ATA News

ATA will remain true to its roots

Executive secretary reaffirms ATA’s core values and direction

Dennis Theobald speaks at the 2024 ARA

After a year of self-examination following the Alberta government’s decision to strip the organization of its role in governing professional conduct and competence, the Alberta Teachers’ Association remains steadfast in its foundational principles. 

That was the message given by the ATA’s executive secretary Dennis Theobald in his address to the 2024 Annual Representative Assembly, held on May long weekend in Calgary. 

“Despite everything, we are who we have always been, and that is a good thing,” Theobald said as he underscored the ATA’s dual identity as both a union and a professional organization. “From the outset, the Association was envisioned as being a union of professionals, and that is our first fundamental.” 

Theobald highlighted the interconnectedness of the union’s efforts in collective bargaining and its role in supporting teacher professionalism, citing concerns about class size, support for inclusion and adequate preparation time as both professional and union issues.

Theobald defended the importance of a free, publicly funded education system that serves all children, warning against the expansion of private schools under the guise of choice.

“These schools are exclusive, in the sense that they are very much defined by who they exclude,” he said.

He called for continued advocacy to preserve and enhance public education’s inclusive nature.

Theobald detailed the ATA’s initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion within the profession and the broader education system. He highlighted ongoing efforts to support women in leadership, engage with Indigenous communities and represent gender- and relationship-diverse students and teachers.

“Responding to diversity, promoting justice, seeking equity and striving to ensure all are included is now an expectation,” he said.

Addressing the assembly, Theobald praised the dedication of teacher volunteers and ATA staff, acknowledging the complexities and challenges they face. He stressed the need for ongoing support and training for volunteers, recognizing that the increased demands on classroom teachers have impacted their capacity to volunteer. 

“One of our greatest strengths, our dependence upon volunteerism, has become a vulnerability,” he observed, urging careful consideration of how to adapt to these changing dynamics.

In closing, Theobald reminded members of the guiding principles that should inform their decision making: the ATA’s identity as a union of professionals, its determination to ensure everyone feels welcomed in public education and its commitment to serving Alberta’s teachers. 

“If you do that,” he concluded, “we will continue to be a robust and dynamic organization, fully capable of advocating for members’ rights and professional interests.” ❚