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‘Passionate educator’: Toronto councillor remembers TDSB teacher murdered in Woodbridge

The murder of a Toronto teacher is hitting close to home for North York Coun. James Pasternak, who had welcomed the educator and her class to City Hall just last month.

“We had a wonderful visit,” the York Centre-Downsview rep told CP24.com on Thursday afternoon.

“I was just shocked yesterday when I found out. … This is horrible news, especially since we just saw her a month ago.”

Early Wednesday morning, York Regional Police were called to a home in Woodbridge for reports of unknown trouble. There, officers located a woman with serious injuries. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

The victim has since been identified as 64-year-old Estella Wheeler of Vaughan.

The woman’s husband, 68-year-old Trevor Wheeler, also of Vaughan, has been charged with second-degree murder.

The Toronto District School Board has confirmed that Wheeler was a Grade 7/8 teacher at North York’s Africentric Alternative School. She’d worked for the board for just over seven years, it said in a letter sent home to parents and guardians.

In the note, Principal Hugh Reynolds described Wheeler as a “beloved” educator and a “well-known, dedicated team member,” someone who “cared for her all her students.”

The Africentric Alternative School, which is located at 1430 Sheppard Avenue West, has a special place in Pasternak’s heart as he was one of the trustees who worked to open it more than a decade ago.

Hearing that one of the teachers there has been killed is especially crushing, he told CP24.com during an interview on Thursday afternoon.

“How do we explain this loss to the children there?” he said.

“It’s just so terrible because it’s such a close-knit community. To have a member of the staff there murdered, it’s terrible.”

Pasternak took to social media on Thursday morning to share his thoughts on Wheeler’s murder.

“I am saddened by the tragic news that Estella Wheeler, a well-known teacher at the Africentric Alternative School, has succumbed to injuries allegedly caused by intimate partner violence,” he wrote.

“She was a passionate educator who was admired by students, parents, and fellow staff. I offer my sincerest condolences to her family.”

The North York councillor told CP24.com that he plans to introduce a condolence motion for Wheeler at the next Toronto City Council meeting on March 20.

Pasternak said he’s also willing to help facilitate the naming a nearby garden or a street in the area in Wheeler’s honour, if the community wants.

Estella Wheeler

Parents of students at the Africentric Alternative School were heavy-hearted this morning as they dropped their children off at class.

One mother who spoke with CP24 said that Wheeler was a dedicated teacher who devoted much of her time to after-school programs. The parent said she’s grateful to Wheeler for the weekly counselling sessions she gave her daughter.

Several people have also posted messages of condolence for Wheeler on social media.

Among other things, Wheeler, who was a mother and grandmother, was remembered as an “amazing person” and a “woman of God.”

One former student said that Wheeler was her “favourite teacher.”

“(She) was the sweetest, most kindest person to me. … and taught me so much,” they wrote.

York University has confirmed to CP24.com that Wheeler was an alumnus who graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts. The university is not commenting further at this time.

The City of Vaughan is also offering its condolences on Wheeler’s death.

“On behalf of Mayor Steven Del Duca and Members of Council, we join our community to grieve the passing of Vaughan resident and beloved teacher Estella Wheeler. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends and colleagues during this very difficult time,” a spokesperson said in a written statement provided to CP24.com.

“Any questions on the investigation should be directed to York Regional Police.”

York Regional Police said that they do not have any updates on the case at this time.