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Teachers need to fight for what is right

May 24, 2019 Cory Hare, ATA News Managing Editor

President Greg Jeffery delivers farewell message in final ARA address

In the coming years, Alberta teachers will need to raise their voices in order to preserve and enhance the teaching and learning conditions that they now enjoy.

That was the message delivered by Alberta Teachers’ Association president Greg Jeffery during his speech to delegates of the Annual Representative Assembly on Saturday, May 18.

As an example of the impact teachers can have by speaking up, Jeffery outlined how teachers contributed to a decision by the United Conservative Party to back away from election platform planks calling for a return of Grade 3 Provincial Achievement Tests and 50 per cent weighting for diploma exams.

“Midway through the campaign, after hearing from many, many teachers on the doorsteps and at forums, the UCP stepped back from these two positions,” Jeffery said. “The election has shown us that, while these policy positions of our new government are not yet written in stone, it will take a concerted effort by all Alberta teachers, along with trustees and parents, to preserve and enhance that which we now enjoy.”

Jeffery noted that the government isn’t backing off from its plans to proclaim the Education Act, a change that will negate the School Act, which contains a number of protections for sexual and gender minorities, including making it illegal to “out” students who participate in gay–straight alliances. The government also remains committed to slowing down the rollout of new curriculum.

On the other hand, while the UCP’s platform also mentioned mandatory teacher testing and removing school leaders from Association membership, these aspects have been “neither confirmed nor denied.”

“We must continue to stand up for public education in Alberta,” Jeffery said, “to fight for what is right for our students and to fiercely protect a system and an organization that are the envy of the world.”

Parting words

Greg Jeffery’s speech at ARA 2019 was his last ARA address as ATA president. Vice-president Jason Schilling will take over as president on July 1 and Jeffery will assume the role of past-president. Here is an excerpt of parting words from Jeffery’s speech.

“As my term as your president comes to an end, I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to thank each and every one of you. You provided me with an experience that too few get to have.”

“My predecessor and good friend Mark Ramsankar was, and still is, known for describing the presidency of the ATA as the best job he ever had. I always believed that there was a measure of hyperbole involved in those statements, but Mark was right and I was wrong. You know I don’t make that last statement lightly as I will hear about it for a long, long time. I didn’t think anything could top my band room experiences, but advocating for the best teaching force on the planet was pretty darn cool.”

“You gave me an opportunity that only 58 people have ever had, and I am thankful for that opportunity. Jason Schilling will serve in the grand tradition of the 58 before, and I am glad to have the opportunity to work along with him as we face the challenges ahead.”

“I am a teacher — it’s who I am. We are teachers — it’s who we are. So let’s ensure that future generations of Alberta teachers can be as proud of the work they will do as we are of the work we have done. Thank you for a great ride. I’m glad it’s not over yet.”

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