Over 100 of Toronto's youngest teachers celebrated

TORONTO, June 4, 2014 /CNW/ - Toronto's youngest educators were celebrated at St. Lawrence Hall today, adding to the alumni who have volunteered over the past 18 years to bring Roots of Empathy to 45,000 elementary students in Toronto.

Seventy-five babies joined in today's celebration, hosted by Farah Nasser, Anchor/Reporter for CP24. "I've learned a lot from my son," she said in her opening remarks. "I've learned things like empathy. I've learned how to treat people. I've learned about how each one of us is so different – all that from a tiny little human and he's only 15 months old. I can totally understand what Roots of Empathy is all about."

Mary Gordon, Founder/President of Roots of Empathy, was present to thank the babies, their parents, Instructors and Mentors who conduct the programs, as well as educators and administrators from the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), corporate sponsors, agencies supporting program delivery and representatives from the government, all of whom make the Roots of Empathy program possible through their partnership and support. Also recognized were Instructors who have been involved in the Roots of Empathy program for 5, 10, and even 15 years.

"I've always said that Roots of Empathy has been the highlight of my professional experience," said Shauna Gray, honoured for her ten years of program delivery. "Not only has it been an honour to help students develop their emotional literacy and empathy, but its impact on me personally has been greatly appreciated by my family!"

Over a dozen years of national and international research has revealed consistent results from Canada's most established bullying prevention program: lower aggression, including bullying, increased social and emotional understanding and increased prosocial behaviours. These changes in individual students have contributed to better learning environments and better learning outcomes for the children who have participated in the program.

 "We take pride in our focus on high academic achievement, but you can't get there without the care," Donna Quan, Director of Education for TDSB noted. "Roots of Empathy brings that to the table – it builds the care, self-regulation and perceptiveness required for students to make the most of their academic experience. We look forward to a day when Roots of Empathy is in every TDSB school, and available to every student." The Toronto District School Board is not only the longest supporter of the program, but offers the most programs of any school board in the 11 countries now offering Roots of Empathy.

Four students from a Grade 7 class at Market Lane Junior and Senior Public School then shared their experiences of the program, including Joseph, "I didn't know how the students would change so dramatically. I did some thinking about it, and I noticed that it was called Roots of Empathy for a reason. Mary Gordon called it Roots of Empathy because the roots are the start of the growth of the tree, and it is what keeps it together. This program brings us together in a wonderful, empathetic way."

"Students around the world share similar sentiments after participating in a Roots of Empathy program, but I am proud that TDSB continues to make Roots of Empathy a complement to its Character Development, Caring and Safe Schools, and Mental Health & Well-Being strategies," said Mary Gordon. "It's indicative of the kind of leadership and innovation that makes Canada a world leader in education."

The relationship has also lead to the creation of the Roots of Empathy Centre of Excellence, a partnership with TDSB that provides a laboratory for developing new concepts, measuring impact, and showcasing best practice – a beacon for visitors from across the Ontario, Canada and the world.

Offered in every Canadian province in English and French, in urban, rural and First Nations communities, Roots of Empathy has expanded to reach more than 600,000 children on three continents. Yet our origins remain here in Toronto, and today we celebrate our youngest citizens for building a peaceful, caring and civil society right here at home, through the development of empathy in children and adults.

More photos available here.

Mary Gordon is a member of the Order of Canada, and in 2011 was named as Canada's top social innovator by the national Manning Innovation Awards. One of Canada's first two Ashoka Fellows and an Ashoka Globalizer, she was a featured speaker representing 50 of the world's leading social entrepreneurs at Ireland's ChangeNation in 2012, and has was recently asked to share her expertise with the United Nations as part of its 2015 Millenium Development Goals for Education.

Image with caption: "Roots of Empathy mom Mandisa and son Nile make a new friend at Toronto's 18th Baby Celebration (CNW Group/Roots of Empathy)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20140604_C1501_PHOTO_EN_2492.jpg

SOURCE: Roots of Empathy

For further information: visit our online media kit or contact: Lisa Conway, Manager, Communications, B: 416-204-7884, M: 905-505-2094, lconway@rootsofempathy.org; Jen Brailsford, Communications Coordinator, B: 416- 204-7887, M: 416-895-2308, jbrailsford@rootsofempathy.org

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