For 14 of the last 16 years, the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s Summer Conference in Banff has been a highlight of my summers. The Association brings together 450 teachers from across the province for a week-long intensive professional development and leadership training event.
The Association recognizes the importance and value offered by the mostly voluntary work of teachers in its locals, specialist councils and teachers’ convention associations. Summer Conference offers a unique opportunity to make sure that these Association leaders feel well equipped to take on the work that they have committed to on behalf of the profession, while simultaneously saying thanks to these people by providing this learning opportunity in a top-notch facility in one of the world’s most desirable destinations.
Summer Conference also offers a unique perspective on the organization as a whole, as leaders from all areas of Association work (collective bargaining, local administration, professional development, etc.) come together for a week that focuses on the Association and public education in Alberta.
That unique perspective was opened up to members of Alberta’s legislative assembly, Alberta trustees and a few other education advocates through the Association’s inaugural Summer Summit on Public Education and the Teaching Profession, held as a pre-conference at this year’s Summer Conference.
Seven MLAs (three NDP, three UCP and one Liberal), five school board trustees and three advocates were invited to Banff to learn about the ATA and issues in education, while also interacting with teachers at the beginning of Summer Conference.
These invitees attended sessions on technology in education, ATA governance and policy, teacher professional development, conduct and competence, collective bargaining, assessment, inclusion, Indigenous education, curriculum and teacher growth, supervision and evaluation.
The summit was presented as an opportunity to build relationships through enhancing trust in and knowledge of different players in the education system. By all accounts the objective was achieved as the summit was very well received by the attendees.
MLAs said that they wanted more opportunity to hear from and to discuss education with frontline teachers from their areas. Let us take this feedback as a challenge to all teachers.
In the evaluations, MLAs said they felt “very engaged” and that they liked the event for “dispelling rumours and stereotypes.” Trustees said that “the tone set at the beginning was really important in facilitating valuable dialogue” and that they liked the “open discussion and the expertise of the presenters.” And one advocate wrote that, “your presenters were passionate, articulate and engaging.”
Over the last year, the Association has been sharing the story of education and the story of the ATA, and as we begin celebrating our 100-year history this year, I think it is so important that we continue to tell that story. Many people, elected officials included, will view the ATA through a frame based on their preconceptions of “teachers” or “unions,” yet those who know, know that the Association is so much more than those limiting labels.
Let’s talk more about the ATA, about teaching and about public education in Alberta. Great opportunities lie ahead with school board elections occurring in the fall and the celebration of the ATA’s 100th anniversary taking place throughout the school year.
Do you have questions about the work that the ATA does and how it functions? Send them to me and we will try to include articles in the ATA News in the year ahead to respond to your questions.
In closing, one area of suggested improvement from the summit evaluations is worth highlighting. Many of the MLAs said that they wanted more opportunity to hear from and to discuss education with frontline teachers from their areas. Let us take this feedback as a challenge to all teachers.
MLAs need to get to know teachers. Do not wait until an issue or a crisis emerges to contact your MLA. Reach out to them, give them a phone call, arrange a meeting, or invite them to your school. You do not need to have anything specific to talk about — just tell them about your work and your classroom. They want to hear from you.
It’s a new school year. That always brings excitement and rejuvenation. I hope you have a fantastic year. ❚
I welcome your comments—contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.