Born near Coimbra.
Based in Toronto.
My parents had fourth grade education. They couldn’t teach me at home, but they gave me emotional support… and also pushed me to be successful. There were no excuses. That’s very important – Manuela Sequeira.
Manuela Sequeira moved to Canada as a child in 1975. In school, she initially experienced the same difficulties adapting to a new language as other immigrant children. Thanks to her perseverance, and the personal support of her parents and teachers, Manuela would pursue her passion for education, both as student and teacher. Today, Manuela is one of the most successful principals in Canada, whose work in the Toronto Catholic District School Board has been awarded multiple times.
Manuela Sequeira was born in 1965 in a small town near Coimbra in northern mainland Portugal. When she was 10 years-old, she immigrated to Canada, where she joined her parents and sister who had two years prior. They settled in a predominantly Italian area ofToronto, where there were few Portuguese children. Like many immigrant children, she experienced difficulties adapting to a new language and school culture. Her parents, who grew up under the Estado Novo’s regime and its stifling public school system, had a fourth-grade level education. Because she learned English before her parents, Manuela would act as translator for them for much of her young life, as was also common among Portuguese immigrant children. While they could not help their daughter in her studies, Manuela’s parents were supportive of her academic pursuits. They also enrolled her in the First Portuguese Canadian Club’s Portuguese language school, which Manuela attended in the evenings.
Manuela’s studies took her back to Portugal, where she did the first two years of her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Coimbra, which she completed at the University of Toronto in 1990. She followed that with other degrees fromYork University and the Rotman School of Management, and a Master of Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
After returning from Portugal, Manuela started teaching Portuguese in the Heritage Language program of the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), while studying at the University of Toronto. Her career as a school administrator started in 2001, as Vice Principal at St. Clare Catholic Elementary School on St. Clair Avenue West, an area where Portuguese families were starting to settle in. She went to become Vice Principal and Principal of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Monica, and St. Mary of the Angels, most of them with a sizeable Portuguese-Canadian student body. She has also been the coordinator of multiple programs within the TCDSB, including the International Languages, Parent Engagement, Equity, Diversity, Indigenous Education.
In 2016, Manuela received Canada’s Outstanding Principals Award from The Learning Partnership, in recognition of her contributions towards improving student achievement. This award cited Manuela’s “profound impact on schools throughout her career, including transforming her previous school into a high-performing provincial success story,” which she accomplished by gathering student data, tracking and analyzing student progress, and acquiring supportive technology. Manuela also received the Leading Women, Leading Girls Building Communities’ Award from the Portuguese-Canadian Member of Provincial Parliament Cristina Martins in 2017, and a Gold Medal of Cultural Merit of the Portuguese Communities from the Government of Portugal in 2018.
Hora dos Portugueses