I am Tom Kertes. I live in Queen Charlotte, Haida Gwaii with my husband Ron. Haida Gwaii is the traditional and unceded territory of the Haida Nation.
I teach high school at a public school in British Columbia. Before moving to Haida Gwaii (in 2015) I was an Early Childhood Educator at the University of British Columbia. I also taught community college at Seneca College in Toronto and was a Policy Advisor at Ontario’s self-regulatory College of Early Childhood Educators.
I am passionate about literacy and youth empowerment through education. Having worked in media and communications I know the value of storytelling and narrative. I have witnessed the power of people working together to tell their own stories, to be heard and to gain the attention and respect that everyone deserves and is entitled to. Education should empower the learner to transform their world and to be an active force for good in their community.
Prior to becoming a public school teacher I was a labour organizer and messaging specialist — with a focus on grassroots organizing and media mobilization. I have worked with the Toronto and York Region Labour Council as a communications consultant, the United Workers Association and the Liberation Learning Project as a community organizer, and in television and Internet video production for Biz Kids Productions, IWT News and ImagineTree Consulting.
As a labour organizer I helped develop and coordinate two grassroots labour campaigns. The first campaign organized day labourers in Baltimore, Maryland and demanded a living wage for the cleaners at the publicly owned Camden Yards baseball stadium. Workers achieved their demand in 2007, following a nearly four-year effort by the cleaners of the stadium that culminated in a planned hunger strike by 14 cleaners and allies. The strike was called off on the eve of the worker-imposed deadline, when Maryland’s then governor Martin O’Malley agreed to their demands.
The second campaign organized Early Childhood Educators at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Working with the BCGEU union, which represented UBC child care staff, I helped develop and coordinate a campaign for gender equitable wages. Educators demanded at least $20 per hour, which represented a nearly 20% “pay correction” that would reflect the qualifications, responsibilities and value of the almost all woman workforce.
I am a dual Canadian-US citizen. I moved to Canada in 2007 in opposition to the invasion of Iraq and the practice of torture by the United States government under the second George Bush administration. I was born in Ellensburg, Washington (on the traditional lands of the Kittitas Band – which is now part of the Yakama Nation). I have lived in Cheney, Bremerton, Olympia, Seattle, Baltimore, Toronto, Vancouver and Queen Charlotte.