Viewpoints: Thank you, it’s been an honour

June 13, 2017
Mark Ramsankar, ATA President

Four years ago I attended my first Summer Conference as president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association. Standing at the podium, tasked with leading the greatest teacher organization in the world, I was terrified! At the time, I suggested that it was crowded on the podium where I stood — crowded because of all the presidents who had come before me. Now that I’m poised to join that crowd, I confess, colleagues, I am sad, as I have loved my time as president.

I am leaving my post as the last ATA president of our first century. As we mark 100 years of educating Alberta children, our profession has stood the test of time. Great ideas or bad, new initiatives or reruns, Alberta teachers have stood tall. Albertans trust our system because of the work teachers do every day with children. The strength of our system begins and ends with the teacher–student relationships that are found in Alberta classrooms.

As we mark 100 years of educating Alberta children, our profession has stood the test of time. ... The strength of our system begins and ends with the teacher–student relationships that are found in Alberta classrooms.

 

During my tenure as president, I’ve built so many meaningful relationships with people who are dedicated to supporting public education. I count myself blessed at having travelled the globe building lasting relationships with world-class researchers, political figures, educational leaders, students and parents — the real three Rs in education are relationships, relationships, relationships! The relationships I treasure most are those with colleagues who are interested in leading our organization.

The leadership of the ATA will undergo a significant facelift as the organization heads into its second hundred years. As we usher in a completely new slate of table officers and senior administrators, our resiliency will again be tested, but I’ve always maintained that no one individual is greater than the entire organization — the ATA is all of us. I wish the new executive and senior administration all the best in the year to come as they set the course for what is to become our future.

For those of us who have occupied these leadership roles, the last year has been active. The provincial government, working in geological time, has not diminished our resolve. We continue to work with this government to move the education agenda forward.

We’re proud of our work on aboriginal education issues. Our Walking Together project has been delivering workshops and seminars throughout the province. We were and continue to be serious about supporting teachers and educating them about our past, always with an eye toward how we will teach in the future.
We continue pressing the government for support as dedicated teachers are giving their time and expertise to develop Alberta curriculum we can all be proud of. Timelines are steep, however. As practical work is completed, we can look ahead and plan for a meaningful rollout.

The Association’s views on high-stakes testing are known on a global scale. We’ve expressed our concerns directly to members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and Education Minister David Eggen. The dollars we spend annually on high-stakes testing do not benefit teachers and students. It’s a waste of money, and these dollars should be spent in our classrooms. This file will remain active as we work with the government on a new public assurance model.

The pension cap! I’ve met with Finance Minister Joe Ceci, and he has assured me that this issue will be resolved this spring! I reminded him that June 20 is the beginning of summer, so I sincerely hope his efforts will push this issue to cabinet and that they will understand the need to resolve the issue.

Local bargaining is underway as the central table agreement has now been ratified. This was our first opportunity to negotiate centrally for the collective good of our members. We will review the overall process, looking for improvements to help us to communicate more clearly with members.

And now it’s time for me to say goodbye. Four years ago I made you two promises: “I will try my best” and “You will get everything I’ve got!” It has been my pleasure, my passion and my privilege to try to fulfil these promises. Thank you, Alberta teachers; thank you, ATA. It’s been an honour. All the best in the next 100 years. ❚

After serving two terms as ATA president, Mark Ramsankar will take over as president of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation on July 1.