As for so many of us, Crystal Kechego's path to teaching stretches back to the memory of a teacher who made a difference in her life.
And like so many new to teaching, the College's 200,000th member personifies our deep-seated desires to help others and to learn. (See her story here.)
Crystal's road to becoming a teacher was a less direct one than many. But each teacher's story is unique and uniqueness is what makes teachers special.
While helping others is our raison d'être, helping ourselves - as professionals - makes it possible.
In the coming year you have a chance to make a difference in the teaching profession. You can run as a candidate for College Council. If not, you can vote for those who do run.
Nine years ago two colleagues urged me to run. "We need you there," they said.
They wanted a working classroom teacher to represent them. On licensing matters. On pre- and in-service education issues. On decisions involving discipline.
To be honest, I had no idea what I was in for.
I had no sense of the difference serving on Council would make to my professional growth. By serving on committees, working with the standards for the teaching profession, examining financial and legal issues and understanding the nuances of communication through the magazine and provincial consultations, I have experienced the most enriching professional development. I truly believe it makes me a better teacher.
It has expanded my view of education, providing a provincial perspective on the impact of policy and regulation changes. It has caused me to examine how my classroom practice aligns with our ethical and practice standards. And it has caused me to listen better.
Participating in College consultations on governance, standards and teacher qualifications has put me in a position to hear my colleagues across Ontario and has influenced my input on matters of importance to the entire profession.
The demands and challenges have been greatly outweighed by the chance to make a difference. It takes a commitment of 40 to 50 days a year. Seems like a lot, but I've managed for eight years by following a simple formula: family first, job next, the College third. I'm also fortunate that my board has supported me and my students by replacing me during my absences with a dedicated supply teacher.
There are 31 of us on Council now, 17 elected. The plethora of different voices is healthy. Diverse opinion fosters full debate. It helps us to question why we do what we do, how, and why it's important.
But five people were acclaimed last time and fewer than five per cent of all members voted. That's not nearly sufficient. We need more candidates and greater participation.
We can and will do a better job of letting you know who's running and why. We will do our best to help you understand what the College is and how it works to serve the teaching profession in the public interest.
College Council speaks on your behalf. Your vote gives weight to our decisions. With critical mass the government of the day is more inclined to heed our recommendations.
I urge you to consider running. Watch for nomination information. And bring your voice to the table - either by serving personally or by placing it in the hands of a teacher who cares about what's best for Ontario teachers and their students.