When Kimiko Shibata heard she had been selected as a winner of the 2021 Leading Women, Leading Girls – Building Communities Recognition Award, she didn’t believe it at first. Shibata is a multilingual learner (MLL) resource teacher with the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB).

“Oh no, that’s for other people,” said Shibata as she recalled the moment she learned the news. “I’m just a teacher, I think you have me mixed up with someone else.”

The Leading Women, Leading Girls – Building Communities Recognition Program acknowledges and celebrates women-identified Kitchener Centre residents who have demonstrated exceptional community leadership to improve the lives of others, and have made substantial contributions through volunteer work and is presented by Laura Mae Lindo, member of provincial parliament for Kitchener-Centre.

During a live online ceremony on October 29, Lindo helped to highlight just a few of the reasons that Shibata was recognized.

Kimiko Shibata and Laura Mae Lindo in a video call

“Kimiko is a force to be reckoned with in the community, always centring and advocating for the most marginalized and vulnerable among us,” said Lindo. “I am so, so, so pleased to be able to have you here.”

Lindo highlighted Shibata’s seemingly endless capacity to provide resources for every potential scenario, and her willingness to share every bit of knowledge she has. This became especially evident in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. When everything shut down, Shibata carried on.

So, what keeps Shibata going? She finds happiness and meaning in her efforts to collect and provide resources to colleagues and those who are part of her audience on social media.

“It brings me joy,” said Shibata. “I just have a really good sense of purpose in all of the work that I do.”

The dedication and commitment demonstrated by Shibata is rooted in the knowledge that the advocacy, resources and support she provides make a real difference to those they reach.

“It matters to educators, it matters to students, matters to families and it matters to the community,” said Shibata. “That’s powerful.”

Shibata talked about these themes during the online ceremony when Lindo asked what female leadership meant to her. She focused on the importance of leading with love, and the role of female leaders as changemakers in our world.

“It’s about centering the needs of our most vulnerable, and really listening to those we serve,” said Shibata. “I am really proud to serve and inspire the next generation of leaders as a parent, an educator and as an advocate.”

Shibata was honoured to receive a 2021 Leading Women, Leading Girls – Building Communities Recognition Award, but for her, the best part was seeing the number of women in positions of leadership in the community. She explained she went from feeling like an imposter, to recognizing how important it was that she was there – representing the profession of educators and as a woman of colour.

“It’s so great to recognize how many amazing women we have leading in our community,” said Shibata. “I was really proud to be a part of that.”

For those who are looking for a way to make a difference in their community, Shibata invites you to find your purpose in those things you lose track of time doing. It’s never too late to use your talents to help make Waterloo Region a better place.

“Think about what makes you happy and what brings you joy,” said Shibata. “Use your gifts and your skills to do something good in the world.”