Shirley BellPresident KPR ETFO Local
Shirley's Story :
Today some may see me as direct, honest, and confident and compassionate. But I was not always that way. I was the day dreamer, the child/teen who was quiet in class but social and happy to please. To be nominated to the Inspire Project has been humbling and did induce a few tears of pride. It has also been cause to pause and reflect on my path and journey. For me, each life experience gives me more and adds to who I am. But I can pinpoint a couple common threads that have shaped me; family and Union.
I have always had the love and support of family and friends. My family immigrated to Canada when I was 3. We left behind a very large extended family and joined a very small extended family in Canada. I was fortunate to have had my dad (long passed), and currently a mom and her partner who love and support me, my sister is always there when I need her, my friends are in my corner encouraging me and my husband and my daughters have been my biggest cheerleaders. My family and friends have pushed me along, encouraged me to take risks and provide unwavering support!
Fresh out of college, one of my first jobs was at a local women’s shelter, I started to find my voice and my confidence as I supported women in finding theirs. I got involved in the union and after a few years became President of the local and had to learn how to advocate for others in a new way. I was developing new skills, and learning to speak for my peers and work as a team.
After 15 years, with two girls, 7 and 10 at the time, and a partner, I decided to return to school full time. I decided that education was a path I wanted to explore. I pushed hard to get through school, completing 5 years in 4 and found myself getting involved in the Con-Ed Student Association in both under-grad and post grad programs, still finding my voice and my place while representing others.
In 2006 I started my career as a teacher. By my second year found myself getting involved in the union. My experience at the shelter stayed with me and shaped who I am as a teacher and leader. I knew relationships were important but here is where I truly started to value and appreciate the importance of relationships and listening when advocating. How important it was to have trust and honesty when speaking for myself or others.
Today, I am a still a union leader. I am a survivor, a fighter, passionate and tenacious. My daughters have told me that I inspire them. My friends have told me that I am a role model but the truth is I am inspired by the people in my life and the people that I have the privilege to represent – that is what motivates and drives me every day. My family and my union have guided my path and given me the power to discover who I am and the confidence to be me, a strong confident woman.