteer in the classrooms over the past several years and looks forward to each new week of growth and learning with the students and teachers.
As the mother of two grown daughters and as a therapist, Susan focuses on ways to encourage difference, growth and change. As a volunteer for PGB Susan shares her excitement and the privilege at being witness to the courage, empathy and care each child shows in sharing his story, and the passion exhibited for making a difference. Susan is extremely grateful to Ellen and the entire PGB team.