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Interview with JICS Parents Association President Beth Corcoran

The dedicated volunteer and mom-of-two discusses her work within the JICS community and why the new Endowment Fund is so important for the school

October 24, 2018

By Kaitlyn Balkovec

Watch: Beth Corcoran talks about her experience as a JICS volunteer and why she chooses to give back.

Read the transcript below for a written version of the interview:

The Parents Association of JICS is led by the P.A. Executive. How does the P.A. Executive contribute to the JICS community?

The P.A. executive takes a leadership role in organizing two facets of areas of contribution. The first is community engagement. For example, every new family coming to this school, every new nursery family, and every family starting in an upper year grade is assigned what we call a new family buddy. The new family buddy is a volunteer parent from our parent community. We organize that particular program through our volunteer coordinators, who are on the P.A. Executive. We also host a social every fall for all the parents in the school. We have classroom representatives who are volunteer parents that help build the community within the classroom, which is really essential.

The second facet is around fundraising. We facilitate fundraising within our parent community to support our broad mandate. As a registered charity, we have a constitution and a broad mandate which is to augment the educational experience for the children at the school through a variety of things: programs, resources, materials, etc. We have an extremely generous parent community, and through fundraising we are able to support the school in a number of different ways. We have classroom grants, where we give a certain amount of money to every specialty teacher and every classroom teacher every year. In addition to that, we make larger purchases in consultation with the school and parent community to ensure that we are creating opportunities that are important to the school.

Why do you choose to give your time, talent and expertise to the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study at OISE?

There are two reasons why I contribute. One is I really deeply believe in the mission, the vision, and the public purpose of the school. Consequently, I feel very proud to be contributing my time to JICS. The second thing is that I’ve chosen right now to contribute to charitable initiatives that are primarily related to my children.

JICS is ranked as the #1 Lab School in the World. What is unique about the student experience at JICS? 

I believe there are several things in what I have seen as a parent that make it such an exceptional experience. Certainly, the deep sense of inquiry that is embedded into the curriculum, I believe is really enriching. I’ve observed it as a parent in the classroom when I’ve gone to volunteer, and I see what I believe is the outcome of that with my children all over the place.

When I say inquiry, I mean an opportunity to truly experience the concepts that they are learning, beyond reading about them. Experiencing the Cedarvale Ravine in nature, experiencing holding an insect in their hands, and really getting to dive deeply into the concepts that they are learning.

The other thing that I think is really unique and special is the whole notion of security within the classroom. Ensuring that students feel safe and comfortable to facilitate this really wonderful learning. The exploration in terms of mindfulness and yoga, the opportunity to deeply talk about feelings, I believe are all building psychological capital for every child. When I say psychological capital, I’m talking about the notion of hope, optimism, resilience, and a high level of self-efficacy, and the belief that they can achieve their goals. That, along with a higher level of self-awareness is essential for their healthy growth and development.

The newly established Endowment Fund will allow JICS to provide financial assistance to students in early years to graduation. Why is the endowment fund important?

This fund is going to increase socio-economic diversity across the school, touching all students from nursery to grade six. I believe it’s really essential for several reasons. Certainly, there is a moral imperative to create greater opportunities and spaces within the school to have more students come from different communities and parts of Toronto.

I know that the work at JICS and OISE is reaching every school in Ontario and beyond, so that outreach is wonderful. This is yet another way that we can bring more individuals into the fold of the school. Every student, every teacher, every parent, all of us will benefit because we know that increasing diversity in any setting—a school, an organization—makes things more enriching.

Make a donation to support the Endowment Fund.