About Tom Kertes

Tom KErtes

I have taught children, youth, and adults of all ages for over fifteen years, including preschoolers and kindergarteners, elementary and middle school students, high school students, and adult students. I was an instructor of Early Childhood Education at Seneca College in Toronto and was a keynote and workshop presenter for the Liberation Learning Project in Vancouver.

I use the same approaches for teaching all ages – from toddlers to adults. These approaches are grounded in my belief that education matters because education help makes you more a powerful person. Learning is both a reflection of and an expansion of human capacity and dignity.

In teaching, I apply the theories of Lev Vygotsky – especially in terms of recognizing learning as a social process that supports development. I agree with Vygotsky that through learning human potential expands. This means learning causes human power to increase. Through learning both the ability to act in the world (to achieve goals) and the ability to be co-recognized in dignity (to be fully human) increases. This is how human power expands, grows, deepens, and increases.

Before I became a teacher I was a community organizer with the poor people’s movement to end poverty. I worked with a network of community organizations that are committed to securing everyone’s economic human rights by advancing the values of respect, dignity, and the sanctity of human life. This work was faith-based and was centred on the belief that human life is sacred. We organized around our shared belief in the universal nature of human dignity. In this work I applied the power of narrative to draw attention to, and ultimately to change, the working conditions of low-wage work. I worked mostly in communications, public policy, politics, and media.

I helped organize a living wages campaign at Baltimore’s Camden Yards from 2005 to 2009. After three years of organizing for better working conditions, stadium clean-up workers announced that they would start a hunger strike on Labour Day 2007 – unless the publicly-owned stadium agreed to a living wage for all of the cleaners. On the eve of this worker-imposed deadline, Maryland’s governor announced that the demands would be met. The hunger strike was called off.

Wages are now pegged to the state’s living wage law. Once the living wages were secured, the stadium cleaners were unionized. I helped lead this process and was in charge of the union-drive campaign. This campaign demonstrated how temporary workers could effectively organize outside of the collective bargainging process, make major gains, and institutionalize those gains through unionization.

I was also a community organizer with the Liberation Learning Project in Vancouver. The project helped organize the Child Care Equity Campaign at UBC, calling for gender equitable wages and a 20% “wage correction” for early childhood educators at UBC. The target date for achieving the pay correction was by International Women’s Day 2012. The already unionized child care professionals at UBC (members of the BCGEU) successfully met this goal by uniting educators, families, and the labour movement around pay equity for early childhood educators.

The 20% pay correction that came out of this campaign marked an historic accomplishment, especially since the provincial mandate for that round of bargaining was “Net Zero”, meaning that the provincial government decreed zero pay increases for all public sectors workers at the time.

Other experience includes work in public relations and media production. I worked as a communications consultant with Save-a-Pet, the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, IWT/Real News Network, and Biz Kids Productions. I helped produce viral videos viewed by tens of millions. I wrote op-eds published in the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail and organized media events covered by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, CNN, ABC News, and CBC News. I was Policy and Communications Advisor for Ontario’s self-regulatory College of Early Childhood Educators. I was an AIDS activist in my early twenties and fought for lesbian, gay, bi, and trans rights as a member of ACT UP and Queer Nation.


View my current resume for more information.