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Q & A: Executive opportunities await those who engage

March 13, 2017 Gordon Thomas, Executive Secretary

Question: How do I get one of those executive staff jobs with the Alberta Teachers’ Association?


Answer: It’s the norm for all executive staff positions to be filled by open competition. All positions are advertised in the ATA News. Provincial Executive Council establishes a selection committee for each posting. The selection committee is chaired by the president, and the executive secretary serves as committee secretary. The relevant program co-ordinator is also a member of the committee (For example, the co-ordinator of Member Services participates on the committee if the vacancy is in Member Services). When the posting is for a co-ordinator or more senior staff position, an executive staff representative is elected by executive staff. The three remaining positions of the selection committee are filled by members of Council, elected by Council itself. Each six-member selection committee has a mandate to recommend a candidate for the consideration of Provincial Executive Council.


Prospective candidates must possess or be eligible for an Alberta teaching certificate and have completed at least five years of successful teaching. A strong commitment to public education is expected. There may be work required in the evenings and on weekends, and there will be travel demands. While there is no formal requirement for a master’s degree, virtually all executive staff officers hold a master’s or doctoral degree, and most candidates for executive staff positions have completed graduate work.


There are considerable differences in the nature of the work, so the relevant skill set varies depending upon the position. A candidate for a position in Teacher Welfare should have bargaining experience and knowledge of education finance, benefit plans, pensions, occupational health and safety, and other areas. A candidate for a position in Member Services should have strong representational and human ­resources skills. A candidate for a position in Professional Development may work in teacher education and certification; curriculum; diversity, equity and human rights; and PD field service. And a candidate for a position in the Government program area may need a skill set in public relations and publicity, government relations, professional standards, representation or educational research.


All members of the teaching profession can apply, not just experienced classroom teachers. We regularly receive applications from teachers, school administrators, central office staff, superintendents, Alberta Education staff, faculty of education members and many others. In fact, over the years our executive staff has been composed of people from all of the above groups. Council seeks the best candidate in each instance.

I always advise members who are interested in executive staff positions to be engaged in the affairs of their profession. Know what is going on in this sector and get involved with the Association locally or provincially. Serve on your local executive. Volunteer to serve on a provincial committee. Be really good at the role you play in the teaching profession, and expand your horizons through graduate education.

Remember, I don’t do the hiring. Executive staff officers are appointed by Provincial Executive Council, so it’s good to be known to Council members. Complete graduate work in an area of interest to you. And there will be opportunities in the months and years ahead — about 12 of the Association’s 34 executive staff are age 55 or higher.


If you would like further advice on how to become an executive staff officer, feel free to contact me at Barnett House.


Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (


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