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Honorary membership recipients criticize government attack

May 31, 2022 Kim Clement, ATA News Staff


A commitment to public education and teaching: this is the trait held in common by this year’s two recipients of the ATA’s highest award: honorary membership in the ATA.

Mark Ramsankar, former ATA president

Former ATA president Mark Ramsankar and former executive secretary Gordon Thomas each received the award at the 105th Annual Representative Assembly in Calgary over the May long weekend.

“It’s very humbling to be included with the list of previous honorary members,” said Ramsankar in his acceptance speech.

“I find it difficult to believe that I’m on the same list as some iconic teachers I have idolized, outstanding teachers with whom I have the had the honour to serve,” said Thomas.

Ramsankar’s teaching career spanned 35 years, and he received an Excellence in Teaching Award from the government of Alberta. In his first months as ATA president, Ramsankar went head to head with then minister of education Jeff Johnson over his Taskforce on Teaching Excellence.

Upon accepting the award, Ramsankar spoke to delegates about his concerns with the ideology of the current government, particularly around public service funding and the UCP’s attack on the teaching profession.

“We have to fight these ideals that say public sector activities cost money. It’s an investment in our future!” Ramsankar said.

He expressed frustration that the government is standing in the way of the building up of public education by the people who know and understand it.

“Stand up with one loud voice, tell this province who we are, let the government know we are proud Alberta teachers,” he said.

The legend: Gordon Thomas

Gordon Thomas, former ATA executive secretary

In accepting his award, Thomas offered thanks to his wife Myra, Provincial Executive Council members with whom he served, and the many staff who supported him during his long career at the Association.

When presenting the award to Thomas, ATA president Jason Schilling shared that honouring Thomas was “a joyful and daunting task as it is difficult to capture in words the myth, the legend that is Dr. Gordon Thomas.”

“His breadth and depth of knowledge on the issues facing teachers is extraordinary. He possesses an institutional knowledge of the Association that is unparalleled,” Schilling said.

Like Ramsankar, Thomas also criticized the current government’s handling of the education file, including the passing of Bill 15, which removes the discipline function from the Association.

“Let’s talk about what the UCP agenda really is. What’s underway is the first of four elements of the deprofessionalization of the teaching profession,” he said.

The government does not see teachers as professionals in their own right, Thomas noted, instead they are simply employees and “evil union members.”

He urged teachers to hold fast in the face of a hostile government.

“Don’t give up one square inch of your professional turf.” ❚


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