Visitors to our school are no stranger to the smiling face of Karen Turack in our school office. The Heschel Hive took some time to get to know Karen a little better!
Heschel Hive (HH): Karen, how long have you been at The Toronto Heschel School, and where were you prior to this role?
Karen Turack (KT): I joined The Toronto Heschel School at the end of August in 2021. Prior to The Toronto Heschel School, I was the General Manager of the Miles Nadal JCC at Bloor and Spadina for 14 years. Then COVID hit and we had to close everything down. I was anxious to find a job in the Jewish community, as I had worked closely on a few projects with the UJA, and was thrilled to join the Toronto Heschel community.
HH: Tell us about your main responsibilities as Heschel’s Coordinator of Student Services and COVID Administrator.
KT: When we were strongly into COVID, I worked with the school’s medical committee, the Head of School, and the Director of Business Operations to administrate COVID policies and procedures, and also worked very closely with school parents. Now that we’re entering a new phase, we are still watching COVID and the viruses and respiratory infections going around. It’s not as intense as it was before, but I still work with Toronto Public Health, watching the guidelines, policies, and procedures, and receiving guidance from our devoted COVID-19 medical committee
On a day-to-day basis, I maintain and update the student database. The school implemented Parent Locker almost 2 years ago, so I work very closely with the Parent Locker team, ensuring that the whole faculty at The Toronto Heschel School understands and works on the database.
I’m in charge of all the attendance this year on the Safe Arrival program and maintain and oversee all of the attendance reporting every day. I call parents if an absence is not reported to the office or teachers, ensuring we have a safe arrival at the school. I also oversee the bookings and coordinating of all school trips and bussing, and all the extracurricular activities in the school. I deal with a lot of different projects on a daily basis.
HH: What do you enjoy most about your role?
KT: I love working with the students, watching them grow and mature throughout the year. I want to make sure that students feel that Heschel is a place where they belong and that they’re very comfortable. This is their second home, a home away from home, and that’s one of my main roles, I feel, as a student coordinator. Last year, before the end of the school year, students would tell me what overnight camps they would be going to, and some kids even sent me letters, which made my day!
HH: Did you write them back?
KT: Yes, I always write back and look forward to seeing them again in the Fall.
I like working with the families, too, from parents to grandparents. I’m a strong believer in providing good customer service. I’m there for the families at all times, ensuring they feel that the children are in a safe environment. I connect them to any teacher or member of the leadership team that they require on almost a daily basis.
HH: What would you say is your biggest challenge here?
KT: The biggest challenge is having the phone ring and having the students asking you questions or requiring first aid and not being able to attend to both at one time; I’m always multitasking. I always put the students’ needs first and foremost.
HH: Tell us a bit about your family.
KT: I’m a proud grandmother of four grandchildren, ranging from 4 to 15. We just celebrated two Bat Mitzvahs in the last year-and-a-half, and I shepped nachas through them, it was amazing!
I also love animals – I have always had a dog. At one point I had two dogs and a cat. Now I have one dog and my son has another dog. We call my dog the auntie of my son’s dog – “This is Auntie Casie!”
HH: Are they actually related?
KT: Not at all. Casie’s a little white Havanese, and Luna is a cockapoo!
I love when anybody brings their dog into school. In fact, I have a picture of me holding Monty, one of our families’ dog, while the parents attended a meeting at the school.
I also have horses in my background; I was an equestrian and did show jumping! In fact, my first teaching role was teaching horseback riding at camp.
I have shared my love for animals and my past as an equestrian with some of the students here and they share stories about animals with me, too.
HH: We assume you’re not show jumping anymore! So what types of activities do you like to do when you’re not at school?
KT: I have a little townhouse with a small backyard and I do a lot of gardening.
I also love any sporting event. My favourite is the Raptors—I’m the biggest fan—and I don’t miss any of the Raptors games. I was very excited when they won the championship. I’m also a fan of the Leafs and the Blue Jays. My husband and I go to as many games as possible. In fact, this Saturday night we’re going to see the Leafs.
I’m not a big TV watcher, but every single night, Jeopardy goes on at 7:30. We really love Jeopardy!
I love swimming and I swim as much as I can. I was very involved in working with the UJA to ensure the Schwartz-Reisman Community Centre pool was saltwater. Restructuring the pool at the Miles Nadal JCC was one of the biggest achievements in my career.
I do have an Aquatics Management degree, so I love swimming, boating, and anything to do with water.
HH: Interesting! Tell us more about your education and previous career.
KT: I have a Masters of Early Childhood Education, and expanded my career working in community centres. One of the things that I really was proud of throughout my career was when I was working for the City of Vaughan, I was selected to be on York Region’s steering committee for the Ontario Early Years. I worked directly with the Ministry of Child Services, Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Education to work through Fraser Mustard’s Vision to identify EarlyON.
I feel working at the school brings my career full circle. My role at Heschel is a combination of my education, my background, and my administration experience.
HH: Switching gears and just for fun, tell us what is the most used app on your phone?
KT: The Starbucks and Tim Hortons apps are used almost daily! (laughs) I’m a big coffee lover. And the weather app.
HH: If you could go away on holiday anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
KT: My husband and I love Aruba. It’s our favourite place, and we’ve been there many times. Why? It has a long beach, white sand, and turquoise water.
We also would love to go on another Mediterranean cruise, where you visit many places. We hope to go on a 14-day cruise some day soon. We woke up every day and looked out from our balcony to see – where are we today? It was amazing, I really loved Italy and Spain.
HH: It’s been great getting to know you better, Karen. Thanks for your time!
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