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ARA returns to in-person

May 31, 2022 Cory Hare, ATA News Managing Editor


Delegates focus on Bill 15, curriculum and upcoming provincial election

For the first time since 2019, the Alberta Teachers’ Association held its Annual Representative Assembly in person over the May long weekend.

More than 450 teacher delegates from across Alberta descended on downtown Calgary for rousing speeches, debate on ATA policy and a review of the organization’s annual budget.

For many, the return to meeting in person was a welcome change from the past two years of attending by video conference.

“Very different. You get to read the room. You get to feel the emotion and it’s very different from sitting and listening online,” said Red Deer delegate Sandy Ashcroft.

ATA president Jason Schilling felt the in-person format provided for a much more unifying feeling in the room compared to the previous two years.

“ARA is an important opportunity for teachers to come together and speak with a strong, unified voice on important issues,” said Schilling. “That sense of camaraderie was muted in the past two years.”

Motions carried

Debate on resolutions opened with delegates unanimously passing a series of resolutions on hot-button issues proposed by Provincial Executive Council. These included a formal denouncing of Bill 15, which removes teacher discipline from the ATA.

“This bill is a massive overreach by government,” said district representative Rick Kremp in introducing the resolution.

Other resolutions proposed by PEC (3-23 to 3-26) were also adopted unanimously. These will see the ATA

  • prepare a report to propose strategies for moving forward without the teacher discipline function,
  • urge the government to remove the arbitrary power of the education minister to overturn decisions within its new teacher discipline process,
  • urge the government delay the implementation of new curriculum until a full-year pilot has been completed.

Another resolution on reaffirming the importance of teacher leaders as ATA members was passed with near unanimity.

Regarding the pandemic, the assembly passed two resolutions (3-27 and 3-28) moved by PEC. The former will see the ATA initiate a research and outreach program to address student well-being post-pandemic, and the latter will see a similar effort with teachers as the focus.

Another adopted resolution (4-3), brought forward by a local, will see the Association develop a program to mobilize members in political advocacy leading up to all provincial elections.

Also, the Association re-affirmed its commitment to protecting students by revising an existing policy (1-80) to state that “school authorities should protect every student from the unwanted disclosure of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

“Valuing all students and letting all students be seen in school is not indoctrination,” said one delegate who spoke in support of the resolution. “It is our obligation in a responsive and healthy democracy.”

In-person format

For many delegates, this was the largest event they have attended since the beginning of the pandemic, and most appreciated the ability to see and connect with colleagues again.

“It’s been awesome. So much better than online,” agreed Debbie Hawkins, a Calgary delegate. “The last two years have not been as much fun …[not] a true experience.”

“I think we make better decisions when we’re talking amongst ourselves,” said Black Gold delegate Matthew Kierstead.

For others, being in a room full of people sitting shoulder to shoulder was daunting, and so it was welcome that all occupants of the main meeting room were required to wear masks except while drinking.

“A bit apprehensive, I won’t lie, a bit nerve-racking,” said Edmonton delegate Jorgianne Talbot, “but I was very happy to see people wearing their masks and doing their best to protect everyone.” ❚


Delegates show their support for a resolution by holding up their voting cards during ARA in Calgary.


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