Q & A: Story of the ATA continues

June 13, 2017
Gordon Thomas, ATA Executive Secretary

Question: What happened 100 years ago? I thought the ATA was born in 1935.

Answer: In the early part of the 1900s, a going concern on the educational landscape was the Alberta Education Association, which comprised teachers, school inspectors, trustees, MLAs and other individuals who were interested in education. At its annual meeting in the spring of 1916, teacher delegates put forward a resolution calling on the executive to take steps to establish a provisional teachers’ organization. By the following year no action had been taken, so several high-profile teachers took the floor of the 1917 meeting near the end of its scheduled business and quickly put forward several resolutions. The first called for the establishment of a provincial teachers’ organization. The second motion named a president and vice-president —Edmonton high school principal George D. Misener and Calgary teacher C.E. Leppard, ­respectively — and authorized them to appoint a general secretary–treasurer and to draft a constitution.

The third motion allocated funding from the treasury of the Alberta Education Association to fund the teachers’ organization in the year ahead. There was substantial opposition to these resolutions from the educational establishment, but teachers were in the majority at the meeting and the resolutions carried overwhelmingly. The Alberta Teachers’ Alliance was on its way.

Misener and Leppard convinced John Barnett, supervisor of music with the Edmonton School District, and a former local president of the National Union of Teachers in the UK, to take on the additional task of general secretary–treasurer. Barnett was instrumental in the development of the organization’s objects and operations. The ATA’s objects from 1918 are very similar to our objects today. The core elements of our organization — a strong provincial structure, universal vote for table officers, universal district vote for district representatives — remain the same today.

Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.
Martin Luther King Jr.

So in April 1918, teachers met at the First Presbyterian Church in Edmonton for the first annual meeting of the Alberta Teachers’ Alliance. The Alliance was subsequently incorporated on June 24, 1918.

In the year ahead, we will celebrate the centenary of the Alberta Teachers’ Association. First named the Alberta Teachers’ Alliance, our organization had its name changed to the Alberta Teachers’ Association through the passage of the Teaching Profession Act in 1935. From the cradle to adolescence and beyond! Our story has only begun. ❚

Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (gordon.thomas@ata.ab.ca).