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Viewpoints: You made a difference in me

June 11, 2019 Greg Jeffery, ATA President



Two years ago, as I was packing up not one classroom but two, I found myself wondering if I had made the right decision. While the room I taught math in had changed a number of times, the band room had been mine for 33 years. There were memories tucked into every nook and cranny of that space and, as they came flooding back, it caused some trepidation about what I was leaving and what lay ahead.

While I still miss that room and the students who passed through it over the years, I have made peace with my decision. These last two years have been an experience that I would not have missed for the world. As I said in my address to the Annual Representative Assembly this past May, I had an opportunity that only 58 people have ever had, which was to lead the best teacher organization in the world. Many of you think that is perhaps an exaggeration, but I assure you it is not. I have been privileged to interact with many world-renowned figures in education and they confirmed that what we have here in Alberta is truly amazing. We all see areas in which to improve education in our province, but we are the envy of the world.

There have been many significant changes in the past two years, and I would like to highlight some of them here. The first is the introduction of the three new quality standards — one for teachers, one for school leaders and one for system leaders. Some may wonder why this rates being mentioned. I am very pleased at how these three documents mesh together and strengthen the concept that we hold near and dear here in Alberta, that being collegiality. The similarity of the first five statements in each standard shows that whatever job a teacher may have within the public system, that person is still a teacher. This is no accident, as the ATA is the author of all three of these standards, and we should be proud of them.

I will also mention the removal of the pension cap so that all teachers will now receive the pension that they earned and for which they paid their contributions. This was an item that my predecessor worked toward over the course of his term in office, and I committed to him that I would see it through. I said I would, Mark, and I did.

While my life as a classroom teacher was hugely fulfilling, you gave me an opportunity that profoundly affected me.

There are things that are not yet complete, but then, I am not yet done. The ability to remain as a member of Provincial Executive Council as past-president is very comforting for me. I can continue my work on the leadership partnership research we have begun with Queensland and with New South Wales. I will also continue to push for universal membership in the ATA. If your job requires a teaching certificate, then you should be an active member of the ATA.

As I prepare to leave this office, there is one thing that I want to share with all of you. At every new teacher induction ceremony I have spoken at over the past six years, which numbers over 100, I’ve always talked about one of the greatest joys of teaching — when a former student recognizes you and comes over and tells you what a difference you made in their lives. I still enjoy hearing from former students, and I want to share that feeling with you, the teachers of Alberta. I want to tell you all what a difference you made in my life.

While my life as a classroom teacher was hugely fulfilling, you gave me an opportunity that profoundly affected me. As I travelled and listened to your stories from Medicine Hat to High Level, from Wainwright to Canmore, I was constantly in awe of the faith you had in me as your president. You believed in me and I learned that I, with the support of all of you, was capable of much more than I had ever imagined. I learned that respect and dignity are character traits that will always serve me well. And I learned that hard work, whether the result is evident or not, is an achievement unto itself.

I am a better person having worked with and for all of you. Thanks for the chance, and if you see me somewhere, please come up and say hi. ❚

Greg Jeffery became ATA president on July 1, 2017. His two-year term ends June 30. 


Opinions expressed on this page represent the views of the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

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