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Turning a New Page for a New School Year

Last updated on Friday, August 25, 2017

Manny FigueiredoBy Manny Figueiredo
Originally published in the Mountain News

For an educator, New Year’s Day is the day after Labour Day. We make a new start when the new school year begins and students return to our lives.

A new school year is a great time to take stock of our well-being. For many staff and students, summer brings relaxation and a more active lifestyle. School-year routines may be a better gauge of how well we are taking care of ourselves.

At HWDSB, we have made positive culture and well-being a top priority. We want staff and students to be the best version of themselves. We want everyone to know how to recharge, reconnect and refocus.

This year, well-being has a new place in my own back-to-school routine.

Growing up in Cambridge, I played sports and had a real love of basketball. Staying in shape was part of the culture when I studied phys-ed at McMaster University. This served me well as I became a teacher and a father of two active kids.

Years passed. As I grew professionally, I also grew several pant sizes. Moving from teaching into administration kept me closer to a desk. Meetings stretched into the evening. Meals weren’t always my own choice.

After becoming director at HWDSB, a friend asked me a sincere question.

“Manny, are you taking care of yourself?”

“Yes, sure I am,” I quipped, not giving it much thought.

My friend knew that being a director was a big challenge in terms of time, energy and lifestyle. I was 30 pounds heavier than usual; my knees and back hurt; somewhere along the way, I ignored my well-being.

That’s when I vowed to make my health a priority.

Every morning, I got up early so I wasn’t interrupted. I did intervals on my elliptical machine. I lifted weights to stay strong. I improved my diet and could almost feel my metabolism pick up speed. I felt like I was becoming a better version of myself.

Within a year, I lost 30 pounds. My joints felt better. My back didn’t hurt.

I shared this with colleagues, hoping we could all make well-being a priority. Taking care of ourselves – physically, socially, emotionally – can start small, with lunch-hour walks, a plate of veggies or time with a loved one.

Self-care is a selfless act, because it helps us help others. As we prepare for a busy school year, I hope our staff and students will make well-being a priority.

Manny Figueiredo is Director of Education at Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB).