Council members find serving their profession is a great learning experience
The 37-member Council is the governing body of the Ontario College of Teachers, the largest self-regulatory body in Canada. The work each member does, whether in committee or at the Council table, has one overriding objective – the continuous improvement of the teaching profession.
“I never, ever regretted it. I thoroughly enjoyed it,” says Windsor-based Janet Ouellette about the years she spent serving on the College Council, from 2002 to 2006. “There were times getting up at 4 AM to go to Toronto that I wasn’t crazy about, but the work itself I really enjoyed.”
Interesting. Collegial. A great learning experience. Former Council members express many positive memories about the time they spent on the College’s governing body.
Janet Ouellette stood for election twice before she made it to Council. She remembers the effect it had on her to work with people who had very different views.
“I met people on Council, some of whom were government appointees, and they saw things very differently than I did,” Ouellette remembers. “It became a very, very important part of my personal education. I hope it made me better at my job. I don’t think I changed my mind about a whole lot of things but it forced me to defend what I believed in. You were constantly being asked to define yourself as an educator, and that was healthy.”
Ouellette believes that the initial disagreements about the College eventually created some benefit. “I think the sometimes bitter wrangling over the College has prompted us to define what we believe in, who we are and how we relate to other professionals.
“The only regret I have is that the experience came so late in my career,” says Ouellette, “and I had so little time to bring that perspective back to my work.”
Rosemary Fontaine, a Toronto elementary school teacher who was first elected to Council in 2003, will finish her second term next year. She would recommend the experience to any member of the profession.
Fontaine says that it was at times very demanding. “You really have to organize your work life because you have to prepare for the time you are away. I sometimes wonder how those people manage who live outside of Toronto.”
“One of the defining moments for me was producing our first professional advisory – on sexual misconduct,” says Laframboise.
As one of the francophones on Council, she says, “I was able to play a role in convincing fellow Council members how important it is to Ontario and Canadian society that we offer our francophone members the opportunity to engage with the College to the same degree as anglophones.”
In recent years, the College has increased the number of bilingual staff members and expanded French resources.
“I would recommend serving on Council without hesitation, just from the professional development point of view. I received such great training and experience as a member of the Discipline Committee and dealing with issues of justice and fairness. Serving on accreditation panels gave me a much better understanding of what needs to be offered to teachers in terms of professional learning.”
Paul Brazeau, an occasional teacher for the Near North DSB since his retirement as a full-time teacher, administrator and, finally, local federation president, has been the Northeast Ontario region representative for the last two Councils. One of his first assignments was as a member of the Accreditation Committee, which reviews and accredits teacher education programs.
As an occasional teacher he has more available time and, he says, has probably served on more accreditation panels than any other Council member. He currently chairs both the Investigations Committee and the Human Resources Committee, which means he is also a member of the Executive Committee, which acts as a board of directors between Council meetings.
Brazeau says, “It’s been a very positive experience and I would recommend it to any teacher. I will miss it. During the past six years, I’ve seen changes in both elected and appointed people. We’ve all moved closer in our thinking of how the College should work.”
Another change, he says, is the larger Council, which was expanded to 37 people just prior to the 2006 election. “You would think it might be more unwieldy but it actually provides more people to share the work.”
Lynn Daigneault, who was a superintendent when she was elected to the first Council in 1997, says she was in favour of the College from the beginning. “I thought it was in the interests in the profession that teaching be self-regulated for many reasons, not least of which was the timely approach to dealing with issues. The regulatory body would focus only on matters pertaining to the profession.
“I learned so much in the work we did around bylaws, policies, ensuring that we were acting in the public interest, ensuring the credibility of the profession and enhancing the profession. It was wonderful professional development,” says Daigneault, “and a very exciting time.”
It was a learning experience that influenced not only her professional life but her retirement as well. When she took early retirement and had to resign from the College Council, she applied to be a public appointee on another regulatory body.
“I’ve been an appointee on the board of the College of Chiropractors for the past four years and I love it,” she says.