Hubert BrardEducator Hubert Brard has dedicated his career to equity and inclusion.

Alum’s 24-year education career champions advocacy and inclusion

Inspired to pursue a career in education by his high school music teacher, alum Hubert Brard’s teaching journey has taken him from elementary to university classrooms and everywhere in between.

“When I met him and witnessed the impact he had on all of us in the class, I thought how great it was that he built a safe space for us to be whoever we needed to be in that area, and I’ve always felt most comfortable in there,” says Dr. Brard (BMus. 1995, B.Ed 1996).

“Since I’ve always been interested in music, I liked the idea of providing students with experiences they could look back on fondly or carry into their adult lives.”

Brard has had a diverse career in education, starting as a teacher in the Peel District School Board for 20 years before becoming vice-principal of Hodan Nalayeh Secondary School in Vaughan, Ont. He also serves as a part-time university professor — all while “gigging around” as an orchestral musician.

“I tend to keep busy that way,” Brard said. “The shift is very interesting because now, as I get closer to retirement, I can look back and see the transition from junior kindergarten all the way to the adult learning world.”

During his doctoral studies at the University of Toronto, Brard focused his thesis on the experiences of school administrators who identify as members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, specifically investigating the narratives of queer school principals in Ontario.

Brard said his thesis is the first in Canada to explore this topic, noting there are studies on queer educators and administrators coming out of the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. Recognizing a gap in research, voice, and narrative, he decided to explore the subject in depth.

He interviewed 11 Ontario public school principals about their experiences coming out at work, the challenges associated with it, and how it shapes their decisions, actions, and roles as principals.

Brard explained his research found the need for systemic change, led by the Ontario Ministry of Education to empower queer principals.

“How can school boards and the Ontario Principals Council, which is our professional body, go about advocating for pro-queer identity and having us become more visible in a less performative manner?” Brard asks.

“Also making the effort less time-based, for example only recognizing people in June because it’s Pride Month. While I see the importance of that, it’s important to consider what our professional bodies can do to shift away from performative acts.”

At his school, Brard said he would do an “equity scope,” in his head, where he evaluates opportunities to make visible the invisible: “How can we engage students and the community in moving this forward?”

For example, he purchased three pride flags — the traditional rainbow, trans, and progressive flags — so people can know what each represents and their importance. When students came to him hoping to establish a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) group at his school, Brard commandeered a room in the main atrium to serve as its office.

“Now our GSA is up and running, strong and run entirely by the kids,” he said.

A lifelong learner having earned five degrees, Brard continues to share his knowledge and voice. He has conducted numerous presentations and webinars centred on the themes of equity and inclusion, emphasizing the importance of advocating for identities within the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in educational settings.

This summer, Brard will release a chapter and two books through the Canadian Scholar Press. These publications will offer insights from a principal’s perspective, focusing on what teachers who identify as queer and aspire to become administrators need to be mindful of and how to navigate that space. Another piece will delve into the topic of administrators’ role in activism and advocacy.

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