Change ...

I dare say our education system has experienced many changes over the past few years. On the eve of my presidency, the government announced job cuts which were later reversed due to immense PEITF, teacher, and public pressure. Later that fall, contract negotiations broke down and ended in arbitration for the first time in 15 years. We then witnessed the dissolution of the English Language School Board and subsequently a 6-month school review process, which caused great turmoil in several school communities. But despite the constant roller-coaster ride, it has been a truly, amazing experience and I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to represent all of you!

Last school year the Government established student well-being teams and this has been a positive step in supporting student mental health. Every day in our schools, teachers do their best to support the wellness of their students, however, the complexities of the mental health of students today continues to increase across this country. The student wellness teams have been well received to date, and have helped many students on the critical end of the spectrum.

When the need for supports for EAL students hit a crisis point, Government listened and invested funds to help deal with this issue. The added positions have helped to ease some of the pressures of the increased EAL student community who need language support to be able to engage in their own learning. While we still have large classrooms with diverse EAL needs, this aspect of class composition has improved.

The concerns we have on both of these positives, however, is that we don't see them as strictly educational policies. Student wellness teams are a social services initiative. EAL support is part of an immigration policy. They are both helpful to some teachers and some students, but they are of limited benefit to the majority of teachers and students. Yet, the current government sells them as big education initiatives. We have to continue to challenge that. The Government recently announced a large surplus, so we are hopeful that more education investments will be coming our way. The issue of substitute availability has been another topic of concern. This has a profound impact on the system. We have teachers coming to work sick, missing important appointments, or missing professional learning opportunities due to the lack of substitute teachers in this province. We have Administrators forced to juggle schedules or to add to their already overburdened duties in finding ways to cope when no substitutes can be found. We know this is a major concern for teachers across the province and it is something we continue to work on.

As I mentioned at convention, negotiations to date have been slow and at times frustrating. The PEITF Economic Welfare Committee brought forward concerns regarding the working conditions of our teachers to which we reminded Government, are the conditions in which our Island students learn. Providing a supportive learning atmosphere for today's students is a must, but so is making the job of a teacher manageable. We are still continuing to talk, however, and we remain hopeful at this point.

I would like to send out a special thank you to the Annual Convention Planning Committee for their hard work and dedication! I am certain you will agree that the committee went above and beyond to provide teachers with great new teaching strategies and professional development, which will benefit PEI students.

Thank you for ALL that you do. I can't say it enough... I am privileged and honored to represent Prince Edward Island teachers. Look after yourselves, as too often you put others first. Take the time to enjoy this Holiday Season with family and friends. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Being a teacher means...
You will never be bored.
You will sometimes be frustrated.
You will be surrounded by challenges.
So much to do and so little time.
You will carry immense responsibility yet at times feel powerless.
You will step into childrens' lives. And you will make a difference.
Some will bless you. Some will curse you. You will see children face obstacles
And difficult times.
But you will never cease to be amazed at a child's capacity for love, courage, and endurance.
You will experience triumphs.
And frustrating failures.
You will cry a lot. You will laugh a lot.
But most importantly... you have changed students' lives
And they in tum have changed yours.