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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 18, Number 6, April 2006

In memoriam

Harley Robertson, BCTF president in 1966–67, died in late 2005. Robertson taught in Prince George and Hazelton, and was an administrator in Kitimat. He was principal of Mount Elizabeth Secondary School in Kitimat, as past president of the BCTF when two future presidents of the BCTF were on staff—Larry Kuehn as a teacher and Neil Worboys as a student teacher. As a principal, Robertson actively promoted the involvement of staff in the BCTF.

Robertson was active in politics in the community as well as the BCTF. He ran unsuccessfully for the New Democrats as a candidate in Kitimat in the 1969 election. After leaving Kitimat, he served as an elected school trustee representing Denman Island.

The late 1960s was a time of experimenting with approaches to education that were more centered on students and gave them freedom and responsibilities to make decisions about their education in general and whether to attend classes in particular. In his president’s report to the 1967 BCTF Annual General Meeting, Robertson said "I believe teachers should be in the forefront of this educational revolution." However, his approach to an open school was controversial, and the school board in Kitimat removed him as principal of the secondary school.

Robertson was president at a time when teachers had placed a high priority on improving learning conditions. In his AGM address he said "Teachers have shown that they no longer wish to be cast in a submissive role in education." His view of professionalism was reflected in a quote he used in the report: "The professional teacher is the militant teacher because he refuses to tolerate conditions, which seriously hamper his effectiveness as a teacher."

When BCTF members considered joining the BC Federation of Labour in 2002, Robertson sent a message endorsing affiliation. He said "I heartily approve and that it is certainly about time. You have my endorsement in spades."

Harley Robertson was colourful and controversial throughout his career and his life.

– Larry Kuehn

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