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This Pickering teacher always puts others first

Peter Morgulis, current high school teacher at Pickering High School (PHS), uses his life experiences and hardships to positively impact those around him, especially his students.

“It’s the best job I’ve ever had because it doesn’t feel like work and it’s rewarding beyond my wildest expectations,” said Morgulis.

Morgulis teaches business, finance and entrepreneurship at PHS.

In March of last year, Morgulis fell off a horse while riding, broke his back in three places, compressed the vertebrae in his neck, sprained both wrists, injured his left shoulder, and damaged his right hip. Despite this he didn’t want to give up on his students and taught virtually from his bed at home while recovering.

Sixteen years ago, in 2005, right before he started getting his teaching degree at University of Toronto, Morgulis lost his mom to cancer and then lost his home, friends, wife, and kids to a divorce and was let go from his job – all in the span of one year.

“At that time, I really didn’t have much to live for, I’m just being honest,” said Morgulis. He knew he couldn’t give up and he had to appreciate what he had. He had to look long-term, which for him meant teaching.

He was determined to find a job once he set his mind to becoming a teacher. Morgulis handed out over 90 resumes and cover letters but he didn’t get one interview.

“That took a lot to get through, graduating in 2006, it was a horrible job market for teachers,” he said. “There was an oversupply of teachers and very few openings.”

His determination paid off once he got his job at Pickering High School.

Morgulis began his first-full time teaching job on Jan. 29, 2009. He knew he couldn’t fail his students and always wanted to be there for them.

He now looks at his students as “clients” and tries to connect and adapt with each individual’s learning style.

“If the student isn’t in a place where they’re able to learn, curriculum is meaningless,” said Morgulis.

His students speak highly of him.

“He cares, he goes that extra step to find out who you are so that you can do assignments and stuff that are relatable to yourself and that you’re actually going to want to do,” said Kirsten Thompson, a former student.

Thompson had Morgulis for her grade nine business class and it set the tone for her high school experience. She still remembers one of the main assignments in this class and all the life lessons Morgulis shared. She describes him as “inspirational” towards all his students.

“His approach to everything made you feel important,” Thompson said.

Thompson and Morgulis keep in contact to this day. They check up on each other and are connected through social media.

“He always puts other people first,” said Hannah Morgulis, Peter’s daughter.

Hannah went through many struggles in her own life that her dad helped her through, specifically in Grade 8 when she was struggling with mental health issues. She was being bullied at school and her dad supported her.

“He was the one who took me to the hospital in North York and sat with me the entire time,” Hannah said.

Peter made sure he brought Hannah her schoolwork, checked up on her, and put her health before his own. Hannah describes him as a “give the shirt off his back” type of man.

Morgulis believes he is a work in progress and always has room to improve as a teacher. He wants to be vulnerable with his students and constantly change and improve who he is.

“They’ll forget what you did, but students will never forget how you made them feel and I always want to honour that by never creating a situation where a student doesn’t feel positive about themselves,” said Morgulis.