Heather Smith, President of Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF), began her address by offering good wishes to departing General Secretary Victoria Reaume and expressing enthusiasm for working with incoming General Secretary Sharon O’Halloran. President Smith acknowledged the outstanding work that has been done by individual ETFO members like Maureen Weinberger, who CTF honoured with a special recognition award this year. She also expressed appreciation for the excellent work ETFO has done over the past year supporting and promoting FNMI education, efforts which were profiled in CTF’s online magazine, Perspectives.
President Smith congratulated ETFO for a taking a leadership role in the Bill 115 Charter Challenge and for a victory that has had a strong, positive ripple effect on teachers’ rights across the nation. She also acknowledged another special event: the renewal of British Columbia Teachers’ Federation’s membership in CTF a few weeks ago. As a result, CTF is now an organization representing over 231,000 teachers across the country.
President Smith reviewed the many activities and events that CTF undertakes to support student learning, the teaching profession and public schools. They include lobbying for greater mental health supports for children in the education system, which began during last year’s federal election. Teachers have raised the alarm that the mental health of their students is the number one issue impacting on teaching and learning. Teachers lack sufficient supports and training, making it more difficult to successfully engage students with anxiety, behavioural and psychological challenges. An austerity agenda in provinces across Canada that slashes school budgets, increases class sizes and reduces education resources makes it even more challenging for teachers to meet the needs of students impacted by mental health issues.
Meanwhile, expectations on teachers to provide more services to students means more and more educators are succumbing to stress and job-related burnout.
The commercialization of education around the world which, in turn, has begun to dictate education policy in more and more countries, is of great concern to CTF. On behalf of its members, CTF has engaged in lobbying efforts to combat this phenomenon. President Smith ended her address with a call to action, asking delegates to share information about corporate intrusion into public services like education in Canada and developing nations. She urged delegates to find out more about the intrusion of corporations into public education at tellpearson.org.