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Incoming president has sights on teacher certification

April 11, 2017 Bromley Chamberlain, ATA News Staff
Junior high teacher Greg Jeffery poses in the classroom that he will leave behind in order to take over as ATA president on July 1.

A Q&A with ATA president-elect
Greg Jeffery

Greg Jeffery was named ­president-elect of the Alberta Teachers’ Association on March 21 following a provincewide online vote that saw him emerge as the preferred of three candidates. A vice-president on Provincial Executive Council (PEC) for the last four years, Jeffery will take over from current president Mark Ramsankar on July 1. Following his win, the ATA News sat down with Jeffery to gather his thoughts on the election and his upcoming two-year term.

Now that you’ve had time to digest the election results, how do you feel?

I’m feeling pretty good; however, there is the ongoing struggle of, this is going to be a terrific job serving Alberta teachers, and then the next day the thought enters my mind that I will not be teaching kids anymore. That is a bit of a rollercoaster ride. 

What do you have on your to-do list so you’re ready to take over on July 1?

The first thing is properly wrap up my school year. I have taught at ­Rudolf Henning School for 33 years. The last band concert is going to be a little tough. I do also plan to sit down with President Mark Ramsankar, Executive Secretary Gordon Thomas, and soon-to-be executive secretary Dennis Theobald. I just want to make sure we are headed in the same direction on July 1. 

ATA presidents since 1999

Larry Booi

Frank Bruseker 2003–2009

Carol Henderson 2009–2013

Mark Ramsankar 2013–2017

Greg Jeffery

What are your top priorities? How do you plan to achieve them?

I don’t think it is a surprise to anyone — the big test coming up in the next two-year term of Provincial Executive Council will be the general election for the Alberta provincial government. Preparation for that and making sure we are in good shape will be my main priority. I would like to make the Association impregnable in terms of any attack from the outside. I believe that will be done through further professionalization. 

We deal with members’ conduct, we have practice review, but the missing piece still is the certification. The profession should be deciding what is required to become a teacher in Alberta. I am interested in going after certification. I want to further enhance our capacity for further professional development. There are PD consortiums around the province that receive provincial government funding. I would like those consortiums to come under the wing of our PD program area because I believe we do PD better than anyone else. If we could get that extra funding, we could get more people coming in — we could do a fabulous job of providing professional development for our members. 

What motivates you to continue your involvement in the ATA?

I started as an alternate school rep my first year of teaching. I moved up after five years onto the local executive. I became the local executive president in 1996. I led the Elk Island local through the strike in 2002. Then I joined Provincial Executive Council in 2003. I have been on PEC for 14 years. Giving back to one’s organization is something I learned as a child. My father was a union vice-president. It has been modelled for me my entire life. 

What would you say is the greatest strength you bring to your new role?

I am a big fan of collaboration and consensus. I believe that we all need to be working and pulling in the same direction. I will do everything I can to make sure that is how we operate as a Provincial Executive Council. 

What is an aspect of your new role that you want to work on?

Some would say, and I am not sure I believe it, that I need to talk more. That may be in comparison to the previous or present president, but just to be more active and more participatory in council meetings. It is not certainly something I can’t do, it’s just something I haven’t done. 

What are the most important values you demonstrate as a leader?

Integrity. Commitment. Knowledge. I believe my integrity has been demonstrated my entire career with the Association, certainly my commitment. You have to know what you are talking about; you have to understand the material. You have to educate yourself before you can educate others.

For those readers who aren’t very familiar with your career, can you provide a brief summary of your teaching experience? 

I have been a junior high teacher for 33 years, all of them at Rudolph Henning School in its varied iterations. When I started here, it was an English K–9. It evolved into a duel track K–9 for English and French immersion. In the last three years it has become strictly a junior high. We consolidated the two junior highs we had in Fort Saskatchewan and made one larger school. 

I have only ever taught in Rudolph Henning, but it has been a number of experiences. I have had 13 different principals. The school has shown me a lot of different things. 

Why did you choose to become a teacher?

I think I was inspired by the teachers I had in high school. I grew up in the Okanagan, which was a place a lot of people wanted to work. We had very good teachers all the way through school. 

I could point out three or four of them, but the one I always go back to was my high school English teacher. He was a major in the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves. He ran his classroom a little bit like that, which I didn’t mind. I liked his style. He was a wave-the-yardstick-as-a-sword-when-teaching- Shakespeare [type], and he forced us to debate. In the ’70s, high school kids weren’t always into that. 

I really found it a valuable experience, especially because he put me on the side of the debate he knew I was completely opposed to. I cleaned up that debate. The topic was “mandatory military service for every person who reached the age of 18.” He made me debate the “for” side. 

How do you feel about leaving the classroom?

It depends on the day. Being president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association is an amazing job. I am truly looking forward to it, but not walking into this building in September after 33 years doing it … will probably be a little difficult. I have had a lot of days to think about it, and some days it is good, some days it is not so good. Knowing that I am going to help make classrooms better across the province helps me a lot. ❚

 Playing favourites with Greg Jeffery
 What is your favourite …
 … quote  Almost means not
 … activity  Attending live ­sporting events
 … movie   Erin Brockovich
 … TV show   Suits
 … band  Queen
 … singer  Michael Bublé
 … book  Hawaii by James Michener
 … fictional character  Alex Cross
 … clothing   U of A hoodie
 … travel destination  Paris
 … vacation activity  art galleries

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