A leader. A man of principle. A diplomat.
Delegates attending the Annual Representative Assembly maintained a respectful hush as Denis Espetveidt used those glowing terms—and many others—in his introduction of Noel Jantzie, who was awarded the distinction of honorary membership. However, delegates couldn’t suppress an appreciative and knowing peal of laughter when Espetveidt, a district representative for Calgary City, spoke of Jantzie’s not-so-hidden talents as an orator.
If anyone were aware of Jantzie’s skill as a speaker, it would be Espetveidt. He and Jantzie crossed paths often throughout their teaching careers, sometimes travelling the same road. Both were teachers with the Calgary public school district and involved with the Association at the local and provincial levels. Espetveidt witnessed Jantzie in action as president of Calgary Public Teachers Local No. 38 and worked closely with him between 2005 and 2009, when both were district representatives for Calgary City. Espetveidt also praised Jantzie for the diplomacy he demonstrated while chairing the 2010 Committee on Redistricting and District Representative Workload.
While Espetveidt spoke of having deep respect for Jantzie, he also took a good-natured poke at his former colleague, noting that “he had a reputation for speaking often and at considerable length.” When Jantzie accepted the ATA’s highest award, he didn’t disappoint. “The Orator” was in fine form. He guided the Assembly through a labyrinth of education, life and ideas. For those who could keep up, it was a fascinating journey. His Grade 2 teacher, civil rights, Huckleberry Finn, humanity, climate change, villages and volcanoes—all appeared in Jantzie’s odyssey, a story replete with reflections, observations and hope.
It was easy to see that Jantzie’s passion for education ran through his veins as freely as the words from his mouth. He addressed education issues, including what he called the single biggest factor influencing student learning—socioeconomic status. He called it “the elephant in the room” and an extremely difficult issue to address in the classroom, but he didn’t hesitate to encourage teachers to take up the crusade against poverty. Spontaneous applause followed his appeal, “If you want to improve the quality of education, let’s improve the quality of life for Alberta’s children.”
Jantzie the orator packed as much into his speech as did Jantzie the teacher into his outstanding career. And in the end, his extensive tale simply confirmed what Espetveidt claimed earlier: “If Noel said a lot, it was only because he had a lot to say.”
Jantzie retired from the Calgary Board of Education in 2010 and is currently a sessional instructor with the University of Calgary.