Choosing the path

The road from teacher candidate to Federation activist

For OSSTF/FEESO’s teaching members, the time we spend as teacher candidates is an important introduction to the daily routines of life in the classroom. If we are lucky, we gain insight into how our collective agreements shape the tone in our workplaces, and how multifaceted roles help to enhance public education. Some teacher candidates are fortunate enough to participate in their faculty’s TEAC (Teacher Education Advisory Committee) and TELC (Teacher Education Liaison Committee). Through these fora, members gain insights into enrolment and accreditation, and into trends and emerging challenges in public education. Through participation in TELC, many teacher candidates over the years have also gained a unique perspective about the ways in which public education and the labour movement intersect. Indeed, this has been an exciting opportunity for some associate members to make a foray into the exciting world of OSSTF/FEESO!

Faculty TEACs comprise a variety of stakeholders: Faculty representation consists of the Dean and/or Associate Dean and the Practicum Coordinator. Each teaching affiliate—OSSTF/FEESO, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA)—has a representative who attends the quarterly meetings to offer their perspectives, and act as a two-way conduit between TELC and their federation’s FEWG (Faculty of Education Advisory Work Group). Student representatives from each of the two years in the teacher education program ensure the student voice is heard.

One of the OSSTF/FEESO teacher candidate representatives is invited to our Annual Meeting of the Provincial Assembly (AMPA)! Not every student who participates in TELC will govern their career according to the mantra “bread and roses for all,” but many past TELC have become strong activists within OSSTF/FEESO. Here are a few details about some of these members:

Shelley Page—UWO Class of 1985
Shelley Page attended her first AMPA as a teacher candidate in 1985 and addressed the Assembly on behalf of her cohort. In District 13, Durham, Shelley served as District President for two four-year blocks. In that time she was the architect of many iterations of a collective agreement that saw unprecedented improvements for OSSTF/FEESO members. Shelley was hired to Provincial Office in 2010, and as a member of the Protective Services Division she has continued to fight for members across Ontario in our Districts and at the bargaining table.

Esther Uhm—OISE Class of 1999
As a secondary student at East York Collegiate in Toronto, Esther was elected Senior Vice-President of her Student Council, and created the East York Chinese Connection, where she served as president. This was an exceptional initiative that taught students about aspects of Chinese culture while creating a strong understanding of diversity within a multicultural student population. Esther is now the Assistant Curriculum Leader of Library and Learning Resources at Central Technical School in Toronto. As a teacher candidate, Esther had the honour of addressing AMPA. Her work as an OSSTF/FEESO representative has continued to evolve since then, and she has served as a branch president, and as both a committee and a
council member.

Jason Witty—UWO Class of 2000
Jason graduated from the University of Western Ontario’s teacher education program in 2000, earning Intermediate/Senior qualifications in both computer science and Individual and Society. He has since earned his Specialist in Contemporary Studies, and his Part 1 in Co-op education. Jason attended his first AMPA as a teacher candidate in 2000, where he had the distinction of addressing the meeting. This was a daunting task, scheduled as it was mere hours after the Assembly had dramatically shunned Janet Ecker, who was then Mike Harris’s Minister of Education. Jason understood the power of a union’s collective voice, and has become increasingly involved in OSSTF/FEESO since then. He has served as an executive member with District 11, Thames Valley, for over 14 years, and attends Provincial Council as a Teacher Bargaining Unit representative.

Rob Adlam—U of W Class of 2001
Rob’s first AMPA was in 2001 as a teacher candidate. It was an election year at AMPA and Rob, seeing our democracy in action, was engaged from the start. He has since served in many capacities in OSSTF/FEESO. Rob has served as both branch president and collective bargaining committee representative, and is entering his tenth year as Greater Essex Teacher Bargaining Unit Treasurer. His work has led him to participate in two rounds of local negotiations as a table team member, and he is currently serving as interim Contract Maintenance Officer for his District’s Teacher Bargaining Unit.

Peter Bates—UWO Class of 2002
Peter attended his first AMPA as a teacher candidate from the University of Western Ontario in 2002. Like many of us, he quickly became familiar with the names and Districts of activist members who spoke passionately to motions at the mics. Peter was hooked, and he was simply blown away by the full range of activities the Federation undertakes, especially the commitment to social justice and to professional development for our members. Perhaps most inspiring was the annual Marion Drysdale Award video (now called the Student Achievement Awards in honour of Marion Drysdale). This was especially engaging for Peter as an aspiring visual arts teacher. Peter has taught both in District 5A, Northern Shield and District 11, Thames Valley, and has worked as a time-release officer in Thames Valley. He was hired to Provincial Office in 2016 as a member of the Educational Services Department.

Jenny Chen—OISE Class of 2003
Jenny attended her first AMPA as a teacher candidate in 2003. In 2004, she began work as a Social Sciences, Law, and History teacher at Riverdale Collegiate Institute, where she stayed until assuming a time-release position as Executive Officer with the Toronto Teachers’ Bargaining Unit. She was also on the writing team for the Federation’s “Confronting Poverty: An Action-Based Approach to Addressing Class Bias” Workshop. Jenny was hired to Provincial Office in 2018 as a member of the Educational Services Department, where she continues to build engaging training and professional development for members.

Erin Cannon—Queen’s University Class of 2016
Erin participated in her Teacher Education Liaison Committee as a secondary representative for OECTA where she had the opportunity to attend their AGM. She is now a proud member of OSSTF/FEESO in District 5A, Northern Shield, and is very much engaged in their activities at her branch.

Marie Vaduva—OISE Class of 2018
Marie attended AMPA 2018 as a teacher candidate. She found the opportunity to hear Farrah Khan address the assembly incredibly moving. Marie was struck by our Assembly’s devotion to ensuring an equitable workplace, and she is thrilled to be working as a music and French teacher with the Peel District School Board.

With each new graduating class of educators in Ontario, OSSTF/FEESO continues to identify future leaders for our organization. As we celebrated our Federation’s 100th year at AMPA 2019, we were once again joined by a group of future members eager to learn about our practices and to be inspired by our common commitment to enhancing and defending publicly-funded education.

About Ryan Kelly
Ryan Kelly is a teacher in District 13, Durham and a long-time labour activist.

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