Education grad celebrated for leadership in Ontario schools

In the span of 24 years, Manny Figueiredo (MEd ’01) has made significant contributions to publicly-funded education in Ontario.

His leadership and achievements were acknowledged during Brock University’s Homecoming by receiving the Faculty of Education Distinguished Graduate Award at the Sept. 21 Alumni Recognition Reception.

“I am humbled and grateful to be honoured with this award on behalf of my family, public education and my community,” said Figueiredo.

Now serving as the Director of Education with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB), he has also worked directly in the classroom and in administrative roles.

In each role, Figueiredo has been steadfast in his dedication to improving student outcomes, whether it’s spearheading efforts to improve literacy rates, coaching a girls basketball team to two championship victories or piloting a large board through complex change.

Figueiredo started his career as a teacher for the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) before moving to the Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB).

During his first year of teaching, Figueiredo was encouraged by a mentor to pursue leadership opportunities and a graduate degree. He completed a Bachelor of Physical Education at McMaster University and a Bachelor of Education at York University before starting his Master of Education at Brock in 1997. He chose Brock because of the option to focus his studies on leadership and the flexibility it offered him as a full-time teacher working outside of the Niagara region.

“I actually enjoyed doing it as a mature student working and doing it part-time because you were bringing relevant experiences,” said Figueiredo.

Figueiredo studied part-time while getting married, buying his first home and celebrating the birth of his first child. His second child was born just days after he graduated from the program in 2001.

“The Brock program actually was instrumental in helping me take that next step in my career,” said Figueiredo.

He joined the HWDSB in 2002, taking on the role of Vice-Principal at Cardinal Heights Middle School before becoming Principal at Guy B. Brown Elementary School, Memorial Elementary School and Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School.

Figueiredo then spent a total of six years as a Superintendent, both with the HWDSB and the WCDSB, before moving into his current role in 2015.

He says the lessons he learned at Brock continue to shape his work today.

“In this current role,” said Figueiredo, “I’ve realized you’re not just the leader of the school board. You’re a leader within the broader community to support outcomes for all.”

Michael Owen, Dean of the Faculty of Education, says that Figueiredo’s ability to make an impact can be attributed to his focus on student learning.

“[Figueiredo] promotes ways to improve academic, social-emotion, physical and civic learning outcomes for students,” said Owen. “We are proud to have been a part of his growth as an educator and administrator.”

Figueiredo’s own family history has made him aware that each student goes to school with unique challenges. His parents, who immigrated to Canada to escape extreme poverty, didn’t have the opportunity to pursue education beyond Grade 3. His approach to his work is grounded in the belief that we have a responsibility to use our privilege to create opportunities for others.

“Sometimes, having the right opportunity is the only difference between someone succeeding and someone not succeeding.”

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