Editorial: Retired teachers: Lend us your power!

June 12, 2018 Jonathan Teghtmeyer, ATA News Editor-in-Chief

The countdown is on and there is nothing like the feeling of the last day of school. As teachers, we are pretty lucky to get that experience each year.

But some of you are headed toward your last, last day of school.

I can only imagine how bittersweet that must be, with the regular anticipation of summer, the added enthusiasm of not having to go back in the fall combined with a strong sense of melancholy marking the end of your career. Oh yeah, and don’t forget all the added work associated with packing up a classroom.

For those who are retiring, I would like to take a moment to congratulate you on your achievements, your accomplishments, and a successful career and retirement. I also want to thank you, on behalf of your colleagues and the profession, for all of your service for students and the cause of public education in Alberta. All the best in retirement.

You now join the large list of ATA life members — and I would like a minute to speak to all of our retired teacher readers. And I know you’re listening.

I am always impressed and amazed by our large and loyal retiree readership. The ATA News receives a large amount of feedback and submissions from retired teachers. And I also hear regularly from retired teachers who say they enjoy reading the News — and that they enjoy having the time now to read the News.

Well, I enjoy hearing from you. Please keep that feedback coming in. But I have a request for you.

The year ahead will be an interesting year for public education.

The Alberta economy is recovering from  recession and the provincial treasury is improving. But yet there is still a significant deficit, growing debt and pressure to bring the budget into balance.

In schools, class sizes are at the largest they’ve been in at least two decades, and more English-language learners and students with complex needs are included in classrooms without adequate supports. These two issues are the top priorities for teachers as bargaining approaches for collective agreements that expire in the fall.

At the same time we are moving into a provincial election where the political parties are positioning a number of issues related to education as election wedge issues: building new schools, education funding, school choice, curriculum and supports for sexual and gender minority students.

And so, I have been thinking about the power of our retired teachers.

I won’t assume that retired teachers have a ton of free time. There is no doubt that you have earned the right to spend more time with family, to get to the gardening and housework you have always wanted to do, to travel the world and to pick up a new hobby or practise the one that you weren’t able to do when you were working.

But I’m hopeful that you might be able to access some of that time to help out your colleagues and the students that you have always shown such dedication and commitment to. I’m hoping that you might see advocacy and participation in support of public education as a valuable and rewarding way to spend some of the time that you used to use for work.

At last month’s 100th-anniversary celebratory banquet, former ATA president Larry Booi told attendees about former Alberta

Retired Teachers’ Association president Floyd Sweet. Booi said that he believed most teachers were motivated to become teachers because of the simple desire to “make a difference.” But he also shared something similar that Sweet had to say about retired teachers.

“Well, Larry, just because you are no longer employed by a school board doesn’t mean that you stop being
a teacher.”

Well, retirees, you never stop being a teacher, you never stop caring about children and our future, and I do not believe that you ever stop wanting to make a difference.

I’m hoping you will help us out in the year ahead by talking with your family, friends, neighbours, MLAs and candidates about public education. Write letters (to me, to the local paper, to your MLA), meet candidates for election and get involved in political campaigns.

You know what students need, what teachers need and what public education needs to be the difference. I look forward to hearing your voice. ❚

I welcome your comments — contact me at jonathan.teghtmeyer@ata.ab.ca.

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