Our new “Meet the Community” column will give Heschel families the opportunity to get to know some of the people who make a difference around The Toronto Heschel School.
We are kicking off the series with an interview with Greg Austin, our Facilities Services Coordinator. You may not know Greg as he now works largely behind the scenes, but he is one of Heschel’s longest-serving employees!
Heschel Hive (HH): Thanks for joining us today, Greg. How many years have you been working at Heschel?
Greg Austin (GA): I started working at Heschel in 1996 on a part-time basis, helping to relieve the office staff when they were on lunch breaks. I started full-time in 1998 and have been here ever since. There was a cleaning company here that was doing such a bad job that my mom and I took over the cleaning for a few years. Then I went back to helping in the office. I also used to do security and lunch duty, where I would read the kids stories in the classroom. I also did parking lot duty and I used to see the same parents every day but I don’t have a lot of contact with parents now.
HH: Tell us about what you do here now.
GA: The Facilities Services Coordinator position is sort of like being a building manager, but recently, I have spent most of my time doing IT. I spend a lot of time in the server room! I sometimes come in on the weekend to do computer updates and can spend all of Sunday afternoon doing that. I also do security checks 30 minutes before and after my regular workday hours, and I do the set-up for most of Heschel’s smaller events.
HH: What do you like about working at Heschel?
GA: I grew up as a Seventh Day Adventist, so we went to church on Saturdays. Most of the prayers and the singing I hear when I walk past the classrooms, or if the students sing “amen,” it sounds familiar to what we used to do at church. I think I’m super comfortable here, I have no issues, it sounds like I’m supposed to be here.
HH: What is your favourite Heschel memory?
GA: When we moved over here from Beth David, up the street, that was the best time. It was so small at Beth David – we were in the basement of the synagogue with just six rooms. When we came into to this big, spacious school, we all said “wow!” We were all on Cloud 9 for a while.
HH: How do you enjoy spending your time away from Heschel?
GA: I the spring and summer, I play soccer weekly in a league, and I do a lot of fishing. I live in Whitby and my favourite spot to fish is Port Perry or Cobourg, anywhere in the east end. Sometimes my wife and two daughters, who are 15 and 21, come with, although the older one doesn’t like it anymore. I keep the fish if they’re big enough and throw back the small ones. My last big catch was in Bowmanville. I aspire to buy a small boat to be able to fish from the water.
HH: Describe yourself in three words.
GA: Fun; easy to talk to; busy.
HH: What is your favourite type of music?
GA: I was born in Kingston, Jamaica and came to Canada in 1993. My favourite music is reggae and jungle (which is a cross between reggae and electronic music).
HH: What is the best advice you have ever received?
GA: Moshe Elkayam, one of our old Judaics teacher, told me to never take anything personally in this business. I think that was good advice. You’ve got to take everything lightly and not take it personally.
HH: Who is your hero?
GA: My dad. He taught me the carpentry trade and he taught me construction. Most of the stuff I know now, other than the IT stuff, I owe to him.
HH: Thanks for your time, Greg, and for all that you contribute to Heschel’s operations!
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.Browse Column Archive