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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 17, Number 7, May/June 2005

Sage advice from AGM delegates about to retire

As teachers attend their last AGM before retiring, they reflect on teaching conditions throughout their career, advise colleagues still in the classroom, and reflect on the importance of having a strong union.

Val Hamilton, Vancouver
A teacher-librarian since 1970, I am saddened by the erosion of library services across the province.

Only because of the tireless work of the B.C. Teacher-Librarians’ Association and union activists in the locals is there some hope for the future. All teachers should join a provincial specialist association and also take part in the work of their local. The greater the participation, the stronger the voice.

Sandy Dore, Central Okanagan
My final AGM was undertaken because I have watched our profession under attack and I felt it important to stand up for my young colleagues and walk side-by-side with them for teachers’ and students’ rights.

The BCTF must remain strong. Our young activists will be carrying the torch into my grandchildren’s future. We must stand together and be strong for students, their parents, and our fellow teachers.

Carol Pettigrew, North Vancouver
When I began teaching, in 1969, my class had over 40 students, and this year (2005) I have 19 students. The BCTF brought about that change. I was privileged to be a member and co-chair of the BCTF Status of Women program during the early 1980s. At this AGM, I saw the results of that work. The lobby and floor of the AGM had babies everywhere; the moms were the delegates, and the dads were caring for the babies. That’s a long way from the 1980s, when most delegates were male, and there was no daycare. The BCTF gave me a place to explore my passions and to grow as a person. The friendships I made along the way and the skills I learned will continue to enrich my life as I retire this June. I hope new delegates will enjoy their years in the BCTF, as I have.

Advice to new delegates: It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission, so just do it. They can’t discipline 42,000 people. You are the BCTF!

Jo Spies, Vancouver
My first class (in 1959–60) had 42 students (Grade 3/4). We have come far with our collective work, and it is with sadness that I watch our present government destroy it.

My advice to my colleagues is to stand and be counted. If teachers don’t defend public education, no one else will.

Monty Hughes, Vernon
I started as an activist in the BCTF in the second year of my teaching career by becoming the president of the Gold Trail Teachers’ Association. (Different name in those days.) As local president for my last four years in teaching, I have worked with many talented and committed people.

It is important, now more than ever, to develop the young activist who will be the backbone of the BCTF tomorrow.

Mary Lightly, Coquitlam
The 2005 AGM was my first, and I thought my last—until I realized that retirees are welcome here. So I’ll be back!

In 33 years of classroom teaching, I have been through good times and bad--at the school, district, and provincial levels. I quickly realized that, with one’s first teaching position, comes the responsibility to ceaselessly and strongly advocate for universally accessible, quality public education, for it is the foundation of a healthy and just society. This responsibility is, at times heavy. But do not forget that in some times, in some places, people have given—are giving—their lives to obtain and protect the right to learn.

Using our considerable united resources to defend public education, as B.C. teachers have long done, is not simply self-interest. Advocating for adequate salary and benefits, as well as for working conditions that allow us to deliver the best possible services to our students, is not simply self-interest. Fight hard; fight smart; fight united.

Terry McCune, Powell River
We’re back where we started in 1970—perhaps we’re worse off, because we don’t have local bargaining. Classes are just as large; needs are greater.

Those still in the classroom will have to work hard to regain what’s been lost–I don’t envy them.

A strong union is the only advocate for teachers—no one else, no other group, can or will bring better working and learning conditions.

Sandra Davie, Prince George
My teaching career has passed so quickly. In my 33 years, I have learned so much about kids and about myself. I believe that public education and the BCTF are at a crossroads. We must continue to stand together and do everything we can to preserve both. I am proud to have worked with so many wonderful people and will continue to support our union and its precious and necessary work.

Carolyne Kennedy, Nechako
I’ve been a teacher without a union and a teacher with a union. What a difference a union makes! I have met many dedicated professionals within the BCTF and have enjoyed my time with them at the AGM.

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