Mark Ramsankar delivers final ARA address as president
Reflection on the past and a friendly farewell were common themes of Mark Ramsankar’s speech to delegates at the 2017 Annual Representative Assembly (ARA) in Edmonton on May 20.
In his last such address as Alberta Teachers’ Association president, Ramsankar started by recalling the political climate that he encountered when he took office four years ago. Early in his tenure, then education minister Jeff Johnson announced the Task Force on Teaching Excellence.
“I remember thinking I could not stand by and allow someone to attack our profession,” Ramsankar said. “The thought of someone trying to dismantle Alberta’s education system by targeting the Alberta Teachers’ Association was ridiculous.”
“It was those attacks and the decisive pushback we had as an organization that helped me understand why it was important to convey to the teachers of Alberta the understanding of who we were as professionals, as teachers and as Albertans.”
With the Association set to mark its 100th anniversary next year, Ramsankar noted that the organization has outlasted a 44-year Progressive Conservative government, many changes in technology and the modernization of the teaching profession.
“We know parents, students and our communities trust the direction education is going in this province, and I can say it truly is because of teachers, who work with children day in and day out, striving to meet the individual needs of every child in Alberta,” Ramsankar said. “It really doesn’t matter how you slice and dice our system, when it comes right down to it, the essence of who we are can be found in our classrooms … we are Alberta teachers!”
Ramsankar noted that the Association itself is facing considerable change, as it will soon have a new elected executive, and a number of senior executives are retiring.
“This will speak to our resiliency, but I’ve always maintained that no one individual is greater than the entire organization — the ATA is all of us,” Ramsankar exclaimed. “I want to take this opportunity to wish the new executive and senior administration all the best in the year to come as they set the course for what is to come in our future.”
Ramsankar is part of that change himself, as he will begin a term as president of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation on July 1.
“And so, colleagues, it’s time to say goodbye,” he said. “Four years ago, I made you two promises. One, I would try the best I could, and two, you would get everything I’ve got. It has been my pleasure and my privilege to try to fulfil these promises I first made to you. Thank you, colleagues, and all the best for the next 100 years.” ❚