ATA president calls for teachers to speak up

May 19, 2018
Cory Hare, ATA News Managing Editor
ATA president Greg Jeffery addresses delegates of the Annual Representative Assembly in Calgary on May 19.

Raising profile of public education a top priority as election approaches

With a provincial election slated to take place next year, one of the top priorities for the Alberta Teachers’ Association is to raise the profile of public education, and in order to do this, the organization will be asking all its members to play a part.

This was one of the main messages that ATA president Greg Jeffery shared with delegates of the 101st Annual Representative Assembly (ARA) in Calgary on Saturday, May 19.

"We continue to harden the organization for what lays ahead," Jeffery said during his presidential address. "Our task is to increase the profile in the election and to inform the public of our views on K-12 public education in this province."

Jeffery said recent polling shows that public education is currently very low on Albertans’ list of important election issues. In order to raise awareness of the value and importance of public education, the Association will be asking for help from teacher leaders at the local level as well as from front-line classroom teachers.

"When those asks come I ask you to think of those who came before us and remember the words of Margaret Wheatley: ‘No one is coming to save us. We are the ones that we have been waiting for,’" Jeffery said.

On an organization level, the Association has been getting election-ready by having conversations with other public sector employee groups and exploring the concept of forming coalitions with such groups, Jeffery said.

As well, Provincial Executive Council has approved of constituting the ATA’s Election Readiness Committee this month instead of waiting until September.

"This is just the beginning of a plan that will help us to achieve our objectives next May and beyond," Jeffery said.

Past meets present

Another theme that Jeffery explored in his address can be summed up with the saying, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

Given that the 2018 edition of ARA was heavily focused on celebrating the Association’s 100th anniversary, Jeffery drew quotes from addresses that previous presidents delivered during assemblies that celebrated the organization’s 25th, 50th and 75th anniversaries.

Jeffery noted that, in 1943, then-president J.A. Smith talked about an impending shortage of 500 teachers. And in 1968 Bernie Keeler spoke about finances, the status of women in the Association and the need to resist attempts to remove administrative personnel from the bargaining unit. Finally, in 1993, Fran Savage spoke about the need for the government to place a high priority on funding education, especially the funding required to successfully integrate special needs students into regular classrooms.

"The same year, Ms. Savage … challenged teachers not to remain silent while the planet continued to be plagued by such problems as warfare, illiteracy, gender discrimination, the privatization of education, the denial of human rights and hunger," Jeffery said. "We have not forgotten nor given up on any of these, Fran."