EDUCATION HERO AWARD

This award celebrates those who engaged in transforming learning experiences for students in Scarborough and beyond during the

COVID-19 pandemic.

THERESA PASTORE

RECIPIENT OF THE EDUCATION HERO AWARD

As the Executive Director of Parents Engaged in Education (PEIE), Theresa Pastore has been instrumental in the development of a Family Service Centre/Education Bank at 857 Milner Avenue to support the Scarborough community with technology-based learning. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Theresa has stepped up to provide home learning kits, including computers, school supplies, games, art supplies, and other school materials for children from kindergarten to Grade 12. She has transformed educational experiences for in-need families in the community during the pandemic by creating physically safe learning space supports and a “food bank for the mind”.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THERESA PASTORE:

Can you tell us about yourself (and/or) your organization?


I founded Parents Engaged in Education in 2015, after more than 25 years of being involved in parent involvement in schools at the local, regional and provincial level. With a small group of passionate parents and educators who agreed that there was just too much time spent talking about what needed to be done, and not actually getting anything done, we came together and formed Parents Engaged in Education which is based on action, not just talk. We began to actively engage parents in their children’s education and to be effective partners with their school administrators by developing resources and skill building opportunities.

When COVID closed schools in March 2020, PEIE immediately pivoted our work to support low income students who were now isolated at home, by building and distributing Learn at Home Kits. These kits contained curriculum supports, great books, activities and more. In total, we served more than 2,000 students.

Through this project we learned that there was a great need for a more permanent source of supply to support students in need. For decades, we have understood the need for food banks to fill children’s bodies, however, we have left a huge gap in feeding their minds and bodies. PEIE established CANADA’S FIRST EDUCATION BANK to fill this gap.

Located in Scarborough, the Education Bank provides kids with school supplies, great books, fun activities and games, curriculum supports, amenities for self-care, lunch bags full of food and mental health resources. Since COVID closed schools, we are proud to have put more than 200 devices in students hands so they are properly equipped to learn.

In addition to all of the materials students can access, we have formed the Education Bank Kids Club which provides learning and mentorship opportunities for all of our kids. We have a full summer of activities including a 3D printing course and competition, STEM camp, mentorship sessions with business leaders from top Canadian companies, Book Club, Math Camp and much more. Our kids have all the potential to be successful, they just need a little support.




Did you have a source of inspiration or motivation that fueled you to take such remarkable actions to support and serve the Scarborough community during COVID-19?


When COVID turned our world upside down, I realized that I had to step up and help those who were experiencing even bigger challenges than usual in supporting their children.

I was inspired to do this because of the gratitude that I have in being able to provide for my children, and the knowledge that every parent wants that for their children, some just are not able to do that at this time.




What does winning this award mean to you?


It means a great deal, I was both proud and humbled when I received the notice about this award. When you work hard as a volunteer, sometimes you think no one notices and then something wonderful like this happens! I have lived in Scarborough my whole life and being called a hero in my own community is heartwarming indeed.




What was a positive moment or meaningful memory from this past year that stands out to you?


The most positive moment in this past year would be the moment we unlocked the door to begin building CANADA’S FIRST EDUCATION BANK. I could see the great things we would be able to do to raise up the next generation.




If you could describe Scarborough in one word, what would it be?


Scarborough is “resilient”.




What does being part of the Scarborough community mean to you?


Scarborough is home. It has been for 6 decades and has been the place I married, had children and plan to retire. I think the greatest thing about Scarborough is how the community pulls together in the time of crisis to support each other and to look for ways to advocate for the resources we need in our corner to the GTA.




What inspired you to pursure a career in education?


I was involved in my children’s education from JK through to University as well as a volunteer classroom assistant for more than 15 years. I saw first hand the difference in children whose parents were actively involved in their education, and those that were not. I felt inspired to try and make a difference and became passionate about helping parents engage both at home and at their child’s school.