Humans of HDSB

A space where we celebrate the beautiful humans in Halton, sharing their stories and their insights

Meet the Humans of HDSB. Learn a little bit about what they love about their role, the successes and challenges they face, along with some of the things that make them Human. We asked each of these humans about what is working for them in their role, what their main challenges are, a tiny victory they've had, what they want you to know, and a couple of luck-of-the-draw personal questions.

Hawa Iyamabo

Executive assistant to the superintendent of education - school operations

Manage 36 schools.

What is working

This year looks different - work in the board office, staff working from home, fewer people in the space, not having the normal conversations to problem solve, connect and build relationships, Using PPE (good for our safety).


We are still running the building. Schools are open. Leadership has been working their tails off to make things work.

The toughest part is that we are still trying to get into the rhythm of the new delivery of curriculum, things are beyond our control - limited resources, time, supply teachers, what we are given, we are doing our best.

A tiny victory is around technology - improved skills and efficiency. Cut printing, doing things online has proven surprisingly effective. I've enjoyed attending virtual events more.

Message For You

I feel like I’m stronger than I give myself credit for. We all are. Know that we are collectively stronger than we think. It's good to laugh at ourselves - funny fails when trying new things. We will get through this and look back and be stronger for it. We'll look back and say "I got through it, I got it, and kept going”

If I could go back in time, I would sprint back to 2019, pre-Covid, a somewhat normal year, a year when Dad and mum-in law were still alive. A year that I hadn't experienced loss of a close family member. There are so many conversations I would have with them. Most importantly I would record their voices and just listen to them talk, laugh, and share words of wisdom…. Now, flash forward to my current reality of 2021, even though I am thankful for the great memories of 2019, like many, I feel the void of loss. It is true when they say CHERISH what you value, before it’s gone

Aside from necessities, I can’t go a day without my prayers and my tea. These are a MUST, and so uplifting!! When I travel, I always travel with my own favourite teabag (just in case) and yes that would be me taking any left teabags from my hotel room.... Shhhh!

Michelle McCann

IPL - Student Well-being (Elementary)

I love working with educators around supporting the mental health and well-being of students. It has always been an area of importance to me in my own classrooms. I am thrilled that the Board has created this position to help build networks of support and resources for educators that can be used to promote positive mental health and well-being of ALL our Halton students. I have built so many new and wonderful relationships this year with educators who I may never have met if I was not in this role.

Like many of us, the feelings of isolation due to covid 19 have affected me. I do not get to work in the schools very often and I really miss connecting with students.

To the other humans of HDSB, I would say... This is hard. Really hard. Thank you for the love and compassion you are sharing with your students during these challenging times. Remember to show yourself some of that love and compassion too!

What is your proudest accomplishment?

I returned to Wilfrid Laurier University as a full time student in September 2018, while also continuing to work part time for the school board and parenting two young children. I completed a research based Masters degree in Developmental Psychology in 2020. I am very proud of this accomplishment, the knowledge and experiences I gained, and the opportunities that have come from it.

What would you sing at karaoke night?

I am definitely not known for being able to carry a tune, but I would probably sing something really loud and dramatic. Possibly something by Bon Jovi. You Give Love a Bad Name!

Eric Keunne

Program Lead - Newcomer Youth Settlement @ HDSB Welcome Centre

What is working?

“Being new to my role, my focus has been on communication and relationship building, building relationships with staff at the Welcome Centre as well as our community partners. It has been really helpful in this transition to have that strong support network. I keep connected with my team through a couple simple but effective tools: First, we meet on a daily basis in a meeting we call the morning huddles. Here we map out what is the day going to look like and any challenges with a case, then having open conversations to being able to help each other out. Second, I have an open calendar that I share with my team - they can book me any time one on one basis to discuss anything at all. It’s a virtual version of “my door is always open”. You can rely on me to listen, even if I don’t have answers at that moment.”

What isn’t working, yet?

Well, one of the things we have tried to do that is a work in progress is to put together a map of our whole process - to have help organize ourselves in our department and to help administrators and support them related to new questions they have, especially regarding Virtual Schools. Finding concrete answers to specific questions in a changing landscape of information is hard.

What is your favourite word?

My favourite word is “Thank You” (ok, technically two words) because sometimes in the moment we fail to recognize that we need to be grateful for our lives. I am privileged to be surrounded by amazing human beings, to have family and friends, and even to be alive right now, especially in the middle of a pandemic. Everyone has challenges, struggles, future aspirations, and at times we fail to recognize who we are right now. "Thank you" is a foundation for a better tomorrow. The greatest support you can offer someone in the moment is not always a job, money, it can be as simple as a smile. I always say thank you to my students for teaching me so much, I say thank you to my colleagues, I learn so much from them as well. Having someone to show you something new, that is something that is difficult to repay and to measure, so "thank you" is so very important.

What is the most daring thing you’ve ever done?

The most daring thing I’ve ever done was the decision to immigrate to Canada from the UK. My life in Newcastle UK was tough, mentally, financially, socially. So, I made the big decision to immigrate to Canada. When it was time to move, I only had the money to afford a one way ticket, so it was a daring decision, because I knew there was no going back, quite literally! I came to Canada knowing absolutely no one, and with only $200 in my pocket. My only acquaintance, who I had never met, was the elder brother of a friend I knew back in Belgium. It was incredibly stressful wondering how I would survive, where I would sleep when I landed in Canada, if I wasn’t able to connect with that acquaintance...I only had a photograph of him. Thankfully, he waited at the airport for me, even though my flight was hours late. So I think that was my most daring decision, was taking the risk for a better life here in Canada. I’m glad I did!

Kristina Bothmer

WINS: My two grade 1 colleagues and I share a portable as our virtual instructional space. We decided to bring our classes together for some read-alouds, mindfulness, and activities. It allowed the kids to get to know different teachers, the educators to get to know more students, and the students to get to know each other. And, it gave us, as educators, a bit of a breather from being "on" and gather our thoughts, which was nice for our mental (and physical) well-being.

The parents of our kiddos have been so supportive! They recognize and acknowledge the effort we're putting in all day long, and are getting a more realistic behind-the-scenes understanding of what happens in a day. They are also so helpful in times when tech issues arise.

Who would you like to have dinner with?

I would love to have dinner with Kamala Harris. I don't follow politics greatly, but I think Harris has something really unique about her, and I feel a connection to her in some interesting way that she sees the world in a way that I see the world, and she sees people in the same way I see people - looking at people like humans, and being a kind, nice human being matters. That's important to her. She had a quote the other day that being a kind human matters - and I just was like, "YES!" Of course, I want my students to learn to read, and write, and do math, and all the other things, but ultimately, I want them to be kind human beings - because, if you're kind, you can collaborate better, and if you can collaborate better, you can work out that math problem with others, you know?!

So, I think it would be amazing to have a conversation and learn more about her as a person, how she got to where she is, what her plans are... Tomorrow, we're going to read her book, "Superheroes are Everywhere", and talk about the picture of her with all the other Vice Presidents - all the white men in their white hair - and then Kamala at the bottom, a black female. I've never really brought politics into the grade one classroom before, but I think this is important enough. So yeah, I would totally want to have dinner with her, and get to know her.