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Jeewan Chanicka

Superintendent of Equity,
Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression

My journey to education was not a direct one. It was, in fact, a guidance counsellor – Manuela Filoso – who saw me working with students at Humber Summit MS and encouraged me to go to the Faculty of Education. So did several friends, so I went. Each day, I would think about what my role and purpose was – I wanted to make a difference in peoples’ lives. I wanted to make the world a better place.

I knew that all kids didn't have the same benefits or privileges. In fact some faced really huge barriers. I often marvelled at them. In spite of all they faced, they were there. Some days were bumpy and others good. And as their teacher, they taught me so much, especially that I should be humble and listen. I learned from them that we have to begin planning by thinking of our most underserved students first. Because when we start there, we serve all our students in the best ways possible.

My own schooling was filled with many wonderful and challenging experiences. Good teachers and a few scary ones. The ones who made me hate math and another who told me all Muslims should be rounded up and shot in the public square. Thankfully, they were not the "norm." My life journey is filled with many personal experiences, understanding conflict and immigration, poverty and homelessness, racism and islamophobia.

It is also filled with many joys and wonders – loving family, climbing volcanoes, swimming with sharks, fighting forest fires, serving the community in many ways.

Through this work, I have come to recognize my many privileges, settler privilege, middle upper-class, male privilege, able-bodied privilege, cis-gender privilege. I have my own children who face their own challenges and joys with school.

My background in the social services sphere and counselling with people from over 80 ethnocultural backgrounds has taught me a lot.

When I became a teacher- I never wanted to become a principal or a superintendent, but I was surrounded by mentors who saw more in me. Who pushed me – sometimes hard. Today, I sit in a role and I think mostly about our children and why am I here and how we can help them RISE to be their very best.

I’m here for the same reason as all educators – to make a difference in the lives of children. For some of us, we are their first or last chance. What I know is we have the ability to create and shape generations and a future that we want.

For me, this role must be something I hold myself accountable to – I have to think about my impact and not just my good intentions. I have to ask myself: are our structures or attitudes helping students or are they the actual barriers that may be causing problems we don’t want. And on top of all that, I must be committed to act, to do something. This work is about transformation and built on a belief that ALL our children deserve to be their very best and held to the highest of expectations.

So each day I come to work and think: how can I do better to serve ALL our students and communities? How can we as a system act in ways that sees the best potential of our children and help them to get there?

I believe as a senior team and as a whole system we are committed to doing this. And I believe that if we work together we can do better. We can do more for our children. Together, I believe we will change the world.

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