2014 CEPA Conference: Hope in A Time of Crisis
June 22-25, 2014 in Banff, Alberta
The Canadian Educational Press Association Conference is an annual event that brings communication staff from across the country together to meet and share strategies to promote public education. The Alberta Teachersʼ Association hosted the conference this year on June 22-25, in Banff, Alberta. The conference committee members were Raymond Gariépy, Shelley Magnusson, Kim Dewar and Yuet Chan.
Colleagues from different provinces have seen their provincial governments attack teacher organizations on many fronts. Such attacks included labour disputes between teachers and government in British Columbia, Alberta Education Minister Jeff Johnsonʼs desire to split the ATA, the governmentʼs attack on the teachersʼ pension plan in New Brunswick, and the looming negotiation in the fall for teachers in Ontario. At the conference, delegates shared their strategies on how to overcome the above challenges.
Several guest speakers presented on the conference theme of Hope in a Time of Crisis.
ATA Past President Carol Henderson brought ATA greetings to delegates at the opening reception of the conference on June 22. She told delegates about her personal battle with lymphoma in the summer of 2012. She drew strength from her faith, family, friends and colleagues during this difficult time. She was able to recuperate after chemotherapy and completed her term as president.
“All of us at some point in our lives will be hit by a storm. However, we do not face adversity alone,ˮ Henderson said. She emphasized the importance of public education and the work of teacher organizations. Her message was one of hope and resilience.
The second guest speaker at the reception was Kent Hehr, MLA, and Liberal education critic. A former avid athlete, Hehr became a quadriplegic after he was hit by a bullet during a drive-by shooting in 1991. His life was changed in an instant, and immediately after the tragic incident he did not want to live. However, with the support of his family and friends, Hehr pursued postsecondary studies at Mount Royal College and then at the University of Calgary, from which he earned a bachelor of arts in Canadian Studies and a bachelor of laws. His message to the audience was that “it is good for us to put ourselves outside of our comfort zones, reach beyond, stay with it and make the most out of life.ˮ He is now happy and accepts life as it is.
The presenters on Monday, June 23 were Dijla Al-Rekabi and Kendra Harper.
Dijla Al-Rekabi is a diversity and learning support advisor with the Calgary Board of Education. She has seven years of experience in providing culturally appropriate services and transition support to students, their families and school staff. Continuing on the theme of Hope in a Time of Crisis, Al-Rekabi used her experience as a war survivor, a refugee for six years and a visible minority in Canada to infuse a deeper understanding of cultural competency, diversity and inclusion within the education system, First Nations education and other organizations. Her presentation was both thoughtful and engaging.
Kendra Harper is a teacher from Canmore, Alberta. She recently returned from a world tour which focused on finding joy and happiness. Her session entitled “Making Meaning of Joyˮ was both personal and active. She demonstrated some basic techniques for coping with adversity and finding joy. She helped participants get outside their comfort zones to try new ways of accessing their inner joy.
Darren Boisvert was the third speaker, presenting on Wednesday, June 25. Boisvert is a writer, editor and journalist. He is a former associate producer for the features unit of CBC TV’s The National and has written several documentaries for Ideas and Dispatches on CBC Radio One. He has extensive journalism experience. Boisvertʼs presentation, entitled “Even as Far as China: A Global Perspective on Journalism,ˮ was part autobiographical and part historical. His session offered a front-row seat to global politics and life as it is lived in the middle of disaster. It was a presentation of the local stories of local people and a tribute to their hospitality and endurance in times of crisis.
The conference included the organizationʼs annual general meeting, with discussions on membership, the annual budget and bylaw amendments. Three honorary memberships were bestowed upon this year’s retirees: Raymond Gariépy (The Alberta Teachers’ Association, Mary Morison (Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario) and Diana Thomson (Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association).