Executive secretary Gordon Thomas presents the honorary membership to Fran Galbraith.
“You cannot help but learn more as you take the world into your hands. Take it up reverently, for it is an old piece of clay, with millions of thumbprints on it.”
Fran Galbraith shared author John Updike’s words with 450 colleagues after being presented with the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s award of honorary membership at its 98th Annual Representative Assembly (ARA). In her acceptance speech, Galbraith said the quote made her ask herself, “Where did you leave your thumbprints?”
She didn’t give “on President Mark Ramsankar” as one of her answers, but could have. During Ramsankar’s introduction of Galbraith, he spoke of her influence on him in his early days with the Association as a school representative.
“I was amazed at the dedication and knowledge base of the individuals that became my mentors, my idols, these individuals with characteristics of leadership that I would try to aspire to,” said Ramsankar. “These were people who at times filled me with a sense of awe. Fran Galbraith is such an individual.”
Over the course of her career, Galbraith was a classroom teacher, a school administrator, an Association district representative for Edmonton city teachers, a vice-president and past president of the Association, a Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) board member and a CTF vice-president. She served on numerous Association and CTF committees, participated in teacher exchanges to Australia and England, and monitored groups of teachers sent overseas to offer training and development to other teachers as part of the Association’s Project Overseas initiative.
As impressive as her individual accomplishments are, Galbraith didn’t mention any of them when she shared with the Assembly her answers to the question, “Where did you leave your thumbprints?”
The thumbprints Galbraith recalled were related to the efforts and achievements she contributed to as part of a group with her teacher colleagues.
“One of my lasting memories would have to be of the provincial teachers’ rally in 1997, when 18,000 teachers demonstrated that together we can do what is right for public education,” recalled Galbraith. “Another strong memory is of the change in our evaluation policy, which resulted in the teacher and administrator growth plan we use today. … Two years of debate at ARA made changes to our evaluation policy which resulted in a growth plan accepted by the province.”
She shared that some of her proudest moments occurred when she attended congresses hosted by Education International, a federation of 401 associations and unions in 171 countries and territories representing some 30 million educators and support professionals in education institutions from early childhood to university.
“I was amazed by the number of teachers that would come up to me and thank me for all of the assistance that Canadian teachers gave to their organizations,” said Galbraith.
Lastly, she mentioned the first long-term collective agreement achieved in 2007, speaking to how it created the opportunity for teachers to focus on teaching and learning, and for the Association to concentrate on professionalism, research, forward-looking projects and the advancement of education.
Galbraith’s thumbprints on the teaching profession are mixed in with those of her many colleagues, but as she closed her speech, she gave the impression that she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It really is amazing what we can do when we do work together,” she said. ❚