Top 20 Under 40 - Eric Petersiel

For Eric Petersiel “Teach the children well” is more than a song – it’s a promise

Published: February 8th 2011
in Culture » Society

Eric Petersiel

Shalom Life is proud to introduce our inaugural ”Top 20 Under 40” list. This list encompasses 20 individuals of diverse occupations and backgrounds; from businessmen and businesswomen and innovative entrepreneurs, to philanthropists, entertainers, doctors and more, the inaugural list places a spotlight on the myriad of talented, creative and passionate Jews, all under 40, who call Toronto home. Each day we'll introduce a new profile. We hope you enjoy the list and look forward to expanding it to other cities in the coming year. 


Eric Petersiel



Eric Petersiel always knew that he wanted to teach. He just wasn’t quite sure where that particular path would lead him. Early in his career, it became clear that he enjoyed teaching adults. Once he became a principal, he realized that it was the “perfect mix of engagement and modeling for children by inspiring and influencing the adults who influenced them every day.”


Petersiel is currently Head of School at Leo Baeck Day School’s two campuses- and almost 900 students.


He decided to dedicate his talents and efforts to teaching in the Jewish private school sector.


“My mission as an educator has always been to help people find themselves through education,” he explains. “In my life that has meant helping Jewish youth understand how they can make positive Jewish choices in their lives. As a private school, we have greater flexibility to explore the most exciting challenges of education. For example, I’m very proud to announce that Leo Baeck is about to be the only Jewish school in North America recognized by the prestigious International Baccalaureate Organization. That kind of flexibility is not available to public schools, which are part of large boards of education.”


Petersiel believes there are many advantages to having Jewish children attend a Hebrew educational facility.


“In a city like Toronto many parents take it for granted that surrounded by Jewish people, young Jews will simply understand what it means to be Jewish,” he explains. “But in a society where Jews are treated equally and can participate fully, many Jews take their heritage for granted. I believe that being an effective participant in a multi-cultural society means understanding one's own heritage first and foremost, in order to respect the beliefs and traditions of others.”


He adores teaching “in all of its forms” whether it’s joining basketball practices with school teams, telling stories in Kindergarten classes, helping adults explore their own understanding of the role of God in their lives, and essentially anything that allows him to share positive experiences with fellow teachers, parents, and students.


Petersiel also has a great love of history and languages. In addition to speaking English and Hebrew, he has also studied French, Spanish, Aramaic, and Syriac. He cherishes the time spent playing with his children.


When asked what profession he would chose if he wasn’t an educator, he proclaims, “In my dreams I would be a folk singer or a basketball coach.”

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