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The ATA is democratic. Please vote.


February 23, 2021 Jason Schilling, ATA President


Elections matter because democracy matters. Elections allow us to have a say in shaping our representation and allow people to have a voice on issues that are important. Having just witnessed an election in the United States, we can see how elections are important and just how fragile democracy can truly be. 

It’s important for our institutions to preserve the democratic process of elections and to make sure that they are free and accessible for all. At the recent Calgary City Teachers’ Convention, keynote speaker Joel Sartore referenced a quote by Jane Goodall in his presentation, “Without hope, people fall into apathy.” 

Though this statement was about conserving endangered species, the idea behind the quote sat with me. I believe that, no matter how big or small, all elections are important. To me elections can give hope for change, that if we engage in the democratic processes afforded to us, we can use our vote to make a difference. Every vote does indeed count.

In case you missed it, it’s election time for Provincial Executive Council (PEC), which is the body of teacher representatives that governs the ATA. Teachers across the province will once again have the ability to elect the individuals they want to represent them. ATA provincial elections roll around every two years, and each and every teacher who belongs to the ATA has the right to be a candidate.

When a teacher starts their career in an Alberta public school, whether they are right out of university or new to the province, they become a member of the Alberta Teachers’ Association. These new teachers typically attend an induction ceremony arranged by their ATA local, many of which I have had the pleasure to attend. In my comments to new teachers, I encourage them to become involved in their professional organization, as the ATA is stronger as a whole when members are engaged.

Induction ceremonies are uniform across the province. Whether yours takes place in a hotel banquet room, at a small-town legion or on Zoom, all teachers new to the profession take the same pledge. One of the commitments of the pledge states that the ATA “can achieve its objectives only to the extent that [teachers] participate in its affairs and government through democratic processes.” In the excitement of the moment, the meaning of this part of the pledge might get lost. Essentially it means that, when an election comes around, whether for your ATA local or provincial positions, teachers should be become engaged in the process of electing their leadership. 

The ATA has a long and proud history of being a democratic organization. Each and every teacher has the opportunity to hold office and serve their colleagues. Many teachers give back to the ATA by fulfilling one of the most important roles in the Association — school representative for their local. Teachers also get involved in their locals by contributing to their local teacher welfare committees; professional development committees; diversity, equity and human rights committees; substitute committees; women in leadership committees; or in an executive position such as local president. 

On the local level, the possibilities are endless, and these local positions are excellent ways for teachers to engage with their colleagues about issues that they are passionate about. 

Provincial Executive Council is made up of the elected representatives of Alberta teachers plus the Association’s executive secretary. The five table officers are its executive: president, two vice-presidents, past president and executive secretary, and its other members are the 15 district representatives of the 11 geographic districts. Provincial Executive Council also establishes standing and ad-hoc committees to advise it on a variety of educational matters. 

This sounds pretty dry when you read it on the ATA website, but the work of Provincial Executive Council has been anything but boring this last year. It’s important that the leadership of our Association be the voice of teachers who are elected by their peers. It gives our Association credibility when advocating for the issues necessary to promote and advance public education in Alberta. 

This year teachers are busy, tired and overwhelmed by the demands of teaching during a pandemic. But I encourage each and every one of you to become involved in the democracy of the Association you belong to. Read the platforms, attend an online forum and vote. Like all things pertaining to public education and our ATA, it matters.  ❚


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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