Kimiko Shibata is the recipient of this year's Leading Women, Leading Girls - Building Communities Recognition Award. The award recognizes women of Kitchener-Waterloo who have demonstrated exceptional community leadership to improve the lives of others.
Shibata is a multilingual teacher with the Waterloo Region District School Board.
While she has continued to teach during the pandemic, she said it has been challenging because several students continue to do remote learning. Besides helping other MLL's in the region teach, she also helps new families in Waterloo Region with their needs. They also do food support for families when they first come to Canada.
"The part I love the most is working directly with kids and families. We do assessments with students and co-planning with teachers and help them support students in classrooms."
Shibata said the help given to new families was not done alone. The community and community organizations have also played a vital role in ensuring these new students and their families have support.
"Food for kids' organizations to see all the drops off of clothing and food, books, and art supplies have been a big help."
"If someone has an empty tummy or doesn't have appropriate clothing, is it hard to get them to focus on doing their math when they are starving."
That is why it takes a village to help. School settlement workers have also assisted Shibata in providing for these students.
"They have been a lifeline and, MLL teachers have been a lifeline to so many struggling families throughout this pandemic. It helps to keep those lines of connection open. Having interpreters helps us go above and beyond to reach our more challenging-to-reach families." she said.
She added winning an award like this does give recognition to the work that they are doing.
"The support we are providing for students and families I think that is important that it gets out there and to know that there are supports in our community."
"Seeing all the people nominated for the award, we are leading with love, and we are digging down deep in tough, challenging times with limited resources. Yet, we are finding the motivation to keep going on because we love what we do. It was humbling to see," she added.
Shibata said it is also important for young girls to be able to look up and see someone who is doing good work in their community.