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President’s message

BCTF delegation at the Legislature: (L to R) Lisa Hagar, Sooke; Katie Keast, Fernie; Clint Johnston, BCTF President; Carole Gordon, BCTF First Vice-President (centre front); Premier David Eby (centre back); Marilyn Carr, Surrey; Rachna Singh, Minister of Education and Child Care; Sam Asmoucha, Vancouver Elementary and Adult Educators; Marjean Brown, Burnaby (right front); Jeanine Foster, Abbotsford (right back). Amy Smart photo.

No one knows better than our members the impacts of increasingly complex classrooms. Spend time in any school staffroom and you’ll hear colleagues confide in one another about the heartbreak of not being able to provide a student with the support they need due to staffing shortages, or the toll it takes to be pulled from counselling or library work to fill classroom absences without being replaced themselves. We know that our members’ distress comes from a deep place of caring that could be solved with adequate support from school districts and government.


But if we want to see change, we need decision-makers to understand that too. That’s why we organized a delegation of six members to visit the Legislature in Victoria: to share the realities in schools directly with provincial leaders. These incredible members shared heart-felt stories in back-to-back meetings with Premier David Eby, cabinet ministers, and MLAs.


“If it wasn’t obvious, I love my students so much. I wish I could wave a magic wand and change the world to help them, but I can’t. We need your help,” Katie Keast, a counsellor from Elkford, BC, told the politicians.


Keast described students who were struggling and falling through the cracks, but who would thrive with the support they were entitled to receive.


Marjean Brown of Burnaby described an average day in the classroom, including cancelled music classes and lost prep time, EAs calling in sick without replacements, and inconsistent support for designated students.


Members described increasingly complex environments. When programs and services are lost, students are more likely to be dysregulated, teacher-librarian Marilyn Carr of Surrey said.


“When our most vulnerable learners have their social and emotional needs met, they can thrive in the classroom.”


Delegates Sam Asmoucha from Vancouver, Lisa Hagar from Sooke, and Jeanine Foster from Abbotsford made similarly impactful statements.


Many of the politicians were moved, and shared messages of gratitude and support for teachers. But we also knew that if they wanted to help, they would need to hear some solutions.


School staffing shortages are paralleled in other public sectors and industries. While it may seem overwhelming, it also means this government is familiar with action: last year, they announced a comprehensive workforce strategy for the health care sector.


We told them: it’s education’s turn.


A fully funded workforce plan that tackles recruitment, retention, and training opportunities is one that will improve working conditions and learning conditions simultaneously. It would mean funding not just in the next budget but as part of a robust, multiyear plan to transform public education for the better.


What these decision-makers do with these stories, with our proposals, is up to them.


We know teachers have the most important job in BC: they’re shaping our future. We hope this government sees that too.


As we turn the page on 2023, I want to take a moment to thank all members who help advocate for their colleagues and the profession. The BCTF will continue fighting for better working conditions in 2024. I invite you to check out the article on bargaining for a glossary and timeline of what’s to come.

In solidarity,

Clint Johnston, BCTF President


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