This pair of Toronto teachers is handing out Pride masks to their entire kindergarten class
"We celebrate diversity: Pride, Asian Heritage Month, Ramadan, we try to be as inclusive as possible," says Sheena McGuire, an early childhood educator for the class.
Teaching virtually this year, teacher Susan Johnson had come up with the idea when brainstorming ways to celebrate PRIDE and other activities planned for next month. But a shortage of fabric had prompted them to reach out to community groups for donations.
"Both of us have spent a lot of money virtually teaching because we weren't really given a budget," said McGuire. "So I said let's see if we can source some out for free."
After Johnson and McGuire posted about the fabric in community Facebook groups, they had a few neighbours who offered to send them money to buy fabric, or offered to give them different types of rainbow fabric.
It was on the Hillcrest Village, Humewood and Wychwood community Facebook group page that Shannan Davis, owner of the Toronto-based mask-making business Sweet Adaline, saw their post and reached out to offer to make the masks for free.
"I had a tonne of rainbow fabric. I figured these teachers are doing enough already," said Davis, a working mom and McGuire’s neighbour. "So I just sent her a message and said, 'I have the fabric and the skills, and I would love to just make them for you.'"
With a background in sewing in the theatre and film industry, Davis started out making masks at the beginning of the pandemic as donations for people like seniors and frontline workers in the community.
Based in the St.Clair West Village, she saw a rising demand for customized masks that required many types of fabrics and layers.
"They have become more of a way to help people express more of their individualism and to express their personality," Davis says.
Teaching a virtual class made up of students from 14 schools across the city, Johnson wanted to give her students something to remember them by after the school year.
"I knew that masks were something that students were going to need, especially if they're going back to school in person next year," says Johnson.
"It was a nice way to bring together a bunch of different themes all at the same time."
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