We are thrilled in this edition of Meet the Community to speak with Edna Sharet, our dynamic, longstanding Director of Junior High.

Heschel Hive (HH): Where are you from originally, Edna, and when did you move to Canada?

Edna Sharet (ES): I’m originally from Israel. I was born in Beersheva, in the Negev, which wasn’t a very populated city back then but today is a flourishing city. I moved to Canada when I was 10 years old.

HH: You don’t have any trace of an Israeli accent when you speak English. How was your English when you arrived?

ES: Students start learning English in Israel in Grade 4 and I left midway through the year, in April.  I had a little bit of English, but not anywhere near what I needed to have when moving to an English-speaking country. But I did have some very kind Hebrew-speaking classmates when I moved to Toronto. They really helped me out and welcomed me, which was nice. I also had a lovely and caring ESL teacher who was just amazing.

HH: Where did you go to school?

ES: I went to our neighbourhood public school for Elementary, Junior High and then High School at Newtonbrook; I was just a regular public school kid.  I eventually went to Western and got my Bachelor’s in Psychology with a minor in French, and I moved to Israel and did my Masters of Education at Beit Berel in Kfar Saba.  I learned to be an English teacher when I was in Israel…

HH: That’s funny!

ES: I majored in teaching English as a Second Language.

HH: It’s amazing that your French was good enough after moving from Israel that you could do a minor in French.

ES: I didn’t learn any French in Israel. As you know, public school students start learning French here in Toronto in Grade 4, but I was pulled out of French class in grades 4, 5, and 6 to go to ESL classes, so I didn’t learn any French until Junior High. By the time I was in Grade 9, I received the French award, because I just loved French studies, and I was good with languages. 

HH: Your kids went to school here at Heschel. Were you already working here when they arrived or was it the other way around?

ES: I was living in Chicago before we moved back to Toronto in 2004.  My son had already been born – he was a year old when we moved – and I started working at Heschel in September 2004.  Etai first joined in SK, and my girls started in JK.  Etai graduated in 2017, Shylee in 2020, and Hilah is now in Grade 8, graduating this year.

Morah Edna with her family at Heschel

HH: How long have you been working at The Toronto Heschel School, and in what different capacities?

ES: I started here as a teacher teaching Grade 5, and I remember very clearly that my classroom was where the French room is now, where Morah Doris teaches. I taught everything: I taught general studies, I taught Jewish studies… everything except for French, Gym, Music and Art.

HH: Has Junior High always been a separate division at Heschel?

ES: When I first started in 2004, it was the first year that grades 5-8 moved into this building. Originally it was only grades 5, 6, 7, and 8 in this building, and the Kindergartens to Grade 4 were still at Beth David, so it wasn’t really divided into Elementary/Junior High, it was just the lower grades and the upper grades at that time. Eventually, after the whole school moved in, the administration was reconfigured in 2009 and Division Directors for Early Years, Elementary, and the Junior High were put in place.

HH: Were you the first Division Director of Junior High?

ES: No. Originally Malka Regan and I were co-Division Directors for Elementary as it was the largest division. We had a Division Director for Early Years and a Division Director for JH.

HH: So how long have you been in this role? Do you remember the year you started?

ES: I’ve been the JH Director since 2011.

Morot Malka and Edna

HH: Tell us about what types of responsibilities your role encompasses.

ES: So many!  I oversee pretty much everything that happens in the Junior High, which is a lot, as you can imagine.  I oversee all the teachers, and, of course the wellbeing of the students, as well as Student Council, all of the Junior High trips, graduation, and more. I oversee the Shinshinim program, hiring and mentoring them every year. I’m also a teacher mentor. I do a lot of things! Essentially, I make sure that the Junior High thrives and whatever we need, I take care of.

Morah Edna with Shinshinim

HH: What is your favourite part of Heschel’s Junior High program?

ES: I love the Pay it Forward Purim program.  Around Purim time, we collect different items for the homeless, like socks, mittens, hats and some snacks, and we create mishloach manot bags that the Grade 7 and 8 students, along with some teachers and parents, take downtown. The idea is to give each homeless person two bags, one for them and one that they can use to pay it forward to somebody else, because most times these people don’t have an opportunity to pay it forward, to do something nice for somebody else. So we give them that opportunity.

I think it’s so special and such a positive learning experience. I remember the first time I did it. I was very apprehensive about going out downtown and engaging with homeless people, because I didn’t know what to expect. So it was an eye-opening experience for both me and the students. I think that it’s a beautiful program, and I love that we keep doing it every year.

HH: Is there a particular in-school event that is your favourite?

ES: I love graduation.  It’s the final summation of what we do here at Heschel.  To see the students up there in their hats and gowns, singing the melodies from different performances they’ve done throughout the years, is incredible. Just to know that I played a small part in that and that I left a little, hopefully positive, mark in their lives is a nice, satisfying feeling.

Morah Edna kisses her son at his graduation

HH: What was your favourite subject in school?

ES: I loved phys ed. I was a dancer growing up so I loved to dance, and of course, I loved French. People were running away from French, and I was saying, “give me more classes, give me more courses!”

Morah Edna as a dancer in her youth

HH: Did you only have dreams of being a teacher while growing up or what other careers appealed to you?

ES: Because I loved French so much, I really wanted to be a flight attendant. But when I did the research, flight attendants at that time needed to be around 5’3” or above, and I wasn’t, so that was not an option.

I always loved children. I went back to volunteer in the classroom with my fourth grade teacher because he had made such an impression on me. He was so welcoming when having me back as a volunteer in his classroom. I knew that that’s what I wanted to do soon as I was in the classroom with those kids. Everything felt so easy and natural. He let me do my thing and it just was a good fit. 

HH: What was it about the educational field that originally attracted you?

ES: I loved children and tapping into their little minds. Watching them get that sparkle in their eye when they finally understand something is an incredible feeling for a teacher.

ES: I loved children and tapping into their little minds. Watching them get that sparkle in their eye when they finally understand something is an incredible feeling for a teacher.

HH: Are there any specific books or films that you feel are exceptionally important for tweens and teens to take in today?

ES: I’m very much an old-school type of person who loves the classics.  I think Little Women is an incredible book. I loved Lord of the Flies and The Book Thief. A more modern one that I just was reading with my daughter was The Fault in our Stars. There are many, many more, but those are some that come to mind.

HH: Shifting gears, and just for fun, what super power would you most like to have?

ES: Being invisible, for sure. I would be able to see what all my students are up to without them knowing I’m there!

HH: What do you suspect you would see if you were invisible?

ES: I work with teenagers! I’ve actually seen enough without being invisible! But it’s not only for watching students. Being invisible would be interesting and fun all around.

About This Column

Our Meet the Community blog column gives Heschel families the opportunity to get to know some of the people who make a difference at The Toronto Heschel School.

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