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Seize the opportunities of ATA membership

December 10, 2020 Lynn Leslie, Special to the ATA News


As an educator and school leader, I first realized the benefits of ATA membership about 17 years ago when I became an assistant principal. Like many new experiences, this change was both exciting and unsettling. 

“As individuals, we’re useless. We can’t lift heavy weight and we can’t solve complex problems.
But together? Together we are remarkable.” 

– Together is Better: A Little Book of Inspiration, Simon Sinek

My principal at the time recommended I attend the ATA’s Leadership Essentials for Administrators conference. At the two-day event, I met administrators from across the province and learned about a range of topics like building leadership capacity, supporting teacher professional growth, and complying with collective agreements and codes of conduct. Even though this seems like a lifetime ago, I recall my gratitude for the insights of the ATA presenters and for the large, three-ring binder that was brimming with materials and templates. 

The ATA library also became a valuable resource for me. I believe that it is one of the hidden treasures of ATA membership. With the support of expert librarians and prepaid shipping, members have many resources available to them at their fingertips. It’s one of those services that I have used periodically and most often when completing my masters and doctorate, but each time I visit the ATA library I am amazed by the expanding number and types of resources available. In my new role as principal of an online school, I will most definitely be further exploring these resources. 

The ATA’s greatest impact on me has come through its Council for School Leadership (CSL) and the Agile School Network. 

It is interesting how one decision and moment can change a person’s life trajectory. This happened to me seven years ago when I read an ATA article about a pilot project called Learning Sprints (now called Teaching Sprints) with Simon Breakspear. At the time, I was principal of a K–9 school and our teachers were engaged in professional learning communities (PLCs) focused on differentiation of teacher practices for students with diverse learning needs. 

My school wound up participating in the pilot, which provided my teachers and me with professional learning that bridged evidence-informed practices with teacher autonomy. The idea was to enable teachers to make decisions in response to their unique contextual circumstances. 

I have since had many opportunities to implement those leadership strategies and increase my understanding of them. These experiences enabled me to expand my connections with other school leaders, prompted me to consider new ways of leading and inspired me to complete an education doctorate on Engaging Teachers in Agile School Improvement. This ambitious endeavour was supported by senior leaders in my school division who, in partnership with ATA Local No. 55, provided me with about two years of tuition through the ATA Professional Improvement Fund.

I continue to benefit from ATA membership and the momentum gained from past experiences. Last year I had the privilege of traveling to Australia to engage in a three-year action research project as part of an Alberta–Australia exchange on school leadership. Although the project was cut short due to the pandemic, I learned that we share many similarities with Australian education. I also realized there are seldom simple solutions to complex problems, but as a member of a broader community of learners and leaders, we can support one another in navigating around challenges and seize the new opportunities that arise! 

Throughout my time as a school administrator, ATA membership has connected me to a broader community of educational leaders, and along with the support of my school district and ATA local, it has significantly contributed to my professional learning and continuous growth.  

Lynn Leslie has been a member of the ATA for 20 years. She is currently the principal of St. Isidore of Seville online school in the Calgary Catholic School District. She is a former school board trustee and systems analyst.

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