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Managing your workflow PM Trudeau visits the CLC Remembering our Veterans











9 WE REMEMBER Oakville students pay special tribute to local veterans By Dylan Franks 10 EMERGENCY RELIEF EFFORT OFFERS HOPE TO NEW REFUGEES Toronto Archdiocese campaign exceeds expectations By Dylan Franks 12 LONG TERM DISABILITY COVERAGE DURING LEAVES OF ABSENCE By Adam Lemieux

TEACHERS AID 13 INSIGHT First time speaker at the mic By Doug McCarthy


14 TEACHER ADVISOR Managing conflict situations with parents By Joe Pece 16 LEGAL BRIEF Gender Equity - New era, old problem By Charlene Theodore 17 BEGINNING TEACHERS By Claire Laughlin 18 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Going digital in the classroom? By Anthony Carabache

PEOPLE WORTH WATCHING 19 ANICK CHAMPAGNE-HICKEY Teacher’s experiences abroad inform the learning in her classroom By Christopher Lombardo


A LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE 20 My time with Project Overseas By Natascha Delpippo

VIEWPOINT 22 AGM IS COMING... Make Your Voice Heard! 23 FIVE LESSONS FROM THE FAILING FIGHT AGAINST CHILD POVERTY By Kaylie Tiessen 24 DOWN TO BUSINESS AT THE PINK PALACE Period of relative political calm an opportunity to make life better for Ontarians By Adam Lemieux




PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE The beginning of a new calendar year is generally regarded as a time of reflection and renewal. We take stock of our lives and consider how we can get closer to being the people we aspire to be. And teachers know better than most how important it is to be introspective and innovative. Through practice and experience in the classroom, and consultation and collaboration with our colleagues, we learn which goals and methods are most effective, and why. The operations of our Association should be no different. We should always be thinking about how we can do things better – all with the guiding aim of providing the fullest, most responsive service for our members. With this in mind, over the next few months the Provincial Executive will be outlining some new plans to move this Association forward. Some of our ideas were recently presented at the Winter Council of Presidents meeting, and a more comprehensive strategy will be detailed at the Annual General Meeting in March. A large part of this renewal process will involve looking outward – building relationships and responding to issues throughout Ontario, across Canada, and around the world. In 2016, we are more interconnected and interdependent than ever before. We are truly global citizens. We must act out of a sense of moral responsibility whenever and wherever we see injustice. The deadline for the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals passed last year, with much progress yet to be achieved. For example, it is now estimated that it will be at least 2028 before all children around the world have access to some form of primary education. We must redouble our efforts to address these problems, while also looking to tackle a new set of goals around sustainable development. As Pope Francis has acknowledged, our success on this front will determine nothing less than the fate of humanity. Education is key to addressing these issues, so it is only reasonable that an Association of teachers should strive to be part of the discussion. A particular concern for the members of the Provincial Executive is the creeping privatization and commercialization in education. Once this genie is out of the bottle it will be very difficult to go back. International and domestic rules favour business, and it is easy for overwhelmed, cash-strapped governments to turn over their responsibilities to the private sector. We know this is not what is best for teachers, students and communities. We cannot sit on the sidelines and allow it to occur. Finally, you will hopefully have noticed that OECTA has been actively promoting discussions around gender-based violence. The Government of Ontario has made confronting this issue a real priority, and combined with global efforts led by the United Nations and other organizations, there appears to be a genuine shift in awareness and attitudes taking place. By standing up firmly against violence, and doing what we can to foster progress, OECTA is once again showing that our mission goes far beyond teachers’ working conditions – we need to create a safer, more inclusive world for everyone. In Solidarity,

Michelle Despault Editor Adam Lemieux Associate Editor Dylan Franks Writer/Researcher Fernanda Monteiro Production Anna Anezyris Advertising

EDITORIAL BOARD Ann Hawkins President Liz Stuart First Vice-President Marshall Jarvis General Secretary David Church Deputy General Secretary

@OECTA is published five times during the school year. Opinions and ideas expressed in @OECTA are not necessarily those of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association. @OECTA is a member of the Canadian Educational Press Association, and the Canadian Association of Labour Media. Return undelivered Canadian addresses to: Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, 65 St. Clair Avenue East, Toronto, ON M4T 2Y8 PHONE 416-925-2493 TOLL-FREE 1-800-268-7230 FAX 416-925-7764 Publication Mail Agreement No. 0040062510 Account No. 0001681016

Cover photo: @ Orlok /






Select workshops at this year’s Ontario Association of Mathematics Educators (OAME) conference will deliver content, discussion and tasks that align with the requirements for OECTA’s AQ Mathematics Primary/Junior Part 1, Module 2 – so participants can attend the conference and earn part of an AQ at the same time! Visit for more information or to register. ACKNOWLEDGE A GREAT TEACHER

Do you know an outstanding teacher? Why not nominate them for an OTIP/OTF Teaching Award? These awards recognize teachers who inspire students, colleagues and parents in publicly funded education in Ontario. Anyone can nominate a teacher in one of three categories: elementary, secondary, or a beginning teacher in their first five years of teaching. Winners receive $1,000 and a Certificate of Recognition for both themselves and their school. The deadline for nominations is March 31, 2016. AGM SUPPLEMENT 2016 – ONLINE ONLY

OECTA’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) will take place March 12 to 14, 2016 at Toronto’s Westin Harbour Castle. Policies and procedures that govern the Association will be debated and voted on. Look for the OECTA AGM Supplement, which includes the submissions for AGM’s consideration, on the OECTA website after February 1, 2016. Review the submissions and speak to your unit president about how your unit will vote on the issues. The supplement will also include the profiles of declared candidates running for positions on the Provincial Executive for 2016-17. Please note the supplement will be available online only this year. GLOBAL EXPLORATION FOR EDUCATORS

Travel the world, earn professional development credit, and bring global understanding into your classroom! Global Exploration for Educators Organization (GEEO) is a non-profit organization that has sent more than 1,300 teachers abroad on adventurous travel programs, while earning professional development credits. GEEO also provides teachers with educational materials and the structure to help them bring their experiences into the classroom. Bali, Turkey, Ireland and Morocco are just a few of the scheduled destinations for 2016. Detailed information about each trip, including itineraries, costs, travel dates and more, can be found at or toll-free at 1-877-600-0105.


The next Canadian census will take place in May 2016. Statistics Canada is looking to hire 35,000 people to help assist with the collection of the census. Jobs are paid and require a commitment of 20 hours per week. If you are interested in these job opportunities with Statistics Canada visit Census information is critical for the planning of programs and services in every community, so please consider completing the census when it is sent out. Additionally, Statistics Canada has Teacher’s Kits to help you plan lessons on the census. Visit and click on the Resources for Teacher’s tab. JOIN A PROVINCIAL COMMITTEE

OECTA standing committees provide opportunities for teachers to contribute their expertise, be creative and develop new interests, while serving the needs of Association members. Applications for membership on 2016-17 committees will be accepted online at from March 1 to May 1, 2016. Committee appointments are made by the Provincial Executive and take effect July 1, 2016. For a full list of current committees, their mandates and members, visit the OECTA website in the About section under Provincial Office / Provincial Committees. #LEARNSYRIA

Rumie has launched the #LearnSyria campaign to support education for children in Syrian refugee camps. They need your help to curate the best free digital learning resources, which will be preloaded onto tablets and sent to Syrian refugees at the Al-Salam school in Turkey. Rumie is a non-profit that improves access to education through low-cost technology. A $50 tablet provides a library for the cost of a book, allowing offline communities to access high quality educational resources. Visit for more information and how you can help. SHARE YOUR COMMUNICATIONS SUCCESSES

April 1, 2016 is the deadline to enter your unit’s publications and communication projects to be considered for an OECTA Communications Award. These awards are divided into five categories: 1) Website Design, 2) Publication, 3) Public/Media Relations, 4) Catholic Connection and 5) Most Improved Website or Publication. Share your good work and highlight your unit’s efforts. For more information, visit the OECTA website at


Registration is open for the Spring online session, which will run from March 21 to June 3, 2016. Check out the full AQ course menu in the Courses section of the OECTA website






OECTA is proud to support the Lieutenant Governor’s Aboriginal Summer Reading Camps. The camps were founded in 2005 by the Honourable James Bartleman and are delivered each year by Frontier College in collaboration with First Nations community leaders. This past summer, three-week camps were held in 28 communities in Northern Ontario. More than 3,000 children and youth developed their literacy, language and numeracy skills through games, arts and crafts, cultural activities, field trips, and special presentations. This month’s OECTA Index highlights some encouraging statistics from the 2015 Lieutenant Governor’s Aboriginal Summer Reading Camps Report. The full report will be available at in the near future. 360 3,129

Approximate number of children and youth attending in 2005 Number of children and youth attending in 2015


Average number of minutes each day spent reading


Average number of minutes each day spent on outdoor and physical activities


Total number of books read


Total number of books given away at the end of camp


Percentage of parents who said their child demonstrated improved attitudes toward learning Percentage of parents who said their child now reads more at home

89% 36% 95%

Percentage of camp staff hired from local communities Percentage of camp counsellors who felt their experience working at camp enhanced their employment skills


FEBRUARY Black History Month Winter Council of Presidents February 3-5

Ash Wednesday February 10

1 Billion Rising February 14

Family Day February 15

World Day of Social Justice February 20

Pink Shirt Day February 24

MARCH Spring AQ Registration Closes March 4

International Women’s Day March 8

Provincial Executive Meeting March 11

OECTA AGM March 12-14

March Break March 14-18

International Day of Happiness March 20

Spring AQ Courses Begin March 21

Week of Solidarity with Peoples Struggling against Racism and Racial Discrimination March 21-27

Good Friday March 25

PHOTO: Taken at Onigaming, 2013

Easter Sunday March 28

Leadership Training March 31 - April 1

APRIL Summer AQ Registration Opens April 5

Earth Day Adam Lemieux is Communications Specialist in the Communications Department at OECTA Provincial Office.




April 22

World Day for Safety and Health at Work April 28


OECTA EVENTS HISTORY IN THE MAKING Prime Minister Trudeau visits the CLC Only six days after being sworn in as Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau met with members of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). Trudeau’s appearance marked the first time in 50 years that a Prime Minister had addressed the union group – John Diefenbaker was the last PM to address the CLC, at their convention in 1958. Following the meeting, CLC President Hassan Yussuff told the Huffington Post that after ten years of “complete hostility” from Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, he was determined to establish a more “constructive relationship” with Trudeau. OECTA President Ann Hawkins and Government Relations Department Head Victoria Hunt were both on hand for the historic event. President Hawkins was impressed with Trudeau’s presence, noting how his sincerity and authenticity really came across in his words and demeanour. “Prime Minister Trudeau’s meeting with labour marked an extremely significant shift toward a true collaborative approach to finding solutions for the issues we are facing, not only for our country but for our planet,” said Hawkins. “As I listened to him I heard echoes of this father’s goal of a ‘just society’ for all Canadians, as well as all humanity. It’s refreshing to hear a politician acknowledge that organized labour is not the problem, but the solution. I genuinely believe he will look to the labour movement for input on the many critical issues we are facing,” added Hawkins. Trudeau spoke for 40 minutes, making little reference to his notes. He also braved questions from what would be considered a tough audience of mostly NDP supporters who did not vote for him. He received three standing ovations: upon arrival, at the conclusion, and when he recommitted to repealing Bills C-377

and C-525 (which place onerous financial reporting requirements on unions and make it harder to form a union). In his comments, he also touched on issues around climate change and the treatment of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. “I was honoured and excited to have been in attendance,” said Hunt. “I have never seen a PM take impromptu questions from an audience. I feel hopeful that we are witnessing a new stage in Canadian politics.” “We are really lucky in Canada, to have a PM walk into a room with 100 union leaders, speak off-the-cuff, take questions, make a few jokes, linger afterwards – all without obtrusive security, hoopla or excessive protocol,” added Hunt. “I am confident we will once again be able to actively contribute to the political process at the federal level without having to wait to cast our ballots in the next election.” Throughout his election campaign and during the meeting, Trudeau referenced his vision of a Canada returned to its former role and reputation, on the provincial, national and international stage. “I too look forward to a Canada that once again values all its citizens and takes real action on substantial issues like poverty, human rights and climate change,” added Hawkins.

CLASSIFIED ADS UNIQUE GUIDED TRIPS: New experiences await in places such as Newfoundland, New York City, Vegas and the Canyons, Milwaukee/Chicago and many other destinations including those on the “Blue Jays Trail”. For info, contact your escort and planner, John Swatridge, of Verstraete Travel (Reg. #4245411) at or 519-742-2205. TEACH IN CHINA for 2 or 4 weeks in July 2016. Interested? Check us out at FUNDRAISING? Eco-friendly rain barrel sales require minimal effort and generate $3,000 per truckload. Instructions, supplies and ongoing support provided., Tel. 905-545-5577.

PM Justin Trudeau at the Canadian Labour Congress in Ottawa.

Acceptance of advertisements in @OECTA neither endorses nor warranties any products or services. We welcome ads for teacher resources, travel, and teaching overseas. Personal ads are not accepted. Rate: $50 for the first 25 words and $3 per word thereafter. FEBRUARY 2016 |




OECTA EVENTS THE ONTARIO WE WANT OECTA delegates attend the OFL Convention The Ontario Federation of Labour’s 13th Biennial Convention took place November 23-27 in Toronto. More than 1,500 delegates participated in elections, forums and debates, with the aim of building a stronger, more united labour movement. After the agenda was approved on Monday morning, the convention moved into the human rights forum, which included an in-depth discussion on the intersection of various forms of inequality. There was also a presentation by American labour leader Terry Melvin, President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. Mr. Melvin appealed to delegates to strive for diversity in the leadership of the labour movement. Tuesday was an important day, with delegates electing new leadership for the Federation. Former President Sid Ryan, along with Secretary-Treasurer Nancy Hutchison and Executive Vice-President Irwin Nanda, all chose not to seek re-election. Three new candidates ran together under the banner “Federation Forward.” Having already been endorsed by many small and large unions, including OECTA, they were given a strong mandate by the delegates to bring the OFL into a new era: Chris Buckley (Unifor) was unanimously elected President; Patty Coates (Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation/ Barrie and District Labour Council) was unanimously elected Secretary-Treasurer; and Ahmad Gaied (United Food and Commercial Workers) was chosen in a three-way race to become the new Executive Vice-President. On Wednesday, delegates heard from Thomas Mulcair, Leader of the New Democratic Party, about how his party will stand up for workers and unions in the new Parliament. They also heard from Natalie Mehra of the Ontario Common Front, who presented her recently published research illustrating how

the austerity agenda has hurt Ontario’s economy and social programs. In the afternoon there was debate on a handful of constitutional amendments, which had been brought forward by OECTA and a number of other unions. After a standing count, it was determined that the required two-thirds majority were in favour of creating a new Executive Committee to help guide the operations of the Federation. Thursday morning featured a panel discussion highlighting the difficulties faced by injured workers, particularly as a result of Ontario’s inadequate workers’ compensation system. In the afternoon, delegates heard from young workers, who often face unique challenges in the workplace and are especially vulnerable to precarious work. Panelists such as Deena Ladd of the Workers’ Action Centre urged delegates to stand up for all workers, including those outside the union movement. On Friday, delegates approved the 52-page OFL Action Plan, which will help to guide the Federation and its affiliates in engaging government, championing equity, building the labour movement, and mobilizing members. Throughout the week, delegates debated resolutions related to the themes of the day. These debates elicited rousing speeches on, for example, protecting Hydro One, strengthening workplace policies related to mental health, and ending violence against women. OECTA was very well represented at the convention. We had more than 100 delegates, many of whom went to the microphones to speak knowledgably and passionately on a wide variety of issues. The Association also brought forward several resolutions, two of which made it to the floor: one calling on the OFL to protect minority rights, and another seeking to reinvigorate the Sisters in Spirit Solidarity Actions in favour of an inquiry into the staggering numbers of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. These were carried unanimously.

OECTA delegates at the Ontario Federation of Labour Convention 2015.




OECTA delegates also participated in the $15 and Fairness rally at Queen’s Park, demanding decent wages and working conditions for all Ontarians, as well as a march to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to promote justice for injured workers. Our enthusiastic participation at the convention will surely help to forge stronger ties with our labour and social justice allies across the province.


WE REMEMBER Oakville students pay special tribute to local veterans By Dylan Franks

Students in John MacPhail’s Grade 7 class at St. Dominic’s School in Oakville (Halton Elementary) found a new way to honour local veterans. They published a book to commemorate the 70th anniversary of VE Day called We Remember. The book profiles the lives and service of eight local veterans. As part of a larger study of oral history, it gave the students an opportunity to practice interviewing techniques. Students met with veterans who had served with the Royal Canadian Airforce and Royal Canadian Navy in

planes take off on test flights from a nearby factory. He joined the Royal Canadian Airforce at the age of 18, and served on flying duties during the Cold War years. He was released from service in 1979 and moved to the Oakville area, where he is active in the local veterans community. For Mr. Burke, the opportunity to participate in the project was a learning experience as well. “I think the purpose of the project was to compare,” he says. “I learned that they are a lot more intelligent than we were as kids!”

For St. Dominic’s teacher John MacPhail, their work with local veterans offers more than just a history lesson. “It shows there is life outside these walls and that there is value to what they do in class. It teaches them a sense of civic pride and to take greater ownership of their work,” he says. Grade 7 students Savannah Arne and Sarah Mills hope that projects like We Remember will encourage other students to take the time to recognize veterans and their families. “It doesn’t take a whole lot, as little as a card. Anyone can appreciate them,” says Mills. “Something little can have a great impact,” adds Arne.

Veteran John Burke with the students of St. Dominic’s School in Oakville

Korea and during the Cold War years. The interviews enabled the students to explore Canada’s role during these periods, and to compare the veterans’ experiences as young people with their own experiences as students today. Despite many differences, students were able to find some commonalities. “When we interviewed them and heard their stories we learned how they grew up. It was different but not that different from us,” says Grade 7 student Melissa Arruda. John Burke is one of the veterans who participated in the project with the students at St. Dominic’s. Burke grew up in Amherst, Nova Scotia, watching

The publication of We Remember is the latest example of the ongoing work students at St. Dominic’s School have taken on to support local veterans. In 2013, Grade 7 and 8 students were honoured with the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Youth Achievement for their work on the Bronte Veterans Garden. The Oakville memorial space was opened in 2011, after students from the school approached the Town of Oakville about finding new ways to remember Canadian soldiers who had died in service. Their work on the garden has been recognized by municipal, provincial, and federal levels of government.

Cover of the We Remember Book

Note: Just prior to publication, the students were notified that they won the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award again for the We Remember project. Dylan Franks is the Writer/Researcher in the Communications and Government Relations departments at OECTA Provincial Office.





EMERGENCY RELIEF EFFORT OFFERS HOPE TO NEW REFUGEES Toronto Archdiocese campaign exceeds expectations By Dylan Franks

In early September, the Archdiocese of Toronto launched an ambitious emergency relief plan to resettle refugee families from Syria and Iraq in the Greater Toronto Area. Project Hope called on churches, other faith communities, corporations and individuals to raise the $3 million needed to resettle and support 100 families, in the span of just 100 days. “The important priority from our perspective is that we engage as many people as possible in the financial and volunteer campaign and bring refugee families here as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Martin Mark, director of the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Office of Refugees (ORAT). In order to achieve the goals of Project Hope, the Archdiocese asked communities to establish sponsorship committees to spearhead fundraising efforts and ensure the necessary supports for the refugee families upon arrival. At a press conference to announce the initiative, Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, called for gifts of time and talent in addition to financial donations. “With the funds raised, we will also require a supportive community that will assist these newcomers with housing, language, employment and most importantly, friendship,” he said. In the following days, many took up the challenge. OECTA donated $30,000, the amount needed to sponsor one family. By the midway point, $1.7 million had been pledged to the resettlement efforts, enough to sponsor 50 refugee families. With Project Hope on track to meet its 100-day deadline, the work of identifying refugees for resettlement began. A small group led by ORAT organizers travelled to a Jordanian refugee camp to begin the process of interviewing refugees for potential resettlement. Among that team was a volunteer from OECTA’s Simcoe Muskoka Elementary Unit. Jamie Forget, a teacher at St. Monica’s Catholic School in Barrie, helped compile profiles of refugees awaiting resettlement in Canada. Project Hope drew to a close one week before Christmas. By the end of the campaign, $3.1 million had been raised, enough to sponsor more than 100 families. Among the top contributors to the relief effort were students from Catholic schools across




the province, who collectively raised more than $100,000. York Catholic District School Board students led the way, receiving special recognition for their total contribution of $70,000. Teachers from the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic School Board were also praised for using Project Hope as a chance to create learning resources for a classroom conversation focusing on the hardships faced by refugees in all parts of the world. The end of the campaign also marked the beginning of a wave of arrivals, as the first families touched down in Toronto on December 10. In a statement, Cardinal Collins expressed his gratitude to all who answered the call of Project Hope. “It has been wonderful to see the outpouring of support for Project Hope from both our Catholic community and those of other faiths,” he said. “We have also seen corporations, community groups and individuals beyond our faith community engage in this refugee settlement effort. It is heartening to see such goodwill and co-operation alive and at work in our Archdiocese.” Despite the overwhelming success of the initiative, the need for action is as great as ever. Small committees of six to ten people are still required to welcome and support these families. Financial donations are also still being accepted, with funds in excess of the $3 million target being used to assist families sponsored through ORAT’s ongoing work. Though the magnitude of this humanitarian crisis remains daunting, even small donations of time, money or even needed household items from OECTA members can still inspire hope for those most in need.

Dylan Franks is the Writer/Researcher in the Communications and Government Relations departments at OECTA Provincial Office.

PHOTO: @ ZouZou /

. . . . .

March 2011: Civil war began in Syria 13.5 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance (UN OCHA) 4.6 million Syrians are refugees, 6.6 million are displaced within Syria; half are children (UN OCHA) More than 4 million refugees are located in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt (UN OCHA) The crisis in Syria affects more than 12 million people -more than those affected by Hurricane Katrina (1.7M), the Haiti earthquake (3.5M), and the Indian Ocean tsunami (5M) combined (WORLD VISION)


Since the Syrian civil war began, 320,000 people have been killed, including nearly 12,000 children (SYRIAN OBSERVATORY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS)





Long Term Disability (LTD) insurance provides a safety net that will replace a percentage of your salary and provide pension protection should you be unable to work because of an illness or injury. The OECTA LTD plan recognizes that most members are in a highly vulnerable financial position should they be confronted with a loss of income during a lengthy or permanent disability. Of course, to receive the benefits of LTD coverage, members of the plan must pay premiums. It might be tempting to cease your premium payments when, for example, you take a leave of absence. However, such a decision could leave you unprotected if you suffer an illness or injury. If you choose to maintain your LTD coverage and you become disabled while on leave, you are eligible to apply for LTD benefits. There will be no break in your coverage and you will not be subject to a pre-existing condition clause upon your return to work.

However, if you choose to discontinue your LTD coverage while you are on leave, you will not be eligible for LTD benefits. Moreover, although you will be reinstated in the plan upon your return to work, you will be subject to a pre-existing condition clause if you become disabled within 12 months from the date of reinstatement – you will not be covered for a disability arising from an illness or injury for which you obtained medical care during the 90-day period before you became reinsured. To illustrate the point, let’s consider two possible scenarios for a fictional member, Tracey. 1. Tracey is diagnosed with cancer during

her leave of absence. While undergoing cancer treatment, her leave of absence ends and she is unable to return to work. As Tracey maintained her LTD coverage during her leave, she is eligible to apply for LTD benefits. The benefits, payable on or after the date her leave is scheduled to end, will help her replace her income while she is unable to work.

2. Tracey is diagnosed with cancer during her leave of absence. Tracey did not maintain her LTD coverage during her leave, so she is not eligible to apply for LTD benefits to help her replace her income if she is unable to return to work. If Tracey returns to work after her leave of ends, her LTD coverage will be automatically reinstated, but if she has to discontinue work less than one year from her reinstatement of insurance date, her benefits will be subject to a preexisting condition clause. She can apply for LTD, but if it is determined that her medical condition is pre-existing, her LTD application will be declined.

You never know if or when you might need LTD coverage. You should carefully consider your options before deciding to discontinue your participation in the plan. Adam Lemieux is Communications Specialist in the Communications Department at OECTA Provincial Office.

The information for this article was provided by the Ontario Teachers Insurance Plan. To learn more, visit









“I am very comfortable about being in front of students but I am very nervous about speaking in front of a room full of adults.”

atmosphere that encourages all points of view to be expressed and all delegates to be involved.

This is a common lament voiced by teachers. And teachers are not alone. In his 1977 publication The Book of Lists, David Wallenchinskey noted that 41 per cent of survey respondents feared speaking before a group, while only 19 per cent feared death. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld used this data to quip that most people would rather be in the coffin than delivering the eulogy.

Two Common Errors Made by New Speakers at the AGM

The good news is that public speaking is a learned skill. While some people may have qualities that make them appear to be “natural born” speakers, the truth is that all accomplished presenters had to learn the craft. Experienced speakers will admit, while very excited about a speaking opportunity, they can at times still feel anxious. Speaking at the AGM

Talk about feeling anxious - being a first time speaker at the Annual General Meeting takes courage for most people. Not only do you have an audience of almost 800, your image is projected on large screens at the front of the room. At AGM 2006 an experienced delegate acknowledged how difficult it must be for most first time speakers and suggested that they should be encouraged by applause, a tradition that continues today. In 2007 the Toronto Elementary Unit took it one step further by announcing the Oratorical Premiere Award, which they have recently named after one of their great unit debaters, Anthony Bellissimo. The goal is to encourage, recognize and honour first time speakers at the AGM. The award is bestowed annually to the delegate who, when speaking for the first time, “displays oratorical eloquence above all other first time speakers.” The ultimate goal, of course, is to encourage involvement in the democratic process by creating an

Anthony Bellissimo (L) and Robert D’Alessandro (R), with the Oratorical Premiere Award at OECTA AGM 2007.

Error 1 - Thinking of what they will say rather than preparing This is an oversight commonly witnessed at weddings, when the person who is to speak has only been ruminating about what to say. These unprepared speeches usually go too long, repeat points, and drift off topic. Debate is only as good as the reflection and thought that is given to it. Solution: Consider using P.R.E.S. to organize your thoughts. P – Point: make it clear which side of the debate you are on at the very beginning. “I speak in favour of the motion to…” R – Reason: give the reasons supporting your point. Your second strongest reason should be first and your strongest reason should be last, for greatest impact. E – Example: give either facts or examples to support your reasons. Facts tell…stories sell. S – Summary: again, make it clear how you stand on the issue and encourage others to support your point of view with their vote. Error 2 - Giving more thought to content than to delivery To have impact on an audience, a speaker needs to consider both pillars - content and delivery. Regardless of the merits of our debate, if the message doesn’t get delivered then there is no message. Solution: Speak slowly and project your voice. Less information delivered with conviction can have more sway than a lot of information delivered quickly. According to Jose Benki, a speech scientist from the University of Michigan, speakers who use frequent, short pauses are more persuasive than speakers who are perfectly fluent. The reason is that pausing four or five times per minute sounds most natural to people. If you barrel through those pauses, you sound too scripted and your audience doesn’t have time to react. Remember, if you feel anxious you are not alone. To paraphrase Mark Twain, “There are only two types of speakers in the world: those who feel nervous, and liars.”

Doug McCarthy is a retired OECTA member and principal, and currently a member of OECTA’s Speakers’ Bureau.






Teaching requires excellent interpersonal skills and we are called upon to use these skills frequently, especially when dealing with parents. Conflict inevitably arises in our daily lives and from time to time we may find ourselves in conflict with a parent. But conflict can be productive. Well-managed conflict can help to clarify issues, expectations and feelings. To handle a conflict with a parent successfully, it is important to first understand the source of the conflict. Many conflicts arise from differences in expectations, experiences, or even personality types. Letting go of ideas of right versus wrong creates the space to take a step back, so we can understand what underlying factors may be contributing to the escalation of a conflict. When those factors are taken into account, both parties are better able to appreciate each other’s perspectives, helping to move toward a solution from a place of mutual understanding. SOURCES OF CONFLICT

When working toward a solution with a parent, take time to reflect on some of these common causes of conflict and how they might be affecting your situation: Resources

Conflicts may occur when resources are limited, for example there are not enough textbooks to go around. If a real, or perceived, lack of resources are at issue, refer the parent to the school principal. Psychological Needs

When psychological factors such as self-esteem, feelings of belonging or happiness are threatened, people can




sometimes become aggressive. A parent who thinks that he or she has been belittled by a teacher, or who believes their child has been picked on, may lash out. Values

People may feel personally attacked if they think their values are threatened. It is not usually the difference in values, but the fear that one set of values is being dominated that is the real issue. These conflicts can be the most difficult to resolve. Divergent Goals

Conflict may result when a teacher and a parent have completely different goals.

A teacher who stresses drama, for example, may come into conflict with a parent who values math and science above all. Incongruent Role Expectations and Behaviour Norms

A parent may have an expectation of a particular teaching style that is not yours. Or a parent who encourages a child to challenge authority figures may not accept the teacher’s discipline of the child for “insubordination.” Incompatible Personalities

In some instances, conflicts are simply due to differing personality types.


REMEMBER Always document your interactions with parents. SIX STEPS FOR RESOLVING CONFLICT

In conflict resolution, it is helpful to reflect on the issues and decide whether they are interests or positions. Interests are our needs that motivate us to act in certain ways and to make certain decisions. For example, I need order in my classroom so I create rules. A position is a stance that we adopt to meet those needs. For example, strictly enforcing the rules is the best way to ensure order in the classroom. Positions can be changed. Successful conflict resolution focuses on understanding and addressing the interests of the parties rather than their positions. Focusing on interests allows the parties to discuss the real issues. Rather than focusing on the rules and their application, focus on the real issue, which is the need for order. Step 1

Define the problem or source of the conflict, the interest. Use active listening skills to understand the parent’s concerns and perspective. Reflect on your own actions and feelings. Have you inadvertently aggravated the situation? Have you been overly sensitive and overreacted? Is there any substance to the parent’s criticism? If at the end of a meeting you and the parent can agree on the problem you have achieved a lot. Document the problem(s) and communicate with the parent in writing to confirm your mutual agreement. Step 2

Get all the information. Sometimes conflicts occur because one party is unaware of certain facts. For example, is the teacher aware that the parent’s child

has a hearing disorder? Is the parent aware that the student had noted the project due date in her or his homework book? When discussing issues with parents provide opportunities to share information. Step 3

State your goal. Be clear and specific. Instead of saying, “I want Jane to do better,” explain, “I want Jane to do her math homework because I think it will improve her mark.” Ask the parent for their goal. Ask if they agree with your goal. Document these goals and communicate with the parent in writing to confirm your mutual agreement on the goals. Step 4

Develop strategies and possible solutions together. Brainstorm and decide which are practical and most likely to succeed. Decide together which strategy to use. Step 5

Outline timelines and expectations. Agree on reasonable timelines. When should you expect the student’s math mark to improve? What is a reasonable improvement – one mark or 10 marks? What should the teacher and parent do if the marks do not improve within the given time? Communicate with the parent in writing to confirm your timelines and expectations. Step 6

after each meeting/discussion to avoid repetition. BE PROFESSIONAL AND UNDERSTANDING

Professional assertiveness is important when addressing conflict with parents. Exercise your rights and insist on courtesy, but also try to put the situation in context and understand the parent. Review the problem and the issues involved, and respond to an upset parent with awareness and professional concern. Do not ignore an upset parent. A parent who yells may be doing so out of fear that he or she is not being heard or understood, or it may be a normal communication method for that person. Be generous and remember to treat the parent as you would like to be treated. Never tolerate rudeness, threats or abuse. If the behaviour continues in an abusive manner, this will require assistance from an administrator. When conflict does arise, all educators should use the opportunity to enhance their conflict resolution skills to reduce stress and frustration.

Joe Pece is the Department Head for the Counselling and Member Services Department at OECTA Provincial Office.

Arrange for a follow-up meeting. Check to see if the parent is satisfied with the agreed actions. Make modifications to the strategy if necessary and agree upon the modifications. Take detailed notes

For further information, review the Positive Professional Parent Teacher Relationships booklet in the Members’ Centre of the OECTA website, under Contracts & Rights / Counselling and Member Services. FEBRUARY 2016 |





GENDER EQUITY New era, old problem By Charlene Theodore

2016. More than a new year, it’s a new era, complete with a new federal Liberal government. One of the more compelling changes, in a sea of many, is the gender parity shown in the Liberals’ recent cabinet selection. As a lawyer who has worked in unions representing femaledominated industries (e.g. nursing, teaching), I wondered how we are doing in other areas when it comes to gender equity. Here’s a snapshot.

Pay equity is a fundamental human right and a principle encompassed in the International Labour Organization’s Equal Remuneration Convention of 1951, which Canada ratified in 1972. While women in unionized workplaces are protected against differential pay structures, pay equity is about more than that. It is really about the proper valuation of work typically performed by women, and finding innovative ways to value women’s seniority and work history without inadvertently penalizing them for leaving the workforce to raise families.

1. According to Statistics Canada, women earned just 75.3 per

We are the Solution

cent compared to men (based on average weekly wages of all full- and part-time workers) in 2014.

2. The gap is more pronounced for Indigenous and racialized

women, and those with disabilities.

3. In dollars and cents, the Canadian gender pay gap is just

over $8,000 annually. The annual gender pay gap globally is $4,000.

4. There has yet to be a female CEO of one of Canada’s big

five banks.

5. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report cited

growing income inequality as the biggest threat to the world’s economy.

6. The World Economic Forum also ranks countries according to their gender gap. Canada is in 19th place (behind Latvia and Burundi). A similar ranking by the United Nations has seen Canada slide 11 spots between 1995 and 2013. 7. Sixty per cent of Canada’s minimum wage earners are women. 8. Seventy per cent of part-time workers in Canada are women.

Ontario has comprehensive legislation to address pay equity, namely the Human Rights Code, Pay Equity Act and Employment Standards Act. In spite of this, the disparities noted above persist. Unions have offered the only significant protections against the impact of the gender wage gap in Canada. The ongoing advocacy by the labour movement for a national child care strategy and reduced precarious and temporary work are key to narrowing the gap. As individuals, each of us can have an impact on the solution to this problem in Ontario. Last spring, Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn spearheaded Ontario’s new Gender Wage Gap Strategy Steering Committee. The committee has a mandate to examine the impact of the gender wage gap and assess how government, business and labour can work together to eliminate it. The committee began hosting town hall meetings last fall. At the time of writing, the following town hall meetings were scheduled: St. Catharines on February 16, 2016, and Brampton on February 22, 2016. Visit for more information. Don’t live in or near Brampton or St. Catherines? You can still make your voice heard by completing an online survey at the Ministry of Labour website. And if you want to share a great gender equality idea in 140 characters or less, submit your ideas on Twitter using #wagegapON

9. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, closing the

gender pay gap could boost global GDP by $28 trillion by 2025 – an amount equivalent to the size of the Chinese and US economies combined.

10. The unionization of women has had a significantly positive impact in reducing the wage gap in Canada. On average, women in unions earn $6.65 more per hour than women without unions.

As a direct result of unionization, Canadian women earn an additional $552.5 million every week. 16



Charlene Theodore is in-house Legal Counsel at OECTA Provincial Office.


to all ers HATS OFF ing teach n n i g e b e e th who mad s r e t n ess! e s and pre huge succ a e c n e r e this conf

ference The 2016 con d by w ill be shape d the ideas an ou suggestions y the pro vide d in conference evaluations.

PHOTOS: Taken at Beginning Teachers Conference 2015: Hats Off to You


thers Enco urage o yo u know to jo in us 016. in October 2 Application s and detail s w ill be avail able thro ug yo ur unit p h resident in June. FEBRUARY 2016 |





GOING DIGITAL IN THE CLASSROOM? Understanding workflow is a must By Anthony Carabache

Once upon a time, workflow in the classroom was pretty straightforward. The teacher would conduct a lesson, assign the work and we, as students, would complete the work and submit it. Today we have adopted a much more complicated workflow that processes student work and, more importantly, processes learning, goal-setting, success criteria, and timely, ongoing feedback before assessment. Here are some keys that will help you establish a workflow for your classroom. Non-tech options are also provided. 1. Identify your goals.

Your goals may be curricular, technical, pedagogical, or all of the above. 2. Select a non-invasive, sanctioned tool to use in the classroom. The trendiness of classroom innovation has flooded the market with tools that may not always respect our privacy as teachers or our students’ privacy. Be selective when considering your tools. 3. Be OK with retooling your workflow. The only way to test your workflow is by using it in the classroom. This also gives you the opportunity to cultivate student voice and include students as architects and engineers of the workflow.

Non-Tech Workflow: Post the “jumping point” question

centrally on a bulletin board.

STAGE 2: Provide a means for discussion and a timeframe.

Tech Workflow: Now post the “jumping point” question on a

discussion board in Desire2Learn and ask students to submit a digital source of information that will help their understanding of the question. The students should explain their selection in a meaningful way. Non-Tech Workflow: Distribute post-it notes to the class and devote some time to brainstorm responses to the “jumping point” question. Students can then post their responses as groups or individuals to a bulletin board. This now becomes a public discussion board. You may cover the bulletin board with a large white sheet to signify when it is available and when it is “offline.” Also be sure to talk about discussion etiquette and the consequences for violations. STAGE 3: Capture the learning and provide feedback.

Tech Workflow: By virtue of going digital, discussions


are automatically captured. Spend some time reading and responding to your students. Try to give them further direction and challenge. Non-Tech Workflow: Take a picture of the bulletin board to capture the student work. Reply to the students with your own post-it, privately or publicly, depending on context.

activities on our environment.

Where does this go next?

Below is an example of a workflow for Grade 7 science. Curriculum Goals: Understanding the impact of human Technology Workflow Goals: To go paperless for this unit. Pedagogical Goals: To provide feedback through

discussions and keep a record of learning. Tool: Desire2Learn Virtual Learning Environment

Below is a mini-lesson about discussion etiquette, which is related to the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations of responsible citizenship and collaborative contributor. STAGE 1: Expose the goal.

Jumping Point: How does the production of millions of devices worldwide impact our environment? Tech Workflow: Post the “jumping point” question in the NEWS area of Desire2Learn.




Remember that a workflow is only as effective as its focus. In this case, the workflow was designed specifically to support a curricular goal by using discussion as a way to provide feedback, and to go paperless, using Desire2Learn. Logically, the next step would be to design a workflow that allows you to accept student work on the issue. Knowing the three keys to designing workflow will make that next step a lot easier. More importantly, sharing those keys with your students will bring everyone onto the same page – whether it’s digital or paper. Anthony Carabache is a member of the Professional Development Department at OECTA Provincial Office.


ANICK CHAMPAGNE-HICKEY From Me to We: Teacher’s experiences abroad inform the learning in her classroom By Christopher Lombardo

It was quite a surprise for Anick Champagne-Hickey when a group of her “alumni” kids, as she calls them, nominated her for Staples Canada’s Me to We teacher appreciation contest. Sixteen of her former Grade 8 students from St. Mary’s French Immersion in Sault Ste. Marie (Huron Superior Unit) mobilized into “little pods” to make it happen. “The kids had to write, essay-style, why they believed their teacher deserved a trip to Ecuador,” says Champagne-Hickey, who was the mostnominated teacher nationwide. She became one of five teachers chosen from across Canada, something she feels is a true honour. She spent a week this past August in Mondana, in the Amazon rainforest, where she helped with school improvements, painting, and pouring cement. Staples Canada covered transportation costs, donating $10,000 to Craig and Marc Kielburger’s charity, Free the Children. Champagne-Hickey is no stranger to school-building. Students and staff at St. Mary’s have previously helped raise $10,000 to construct a school in Kenya,

resulting in an invite to attend a We Day event in Waterloo. But the Ecuadoran school experience was much more hands-on. The school was so rundown that they had trouble attracting teachers to the region. The building had just been equipped with electricity, and it required a lot of upgrades, such as a new roof to replace the tin one (it was hard to hear the teacher during torrential rains). Champagne-Hickey plans to incorporate her experience in Ecuador into her classroom at St. Mary’s, as she has done with previous experiences abroad, such as her teaching practicum in East Africa. She does a “really big social justice unit” in her second term, which is introduced in the first term. “We start by focusing on local issues – I want my students to understand that their own community is important,” says Champagne-Hickey. “What does poverty mean in Sault Ste. Marie? We don’t see it as easily but it exists.” She recently took students to a local soup kitchen to stock the shelves. They also

raised $3,000 dollars for a family in need in the Soo. She invites students to focus on the meaning of social justice, and also has them do outreach with posters, media, and essays. She emphasizes a global outlook as well, operating a Me to We club in the school, the response to which has been “amazing” after its founding last year. The club was inspired by a talk given to students by Craig Kielburger. Champagne-Hickey concedes that different regions have different challenges, but says the goal is to instil the message that helping others is important, wherever they are. “It’s never a struggle to get the students to do something,” she says. “They always seem to be able to surpass goals, as they’re passionate. My passion kind of infiltrates them and they get right on board.”

Christopher Lombardo assisted in the Communications Department at OECTA Provincial Office.

“We start by focusing on local issues first - I want my students to understand that their own community is important.”

OECTA member Anick Champagne-Hickey in Mondana, Ecuador helping with school improvements.


A LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE My time with Project Overseas By Natascha Delpippo

“I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up and was not happy.” -Ernest Hemingway This was how I felt every single day I was in Uganda participating in Project Overseas. Thinking about the people I was working with and the difference I was making brought joy to my heart. I have wanted to participate in Project Overseas for more than five years. Working in an international setting and providing professional development opportunities for untrained and undertrained teachers was my dream, and I was fortunate to have that dream come true. I have always encouraged my students to be the change in their world, and this was my opportunity to practice what I preach. As an educator and an OECTA member I believe it is my duty to protect not only our education system, but education systems around the world, especially those in developing nations. In January, I found out that I had been selected to go to Uganda. My family, friends, colleagues and students were very supportive and encouraged me in every step of my journey. I had communicated with my team via telephone and email since February, and before leaving for Uganda in July we met for orientation and team-building activities at the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) office in Ottawa. My team consisted of Sonia, Laura and Irene. As soon as I met them I knew we would be a dynamic team. Each one of us came with our own skill set that would be well-used in Uganda.




Our journey was long and tiring. Approximately 24 hours and three airplanes later we arrived at our destination in the middle of the night. There we were greeted by Robert from Uganda’s National Association of Teachers Union (UNATU) who, despite the time, was very eager to meet us, and expressed his gratitude for our being there. The next morning, UNATU brought us to two schools in Kampala. The schools were beautiful, with student work proudly displayed. The students welcomed us wholeheartedly. One of the schools had a computer lab, but I soon discovered that this is not the norm for schools in Uganda, as most schools are severely underfunded. In some cases only $1.50 per child, per year, goes to the school. Most of our time in Kampala was spent working with our co-tutors and other UNATU officials at the Teachers’ House, which is the head office of UNATU. While we were there, we worked in collaboration with our co-tutors, Beatrice, Edson,

The students welcomed us wholeheartedly.

My team: Laura, myself, Sonia, Irene (in the back row) and Anthony, Regina, Beatrice and Edson (in the front row).

Regina, Anthony, and Stella (Regional Co-ordinator) to discuss various educational issues in Uganda and Canada and plan meaningful and practical lessons. After a week in Kampala, we were off to Bishop Willis Teachers’ College, located in Iganga, to provide In Service Education Training (INSET) to more than 160 teachers. The training program is one week long, with approximately 80 primary teacher participants and head teachers from schools in the Busoga Region attending each week. The INSET training enables teachers to gain more insight in reading, writing, math, English as a second language, physical education, life skills and classroom management. I was impressed with how seriously candidates take their INSET training. Each session started with an official opening ceremony, with representatives from the union, teachers’ college, and education ministry in attendance. I started to become very nervous, questioning whether I would be able to provide the training that was needed. However, as my cotutor Beatrice put it, “The character of a teacher is the same everywhere.” I realized that I was working with teachers, and if there is anything I know how to do well, it is to collaborate with other teachers. One of my favourite sessions was the Action Plan session, led by Ben from UNATU. Teachers and head teachers learned the importance of setting goals for their classrooms, and being accountable for their goals. I was impressed with the goals the teachers and head teachers set for themselves, and I am looking forward to hearing about the outcomes. All the teachers I met were dedicated to their profession. They openly shared their challenges in the classroom, but they did so because they were hoping we could provide suggestions to help them. At the end, when the candidates received their certificates, they beamed with pride. I could see I was making a difference. By receiving a certificate, teachers are able to apply for promotions, receive pay increases, and better provide for their many pupils.

The teachers I met still have a lot of struggles ahead. They deal with children not coming to school because they are forced to work to help support their family. Another problem is that when girls start to menstruate they must stop going to school, as their families cannot afford proper hygiene products. Teachers also have to deal with issues such as large classroom sizes. One teacher we met had 208 students in her Grade 1 class, and she was the only adult in the room. She said the government does have a classroom size ratio of 53:1, but it is not always enforced. During our survey with the teachers, it seemed that most teachers had more than 53 students, with an average of roughly 80. Still, I believe that with the continued support of OECTA, CTF, and UNATU, these teachers will help change the world. I would like to thank OECTA and CTF for continuing to support Project Overseas. I genuinely believe that by participating in this program I have become a better teacher and person. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with my Ugandan colleagues, who have not only become my friends, but have a special place in my heart. I encourage all OECTA members who want to make a difference in global education to apply for Project Overseas. It will be the best decision of your life.

Natascha Delpippo is an OECTA member from York Unit.

If you are curious about Project Overseas, and want to speak with someone who has participated, feel free to contact me at






Make Your Voice Heard!

OECTA’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) is just around the corner, and that means it’s your chance to make your voice heard! The AGM is the forum where members decide the policies and direction the Association adopts. This year’s meeting will take place March 12-14 in Toronto. In advance of the meeting, all members are encouraged to review the AGM supplement, which contains all policies, by-laws and procedures scheduled to be debated. The supplement is available online, in the Members’ Centre at Not a delegate to AGM? You can still influence the democratic process by sharing your views on the proposed policy, by-law and procedural changes with your local unit. OECTA is a representative democracy that values the ideas and contributions of all its members. To keep this democracy healthy, make sure your voice is heard! As Marnie Daly, a now-retired OECTA member, once put it, “The key to optimizing democracy within the union lies with voting members, who hold the power to effect change. Members expressing differing opinions and dissent is an acceptable and necessary component of democracy within a union. If you are not using your vote to ensure democracy in OECTA, who is?”





FIVE LESSONS FROM THE FAILING FIGHT AGAINST CHILD POVERTY Ontario vowed to reduce child poverty by 25 per cent between 2008 and 2013. It came nowhere close. What can we learn from that failure? By Kaylie Tiessen

It’s been seven years since the Ontario government announced its commitment to reduce child poverty by 25 per cent between 2008 and 2013. That same year marked the beginning of the 2008-09 recession, which hit Ontario hard. Yet even in the face of these struggles, data showed that early poverty reduction efforts were making a difference. By 2010, child poverty had fallen by 8.7 per cent. But the full five years of data paint a far less sunny picture: Ontario ended its five-year strategy with the same child poverty rate as when it began in 2008. In 2013 — the most recent year of available data — 20 per cent of Ontario’s children lived in poor families. Ontario can learn a few lessons from the experience of that first strategy. 1. Poverty reduction strategies can work:

It is worth noting that the decrease in child poverty in those first two years transpired during the worst of the global recession. Without a strategy in place, child poverty in Ontario would have undoubtedly been worse during the recession. In fact, provinces such as British Columbia, where there is no poverty reduction strategy in place, saw an increase in child poverty during that same two-year time frame. 2. Poverty reduction requires steadfast commitment:

The first two years of the strategy worked because the province dedicated robust resources to make progress a reality. And the government of the day maintained its political resolve right through to the recession’s end (it waned shortly after). The Ontario Child Benefit has proven to be a real workhorse: in 2009, the OCB was increased to a maximum of $1,100 annually per child in that year. By 2013, more than 530,000 families received a benefit worth a maximum of $1,210. Raising the minimum wage in 2008, 2009, and 2010 — to $10.25 an hour by 2010 — also made a difference. 3. Commitments require steady funding to yield results:

By all accounts the government’s poverty reduction strategy was working, but in 2012, it went off course. By budget time 2012, the political will to invest sufficient resources in poverty reduction had dissipated; the Drummond report was delivered and Ontario began a series of austerity measures — some of which remain in place today. That year, a promised increase in the Ontario Child Benefit was postponed by one year. The minimum wage was frozen at $10.25 an hour between 2010 and 2014. Without a steady commitment to fund and implement these portfolios, the early progress in Ontario’s child poverty reduction strategy began to unravel and by 2013, child poverty again sat at 20 per cent.

4. Targets and timelines remain useful:

The government has (rightly) been criticized for failing to maintain its commitment to its own poverty reduction strategy. But government targets and timelines remain useful. They help to measure progress and to ensure governments who lose their way refocus and recommit. In 2014, the Wynne government recommitted to its child poverty reduction targets and introduced phase two of its poverty reduction strategy, broadening the scope to include a promise to reduce poverty for single adults and to eliminate chronic homelessness within a 10-year period (by 2025). Has the government learned lesson #3? Early indications show a willingness to commit to bold and welcome targets, but will government ensure the resources and focus necessary to get the job done? 5. Having a federal partner in poverty reduction is a game-changer:

The Ontario government has been calling for the federal government to step up to the plate on poverty reduction for years. With the election of Trudeau’s Liberals, Wynne may have finally got her wish. Trudeau’s mandate letter to the new Minister of Families, Children and Social Development sets the development of a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy as a top priority. The new federal government’s pledge to implement the Canada Child Benefit while eliminating the Universal Child Care Benefit and the Canada child tax credit is predicted to help Ontario exceed its child poverty reduction target ahead of schedule. Ontario will need its federal partner to do some of the heavy lifting when it comes to ending chronic homelessness and expanding affordable housing units as well. Early signals from the new federal government heighten expectations that Ontario will be on solid footing to meet its phase two poverty reduction strategy commitments on schedule. As long as that political will remains steadfastly in place. Kaylie Tiessen is an economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Ontario office. Her article was originally published in the Toronto Star, Nov 27, 2015.


DOWN TO BUSINESS AT THE PINK PALACE Period of relative political calm an opportunity to make life better for Ontarians By Adam Lemieux

It is a unique time in Ontario’s political world. With municipal votes having been cast in 2014, and strong majority governments installed at Queen’s Park and in the House of Commons, it is unlikely that we will see any major elections until 2018. At least in theory, this means our political leaders should be able to concentrate primarily on governance and policymaking. So there is no time like the present for the Liberal Party of Ontario to implement the bold, progressive changes that they campaigned on and were elected to carry out. However, there are growing doubts about the government’s willingness to follow through. Although there have certainly been some commendable new initiatives, such as the well-received campaign combatting gender-based violence, there are many other areas where their decisions, or inaction, have left Ontarians frustrated. Balancing Act

The government cannot reasonably be said to be on track to achieve its goal of a balanced budget by 2017-18, but it remains wholly dedicated to this

target. For all its pre-election talk about activist government, it is clear that the Liberal Party has now fully embraced the conservative mantra that the provincial deficit is the result of unrestrained spending. This is certain to drive much of the commentary and decision-making as the government prepares its budget for the coming fiscal year. As teachers know too well, the focus on austerity means the government is incredibly reluctant to commit money for public sector wage increases or new spending on public programs. We maintain that smart government spending yields high social and economic returns, while austerity policies dampen economic growth and fail to provide for citizens in need. Consultations on the budget will take place throughout the winter and OECTA will be encouraging the government to reconsider its approach, placing less emphasis on the short-term deficit and paying more attention to Ontario’s longterm health and prosperity. The real cause of the deficit is a shortage of revenues – the result of years of tax

cuts for corporations and high income earners, and exacerbated by the lack of economic growth in recent years. There are a wide variety of legitimate means by which the government could raise the funds necessary to operate the programs we all desire. The same goes for public infrastructure. This is an area where the government has shown some desire to live up to its spending promises, but only through public-private partnerships and so-called “asset swaps,” the most controversial of which is the sale of Hydro One. The government insists the sale is a necessary trade-off, but when Ontarians elected a government that said it would “build Ontario up,” most assumed we would be getting trains, roads, and bridges in addition to public utilities. The search for “efficiencies” also extends to the field of education. The Association recently participated in consultations on next year’s Grants for Student Needs, where we urged the government to address the structural shortages in the education funding formula, recommending substantial investments in special education, mental health

The Liberals promised progressive change on an unprecedented scale. We should expect and demand nothing less. 24



Ontario spending on public services has not kept up with inflation and population growth $130,000

Actual Program Spending


Spending required to keep up with inflation and population growth

$ Millions

$118,000 $112,000 $106.000 $100,000






*Source: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Ontario.

supports, adult education, technology, and professional development. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Education continues to look for ways to tinker with the funding formula without the need for additional resources. Beyond the Budget

There are several other major issues that must be addressed to create a fairer, more prosperous society. For example, as Kaylie Tiessen of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows elsewhere in these pages, the government’s commitment to poverty reduction has wavered. The strategy needs much more ambitious funding and deadlines, especially when it comes to eliminating child poverty. Also, the government has launched two major reviews: one to examine and reform Ontario’s labour relations and employment standards legislation, and another to address the gender wage gap.

Final reports from these reviews are not expected until later in the year, but the government can demonstrate its resolve by immediately addressing some obvious areas of concern, such as the differential treatment of full- and part-time workers. Collective bargaining in the education sector also remains on the agenda. Many local bargaining units still have not reached local agreements. A review of the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act and the new bargaining process is very much needed. The Minister of Education has indicated that such a review is upcoming, but it will need to be concluded quickly if changes are to be implemented for the next round of bargaining.

do: invest in public services and infrastructure, protect valuable public assets, adapt our policy framework to reflect the realities of the 21st-century labour market, and allow the necessary time for the benefits of these policies to bear out. The Liberals promised progressive change on an unprecedented scale. We should expect and demand nothing less.

Adam Lemieux is Communications Specialist in the Communications Department at OECTA Provincial Office.

Be Bold

Now is not the time for timidity. The next two years of electoral calm are an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of Ontarians. The government should do what it was elected to






“There is growing evidence that when a school building is in disrepair, teaching and student achievement suffers; the school environment works against the educational process.” – Dr. Michael Berry from Healthy Schools are Clean, Dry and Productive (2002)

By Krista Wylie

Our schools are where our children learn, play, grow, and build years worth of magical memories. They are the hubs of our communities and the work environment for teachers, support staff and many others. It is unacceptable when they are not safe and welcoming spaces.

funding in the last five years has ranged from only $150 million to $500 million. This gross underfunding of school infrastructure by our provincial government means that an unacceptable level of disrepair has accumulated in our public schools and will continue to worsen unless funding solutions are found.

My son, his classmates and their teacher wore winter coats at school for more than a week last winter because their classroom was only 12 degrees Celsius. This is just one example of the current level of disrepair in some of Ontario’s publicly funded schools. As teachers, I am sure you are well aware of many other issues of disrepair in your schools. You also know the impact these conditions can have on student learning.

The two million children who attend Ontario’s publicly funded schools deserve safe, well-maintained schools that are conducive to learning, as do the adults who work in these buildings every day. The Fix Our Schools campaign is building a large, connected network of people in Ontario who share these beliefs and want to work together to affect change.

Taking Action

Fix Our Schools is a grassroots, non-partisan, parent-led campaign. In April 2014, I started meeting with a small group of parents to talk about disrepair in Toronto’s public schools. We officially launched the Fix Our Schools campaign in October 2014. By May 2015, we had built a network of close to 1,000 people across Toronto! After realizing that all 72 of Ontario’s publicly funded school boards had a capital repair backlog totaling more than $15 billion, we committed to growing the campaign across the province. We began our provincial outreach this past August, and by November we grew to more than 1,400 people across Ontario. Our Campaign

PHOTO: @ Cylonphoto /

Our provincial government must take responsibility for the unacceptable level of disrepair that has accumulated in Ontario’s schools, and take the lead in finding funding solutions to address the $15-billion capital repair backlog. The 2015 Auditor General’s report confirmed that $1.4 billion per year is needed to maintain Ontario schools in a state of good repair. However, actual annual

We write letters, run social media campaigns, and meet regularly with politicians and policy advisors of all political stripes and from all levels of government. We continue to work on expanding our network through community outreach and by building relationships with large, organized groups of people whose interests align with those of Fix Our Schools, such as teachers. How You Can Help

The real power of the Fix Our Schools campaign comes when everyone in the Fix Our Schools network takes action and asks for the same thing. To that end, we urge you to participate in our current letter-writing campaign. See our November 10, 2015 blog posting at, and join the hundreds of Ontario citizens who have already sent the Fix Our Schools letter asking the provincial government to increase capital grants to all school boards. Our new federal government has promised that new infrastructure money will flow to the provinces, so now is the time to ask that some of this money go toward repairing and rebuilding Ontario’s publicly funded schools. We also encourage you to: • Subscribe to Fix Our Schools to receive periodic emails with information and ideas for action: • Like Fix Our Schools on Facebook • Follow @Fix_Our_Schools on Twitter • Tell your colleagues about Fix Our Schools and encourage them to subscribe • Contact us at with examples or photos of disrepair in your schools Thank you for helping Fix Our Schools! Krista Wylie is Co-Founder of the Fix Our Schools Campaign /


Register for OECTA’s Mathematics Primary/Junior Part 1 AQ (enrolment deadline for the Spring session is March 24, 2016)

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One Module of OECTA’s AQ course delivered through live content workshops at the conference.

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