Honoured as one of the builders of the McDowell Foundation during its 25th anniversary gala celebrations, Harold Schultz had no problem recalling the most formative days of the initiative in which he played an integral role.
Yet as much as he shared his recollections of how the Foundation has been instrumental in heightening the professionalism of
the teaching profession and has evolved over time, Schultz was equally as bullish about its importance in the years ahead.
Schultz shared with those in the audience how, as a principal in Kinistino in the 1960s, he first became aware of action research following a presentation by Art McBeth of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation to the school staff.
Schultz became more involved with the concept when he joined the STF in 1978 recalling how at the time professional development was still pretty much driven by the Ministry of Education. He cited the integral involvement of then General Secretary Fred Herron as one of the most zealous advocates, not the least of which was in the fundraising area where Schultz was also to play a key role.
He mentioned the likes of Greystone Management, Gauley and Company law firm and Teachers’ Credit Union as major corporate contributors as well as the Futures Corporation.
Schultz described the excitement of those early days, noting that for some, the process was life- and career-changing. He insisted that passion needs to be as strong now as ever.
“Looking to the future, the need for a research arm of the of the STF has never been more important,” he said.
According to Schultz, “we live in an ever-complex society and teachers are the first responders to the manifestation of social conditions and the need for innovation in teaching and learning is so very important.”
As a keen observer of the education sector both here and abroad, the one-time member of the STF administrative staff team is hopeful that others in society will come to celebrate the teaching profession in a fashion akin to Finland.
“A country like Finland, whose students rank among the highest in achievement scores, their priority and focus is on teachers’ professional development,” Schultz stressed.
“I have a feeling that the teaching profession is due for a ‘bump’ to another level and the basis for such a movement might very well have teacher-led research as an underpinning.”
Schultz suggested that the collective voice of teachers is going to play an important role in the future. In a non-too-subtle dig at the policies of the provincial government, he added that if the profession accepts a leadership role, then teachers can be the agents for transformational change.
He referenced the presentation he had attended earlier in the day by Charlene Bearhead, educational lead at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
“If we are to implement the recommendations of the truth and reconciliation report–and we must–then social justice will be the most important theme in the future. Solid teacher research is going to be needed as a critical factor in this.
“If we want our students to reach high standards of achievement, then we must constantly seek to improve teaching and learning and that will occur best if we focus on the support for professional development for teachers,” Schultz maintained.