People for Education is a unique organization in Canada: independent, non-partisan, and fuelled by a belief in the power and promise of public education. We create evidence, instigate dialogue, and build links so that people can see — and act on — the connection between public education and a fair and prosperous society.
Office & Operations Manager
Ruvani is the Office & Operations Manager at PFE. With over 25 years of experience, many in the non-profit sector, Ruvani has been a key player in developing and implementing Administrative systems and procedures. She specializes in Office Management in small and large non-profits in the sector and has worked for the Employers Federation in Fiji, Commonwealth of Learning in Vancouver and Springboard in Toronto.
Ruvani is responsible for HR, IT, Finance & Accounting and Office Operations. She has a major in Information Technology and Web programming as well as a diploma in Computerized Business Marketing & Sales.
Ruvani is a firm believer in a team which supports initiatives for positive change in the education space and has a longstanding personal commitment to education-based organizations.
Kate Blair manages People for Education’s Future of Public Education initiative. Kate’s commitment to evidence-based decision making and passion for exploring themes related to access, retention and opportunities for lifelong learning have guided her career. Now working at the nexus of research, project management, and stakeholder engagement, Kate’s efforts focus on designing and ensuring the successful implementation of PFE’s multi-year national initiative.
In her previous roles with the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) and the Evaluation Centre for Complex Health Interventions (TECCHI), Kate honed her research, evaluation and coordination skills. In these spaces, Kate identified and assessed programs in place to support access to education and healthcare for underrepresented groups, explored challenges to program implementation, and identified opportunities for ongoing program development in both sectors.
Kate holds a Master’s degree from the University of Western Ontario where her thesis focused on the educational transitions of d/Deaf youth in Ontario.
Summer Cowley is Research Manager of the Annual Ontario School Survey at People for Education. Summer is a full-time PhD candidate at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. Her SSHRC-funded research in her doctoral program focuses on educational and career pathways of university presidents in Canada and the United States.
Outside of her graduate schooling, Summer’s work in education in the last decade has been aimed at primary, secondary, and post-secondary education. Having worked as an Early Childhood Educator, English as a Second Language instructor in the college/university sector, and in Math and English education for students in K-12, Summer has been engaged in education across many contexts. These diverse experiences, along with her work experience in education publishing, give Summer a broad perspective on the many facets of education.
Annie Kidder is the Executive Director and a founder of People for Education. Formerly a theatre director, Kidder became involved in public education in Ontario in the late 1990’s and since then has become an expert on education policy and funding. She regularly provides advice to policy-makers and government, and her writing on education has been published in a range of media. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Ontario Principals’ Council 2004 Outstanding Contribution to Education Award, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation 2005 Public Education Advocacy Award, and in 2018, an honourary doctorate from York University. She has spoken at conferences in Canada, the United States, Europe, Africa and South America. She is regularly quoted in the media as an expert on education issues. She lives in Toronto.
Asia (Joanna) is an educator and researcher who completed her Masters of Teaching at OISE at the University of Toronto. Her research focused on language curriculum and policy related to Indigenous language revitalization and immersion programs. She believes in the power of language learning as a tool for intercultural understanding and flexible thinking, particularly in 21st century learning. Through her love of languages, she also studied French-English translation and spent two years in France teaching English as a foreign language.
Research Program Director
Eloise is the Research Program Director at People for Education. Intersectionality, equity, and inclusion are central to how she approaches education research, policy, and stakeholder engagement. She has worked as a senior policy advisor, education developer, lecturer, and equity educator. She has led research and stakeholder engagement initiatives in K-12 and postsecondary education in Canada and Ireland. She earned her PhD in Educational Studies from McGill University and received the David Bateson New Scholar Award for excellence in qualitative research from the Canadian Education Research Association.
Elyse K. Watkins
Policy and Research Manager
Elyse K. Watkins is the Policy and Research Manager at People for Education. She has dedicated much of her professional life to working with both national and provincial governing bodies to enhance public education. Her research interests include policy advocacy, skill development, the right to education and equity.
Her prior experiences encompass both K-12 and post-secondary education, where she led numerous projects on the assessment of student learning outcomes and improving access to quality education.
Elyse earned her Master’s Degree in International Education Policy from the Harvard University and holds a Bachelor of Health Sciences (Honours) from McMaster University. She is currently completing her Doctor of Education in International Educational Leadership and Policy at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto.
Administrative and Communications Coordinator
Danielle is the Administrative and Communications Coordinator at People for Education. She is a Special Event Management graduate and has earned experience through her internships, both of which were in the non-profit sector. Through these internships, Danielle has gained hands-on experience with marketing, communications, and events. She is well-versed in creative platforms and has created annual reports, website mock-ups, blog posts, and other digital marketing collateral in her previous roles as an intern.
Danielle strongly believes in keeping the arts & culture alive in the education system and strives to help create a colourful future for newer generations.
Carina graduated with an Honours BA from Western University in 2018. During her four years at Wester, Carina served as the president of Arts and Humanities Faculty Student’s Council, held the position of Gender Equality Network for the University Students’ Council (USC) of Western University, and worked on multiple gender-equity projects in the London community. In her fourth year, Carina campaigned and was elected as the USC Student Programs Officer for 2018/19. In this full-time position, Carina worked to address and prevent gender-based violence on campus, and to elevate the voice and integration of women in politics through various campaigns. For Western’s Orientation Week, Carina developed an original campaign to address sexual violence and educate Western’s incoming class about consent. As a capstone to her work at the USC, Carina developed and executed a successful pilot project to collect data about the viability of providing free menstrual products permanently in campus washrooms. Carina is currently pursuing a Master of Public Policy at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.
Gerry Connelly is the former Director of Education, Toronto District School Board and Director of Curriculum and Assessment Policy Branch in the Ontario Ministry of Education.
She is an adjunct professor at York University and has also served as Special Advisor – Education for the Learning Partnership and as Vice Chair of the Education, Quality and Accountability Organization (EQAO).
Gerry’s career includes teaching and administration in both rural and urban environments in Alberta, the Northwest Territories, the United States and Ontario, at both the secondary and post-secondary levels. She has worked in South Africa, China and Estonia providing advice on inclusive schools, teaching and learning, curriculum development and second language learning.
Gerry served on several boards including WE Charity, the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, Humber College, EQAO, Jump Math and ALPHA Education. She co-chaired the Sustainability and Education Academy which provide leadership training and support both nationally and internationally in the area of Education for Sustainable Development.
Gerry is the recipient of many awards including the Distinguished Educator Award from OISE/University of Toronto, the Government of Ontario Teacher Dedication Award by the Royal Conservatory of Music, Learning Through the Arts, the Ontario Supervisory Officers provincial award for Leadership in Public Education. Several other awards have acknowledged her commitment to equity, and community engagement. These include the City of Toronto Bob Marley Award, the Fraser Mustard Award and the University of Toronto Arbor Award. She is recipient of the Science Teacher of the Year Award, Lifetime Achievement Award as a Leader in Science and Phi Delta Kappan/UToronto Outstanding Educator Award.
Kate Gatto is the National Program Director at the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative Canada, a public charitable foundation that offers a youth-led participatory grant-making program in schools across the country. With ten years of experience in the non-profit sector managing education programs locally, nationally, and globally, Kate is dedicated to empowering youth to be civically engaged leaders in their communities. She approaches this work through social justice education programming in collaboration with students, educators and community partners. Through this work, Kate has served at organizations like TakingITGlobal, IDRF, YMCA, and CAMH, and is currently a member of the Advisory Council at Rawlinson Community School.
Kate earned an M.Ed from Brock University, where she studied the social and cultural contexts of education, and completed her B.A. in English Literature at the University of Toronto. She lives in Toronto in the Corso Italia neighbourhood with her husband and daughter.
Claire’s experience spans the private and charity sectors, beginning with a 12 year career at KPMG in Toronto and the UK in audit and human resources. For over twenty years Claire’s professional training as an accountant has provided her with the opportunity to work, in a voluntary capacity, with a variety of charities and not-for-profits, in both Toronto and the UK across a variety of sectors including education, health, social services and the arts. Claire’s passion for working with these organizations led her to obtain her Masters in Charity Accounting and Financial Management at Cass Business School in London. Claire has returned to the Board of People for Education after 6 years living in the U.K. and continues to support the ongoing work and expanding reach of the organization and it’s mandate to ensure that public education is a pillar of Canadian society.
Vincent is currently leading revenue strategy and business development for a bespoke digital marketing agency in Toronto, Ontario. Prior to this, Vincent started Canada’s largest financial literacy education organization, which taught tens of thousands of students across the country about the basics of personal finance, and conducted national research on outlying gaps in Ontario’s public education curriculum. In 2017, the company was acquired for its reach across the country and Vincent joined the acquiring firm to support new user acquisition strategy. Vincent chairs the NextGen committee of People for Education’s Board of Directors, which sources feedback and perspective from young professionals on the charity’s vision and initiatives.
Helen Davies is currently Vice President Talent Management for TD Bank. Prior to moving to Canada in 2013, Helen was Vice President, Human Resources, TD Wealth International in the UK, where she led the HR, Learning, Communications, and Corporate and Social Responsibilities programs.
Helen holds a BA in Human Resources from the University of Stirling, Scotland and has a Diploma in Employment Law. She lives with her husband and their two young children in Toronto. Helen is an active contributor with ACCES employment, mentoring professionals who are new to Canada, helping them to find employment in their professional field.
Mirka Macalik says, “We are fortunate to have an independent organization working not only to guide Ontario parents through the issues in the public system, but also one who’s research on education is internationally recognized. Students need a strong foundation, People for Education is helping build it.” Mirka has been a member of the Board of Directors since 2014. After several years working in Capital Markets for various financial institutions she has been actively involved in her local community schools and more recently with People for Education.
Scott Nowlan joined the Board in 2015 and did so because he believed that “the work that PFE is doing is critical. As a strong and independent voice that provides invaluable research and priorities for policy makers and citizens, PFE must continue to be a strong advocate for public education – it is a much needed and valued voice for everyone who believes that public education is one of the pillars of our community”. Scott has three children in the public system. He has been a volunteer with other community organizations for many years. Scott is the founder and President of The Saunus Network, an Ottawa-based management consulting firm.
Alexis is Director of Health and Human Services for Sidewalk Labs and is based in the Toronto office. Most recently, Alexis worked at MaRS, North America’s largest urban innovation hub, where she lead the Centre for Impact Investing’s health practice and supported the Health Systems Innovation team.
Born and raised in Toronto, Alexis is an experienced management consultant. Alexis has first-hand experience as an entrepreneur in her role as co-founder of a Canadian employee support and education company. Alexis has also worked as a civil servant in the role of Pricing Strategy Lead for Monitor, the regulators for the National Health Service in England.
Alexis is a graduate of the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario and completed her MBA at London Business School, both with distinction. She is also a proud mother to three awesome kids. In her free time, Alexis enjoys downhill skiing, yoga, and exploring new places and cities.
The NextGeneration committee provides advice to the PFE Board of Directors on strategic issues and educational matters issues through the lens of a younger generation. As part of its mandate, the committee:
- advocates for initiatives geared at engaging a younger audience and gathering their opinions.
- provides input and feedback on fundraising activities, including ideas for broader engagement, awareness building, and how to make current events more effective.
- brings new ideas forward that work to advance the mandate of the organization.
Herleen Arora (She/Her) is a Career Educator at Ryerson University, Researcher/Consultant, and Co-Founder of Womxn Offering Wisdom. She is an Ontario Certified Teacher with a Masters of Education in Social Justice from OISE and a Bachelor of Health Sciences from Western University. Herleen has over ten years of experience in the non-profit and education sector, where she has managed and coordinated projects focusing on education, employment, and community health across the GTA.
Camille is a Franco-Ontarian student in OISE’s department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, who will be studying the inclusion of marginalized groups in French language schools in Ontario for her masters’ thesis. Her past experiences include teaching history, French, English and religion, and giving a lot of tours of Parliament. She aspires to bring positive change to our society through improving public education, and to pet as many cute dogs as possible!
Jillian is currently in the final year of her studies, completing an Honours Bachelor in Conflict Studies and Human Rights at the University of Ottawa. Passionate about advocacy and student engagement, Jillian previously held the position of Student Trustee in the Trillium Lakelands District School Board, and has participated in initiatives such as the WUSC uOttawa local committee’s sponsorship of refugee students. She is thrilled to be working with People for Education to ensure that all students are empowered within the public school system, and is looking forward to what this coming year will bring.
Brittany is an experienced community development specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the civic &social organization industry. Brittany utilizes her lived and learned experiences in the social work field to inform how she amplifies the voices from the Region of Waterloo. Currently, she works at Carizon Family and Community Services in the Pathways to Education program where she utilizes a community development approach to provide wrap around support to young people and their families. Additionally, she sits as the Chair of the Premier’s Council on Youth Opportunities and provides advice to various ministries on policy development from a youth serving lens.
Joshua Miller is an avid writer and mental health advocate focusing on youth engagement principles applied in mental health research. Having earned his BA (hons) in Arts Management at the University of Toronto, he has gone on to study in the post-graduate publishing program at Centennial College. Joshua previously led an arts-focused youth organization for almost 6 years aimed at providing a safe space for young artists struggling with mental illness or bullying. For his work in the arts and mental health he was named a Canada’s Top 20 Under 20 in 2013.
Gerri Nakirigya Lutaaya
Through her academic, professional and lived experience, Gerri has developed a spirited zest and commitment to education, particularly the power and potential among young people, and its use as a tool to spark action for social change. With a Master of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership degree from Carleton University, Gerri is committed to Nelson Mandela’s challenge that “a degree means nothing unless you go out into the community to prove yourself.” In addition to her focus on building awareness and strengthening relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, Gerri works closely with CivicAction’s Emerging Leaders Network to engage and connect rising leaders across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area. Canadian by birth with strong ties to her Ugandan heritage, Gerri belongs to the Ngonge clan within the Buganda kingdom.
Filip is a management consultant at Accenture with an interest in financial services, emerging technology, and societal governance. As a previous executive member at the Queen’s Commerce Society at Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business, and prior to that, a Student Trustee at the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, Filip has advocated for 21st century education that will prepare Canadians for a modern workforce.
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“Your presentation really informed everyone there – and helped us to focus on the key issues in a connected way – that felt grounded in both the facts and heartfelt common sense.”
– Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario
Our strategic plan
To strengthen a universal public education system that graduates all young people with the skills and competencies they need to contribute to a fair and prosperous society, and to live happy, healthy, economically secure, civically engaged lives.
Our strategic priorities
People for Education will:
- Instigate a dialogue, both in Ontario and nationally, about the purpose, value, and future of public education.
- Build links among key constituencies both inside and outside the education sector to enhance a shared understanding of goals for public education.
- Provide evidence and use research to advance public education’s promise, and to ensure that all young people have an equitable chance for long-term success.
People for Education is a registered charity. We are funded through generous donations and grants from individuals, corporations and foundations.
Thank you to the many individuals and organizations who support our work.