ATA President Mark Ramsankar is shown on one of many large screens during his ARA address.
Education a key election issue thanks to Alberta teachers, ATA president tells ARA delegates
Change was in the air as Alberta Teachers’ Association President Mark Ramsankar greeted delegates at the 98th Annual Representative Assembly (ARA) on Saturday, May 16.
In addressing the more than 400 delegates gathered at Edmonton’s Westin, Ramsankar recalled last year’s event, when tension was thick in the room as then education minister Jeff Johnson defended his Task Force on Teaching Excellence (after which delegates unanimously passed a motion of non-confidence in the minister).
Ramsankar contrasted the mistrust and anger that pervaded ARA 2014 with the sense of optimism that was evident during ARA 2015, given the recent election of an NDP majority government and the warm welcome extended to Sarah Hoffman, the MLA-elect who spoke on behalf of the new premier.
“Change has come and, believe it or not, the sky hasn’t fallen,” Ramsankar said.
Ramsankar credited teachers for being an integral part of that change by making education “the key issue” during the spring provincial election. He also noted that by the end of the month, there will have been four premiers and three education ministers since March 2014, a level of turnover that has created a volatile and uncertain landscape.
As the new government settles in, uncertainty remains, but there is hope of moving forward with a constructive relationship, he said.
“We’re looking forward to working with premier-elect Notley and the new minister of education,” he said.
He emphasized that working with government isn’t contingent on which party is in power.
“It really doesn’t matter who’s in the chair. We’ve got work to do in education, and it’s our responsibility to work with whoever’s there,” he said.
Brighter future in challenging times
Ramsankar went on to elaborate on the importance of the Association’s research efforts, and the need to constantly challenge people who hold opinions about education and teachers that aren’t based on recent classroom experience.
“I think one needs to be in our classrooms day in and day out, with the responsibility associated with teaching students, before they can begin to tell Alberta teachers what they need, what is good for them and how they should go about their business. These individuals just aren’t qualified,” Ramsankar said.
This declaration garnered a round of applause.
Ramsankar concluded by thanking teachers for the engagement they demonstrated over the past year.
“I’d like to say thank you colleagues for this past year, for standing up and being heard, for taking the time in the face of uncertainty and strife,” he said. “It’s been a long run, but I believe we have a brighter future.” ❚