Taking our place among Ontario’s community of professionals

A professional designation is a public statement of earned qualifications and adherence to ethical standards developed and endorsed by Ontario’s teachers, says the Chair of Council.

by Don Cattani

When we use a word like pharmacist it is difficult to imagine a situation where it wouldn’t refer to a qualified professional. The same can be said about most of the words we use for professionals. Their meanings are generally clear, though I’ll grant you that one could doctor a bank book or nurse a grudge – and a bad baseball team is often full of clubhouse lawyers.

Our profession, however, uses a word so broad in scope and application that it means many things to many people. People teach others to do things all the time. We have piano teachers, karate teachers, bridge, golf and yoga teachers.

We value all of them, but the common use of the word teacher has become so generic to any act of instruction that it doesn’t indicate whether the person doing the teaching is a certified professional.

Many occupations in Ontario have adopted the use of professional designations, available only to certified members of that profession, which indicate clearly that the holder of the designation is a qualified professional. You may be familiar with some, such as RN, PEng or CA. One of the newest professional designations in Ontario is ECE, granted to members of the Ontario College of Early Childhood Educators.

We have been examining this issue for some time. Our Quality Assurance Committee brought forward a proposal to Council in 2007 suggesting that we formally study the issue of professional designation. Over the next 18 months, Council completed a survey, organized focus groups and conducted consultations within the sector.

The results of these endeavours showed that the profession strongly favoured adopting a unique professional designation for teachers. In December 2008 Council approved the implementation of the designation Ontario Certified Teacher or OCT.

“A professional designation will serve as a public statement of earned qualifications and signify adherence to a code of ethical standards.”

I support this measure. A professional designation will serve as a public statement of earned qualifications and signify adherence to a code of ethical standards developed and endorsed by the profession. Further, it is an indication that the designee holds a body of knowledge and skills unique to those who have completed the requirements demanded by this province prior to entering a classroom in a publicly funded school.

On a more practical level, many of us now work with non-teacher professionals in school settings, some with their own professional designations. With the emergence of new professions and para-professions within the field of education, each seeking to define its role, it is sensible and timely that we adopt a method to inform the public of our professional status. A professional designation will accomplish that.

I must add that it has been my privilege, as a professional, to serve as your Chair since the fall of 2006. At the end of June, the term of the fourth Council will be completed, and on July 2 the newly elected fifth Council will choose the next Chair.

It has been my very good fortune to have served with as talented a group of Council members as one could ever hope to assemble. This Council has exhibited wisdom and leadership on many challenging issues and has represented our membership in an exemplary manner.

I would like to thank the staff at the College, perhaps the most knowledgeable and engaged group of people with whom I have ever worked and whose many kindnesses to a displaced northerner will not be forgotten.

I owe a debt of gratitude to my northern friends and colleagues in the Thunder Bay Catholic DSB. Their initial and ongoing support and guidance always grounded my thoughts on issues that, while debated in Toronto, influenced teachers across the province.

Lastly, I would like to thank my family, who have tolerated my thousand-mile commute to work over these past few years. There are no words sufficient to convey my gratitude for your support as I embarked on this adventure.

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