In her presentation to the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation Annual Meeting of Council, Canadian Teachers’ Federation President Heather Smith went out of her way to underscore the historic relationship that has existed between the STF and the national body. However, that was only half the message–she implored other Saskatchewan educators to follow in their footsteps in the future.
“The Canadian Teachers’ Federation recognizes the contributions of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples of Canada. In honour of reconciliation in education, we acknowledge and give gratitude to the Indigenous peoples whose lands we are on today,” Smith said in her address, noting the contributions in this area by many Saskatchewan teachers and, in particular, Miranda Field.
Smith outlined how, in March, history was made in terms of advancing women’s equality on the political scene. The Daughters of the Vote is a historic event that marked a century of women’s suffrage on Canada’s 150th anniversary, and with which Canadian teachers played a role.
Approximately 35 teacher facilitators nominated by member organizations worked alongside the 338 young women aged 18 to 23 who had been selected to represent every federal riding.
“The Canadian Teachers’ Federation is proud to have collaborated with the lead organization–Equal Voice–which led to the historic seating of the Daughters in the House of Commons on March 8, International Women’s Day.
“This event would not have been possible had it not been for the support of our member organizations. A special thank you to the STF for sponsoring Miranda Field as a teacher facilitator during the event. Miranda is a member of our Advisory Committee on the Status of Women.”
According to Smith, since most of these Daughters are our former students, it was meaningful and symbolic to have teacher leaders accompany the Daughters at the threshold of their political lives.
“Teachers acquire a unique skill set, one that they don’t always believe is exceptional or that can be easily adapted to other professions. I have read that teachers make 1,500 decisions in a six-hour school day, which reduces to four decisions per minute. This is all while teachers do what teachers do … to make a difference,” the CTF President emphasized.
Building on that theme, Smith suggested teachers also have skills aplenty for any political office to which they aspire. She added that the CTF’s proposition to attendees is that they should consider running for office, “whether within your own federation or at the national level as a CTF Vice-President or President, in addition to perhaps one’s own community, province or federal riding.
“As a teacher, you meet the job requirements! We have a former teacher as a Prime Minister.
“Collectively, teacher organizations make strides towards creating a more just society every day.
“Support for a strong, publicly funded public education system in which the teaching profession is respected and heard is more critical than ever before,” Smith underscored.
“Publicly funded public education is a human right. It is described as the ‘great equalizer’ and the cornerstone of democracy … which is exactly why it must not be privatized,” she warned.
Highlighting how some of the CTF’s programs and resources can help teachers in this important work was Smith’s message, citing specifically Imagineaction, the Federation’s own social justice program.
“Close to 1,300 Saskatchewan students were engaged or impacted by eight social action projects that received close to $3,500 in funding from this program since its beginning. We are delighted that 50 STF members are currently registered with Imagineaction, and it’s not too late for you to join,” she said.
Another program where Saskatchewan teachers are annual participants is Project Overseas, which she suggested is ideal if engagement in teacher development and social justice overseas is of interest.
“The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation has a long history in this program. Since 1962, 159 volunteers from the STF have participated in 211 missions, working with other Canadian teachers and teacher colleagues in other countries.”
Smith further added that the CTF has many teacher resources to ignite conversations with your students about the stigma attached to mental health, about truth and reconciliation and about child poverty.
“When classrooms are infused with social justice, our young people can learn a great deal about the world around them. It can also empower them to become engaged citizens. Let’s continue to ensure what they’re learning is rooted in principles of social justice.”
In closing, Smith paid tribute to STF President Patrick Maze and former Executive Director Gwen Dueck, “who represent your interests so well at the national level.”
She also took a moment to extend a welcome to newly appointed Executive Director Randy Schmaltz to the national board, and says she looks forward to working with him.
In addition, Smith recognized those STF members who sit on CTF advisory committees, including Joseph Pelletier–Aboriginal Education,
Donna Lajeunesse–French as a First Language, Miranda Field–Status of Women and Elizabeth Phipps–Teaching Profession.