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‘This is a fight for our profession’

January 26, 2022 Cory Hare, ATA News Managing Editor




ATA executive secretary Dennis Theobald speaks during a Member Information Meeting held via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 24. The meetings are being held throughout the week.


Teachers need to rise up in large numbers and fight back against a government attack on their professionalism.

That was the main message shared during a series of Member Information Meetings that took place from Jan. 24 to 27. Referred to as MIMs, the meetings attracted more than 2,900 total attendees. 

The meeting agenda focused mainly on the potential dangers of the government’s plan to remove the discipline function from the ATA.

“It is a radical plan, a departure from historical norms and its full consequences for teachers and for the culture of public education in this province are uncertain,” said ATA executive secretary Dennis Theobald.

“What is clear, though, is that if the government succeeds in this radical plan, we teachers will be diminished as a profession and our focus and our role in public education will be fundamentally altered.”

Theobald urged classroom teachers to ask themselves, if teachers don’t regulate themselves, who will regulate them?

“The fact of the matter is we’ll be regulated by others and those others will not necessarily be motivated by a larger concern for public education or informed by an understanding of the lived realities of teachers in the classroom,” Theobald said.

He went on to note that, in other provinces where teacher discipline has been separated from the teaching profession, the move has been part of larger changes that he described as a “constellation of destructive ideas.”

These have usually included removing principals, school leaders and central office staff from membership in the respective teachers’ organization. Such moves are based on an ideology that teachers are not really professionals and don’t have the capacity for self-direction, he said.

In Alberta, removing the discipline function could be the first domino to fall and possibly teachers’ last chance to deter government from other policies that would be even more destructive to teachers’ professional status, dignity and quality of life.

“That’s why we have to fight back,” Theobald said. “This is a fight for our profession and for the culture of public education … It is a fight that we must win; otherwise, the consequences will be delivered to you in your working lives wherever you may be.”

Some attendees asked whether teachers could fight back by going on strike. They learned that strikes are only legal when they result from an impasse in negotiating a collective agreement, whereas the planned change to the ATA’s regulatory capacity is a matter of legislation rather than collective agreements.

Three actions

ATA associate co-ordinator of communications Jonathan Teghtmeyer outlined three actions the Association is asking members to undertake: educate, advocate and stay engaged.

This begins with teachers educating themselves and their colleagues on this issue, then putting as much pressure as they can on MLAs throughout the province.

“We need to help them understand that this is a very bad decision for public education,” Teghtmeyer said.

ATA president Jason Schilling emphasized that, as much as he and other leaders are active in advocating for the profession, the ATA’s most powerful weapon is its 46,000 members.

“If they weaken our association and our profession, then we lose our voice in what matters and what matters the most is our students, each other and public education,” he said. “I’ll just ask you to do what you can. Do the best that you can right now.”

Carmen Glossop, a district representative for Edmonton McMurray, spoke during one of the meetings and urged teachers to help educate their colleagues and to fight relentlessly. 

“I am pandemic tired and I know if I am, then so are you,” Glossop said. “This is a big deal, my friends. We are in a fight and on multiple avenues, but together, as one profession united, we have the ability to fight them off if we have to because we are tough and we can do tough things.”

She noted that relentless pressure from teachers prompted the government to backtrack from its original position on taking over teachers’ pensions.

“Remember: when we fight, we win,” she said, “because we are ATA.” ❚ 


Minister pitches national registry of bad teachers

While the ATA was holding member meetings to discuss its teacher discipline process, the CBC reported that Education Minister Adriana LaGrange is spearheading an effort to create a national registry of teachers who’ve had their credentials revoked by their provincial regulator, thus making it difficult or impossible for them to teach in another province or territory.

The CBC reported that, in March 2020, LaGrange wrote her provincial counterparts urging them to support her efforts to get the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, to address teacher discipline. As a result, the council tasked a committee to research the creation of a national registry of teachers who had been disciplined or lost their licence. The committee will release its recommendations soon, LaGrange said.

The ATA issued a statement indicating that such a registry would be welcome. 

“The ATA has no interest in protecting teachers whose certificates have been suspended or cancelled for misconduct,” it said.


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