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Governing Ourselves

Governing Ourselves informs members of legal and regulatory matters affecting the profession. This section provides updates on licensing and qualification requirements, notification of Council resolutions and reports from various Council committees, including reports on accreditation and discipline matters.

College’s Public Awareness Initiative

Enhancing Public Awareness

By Helen Dolik

You’ll soon be seeing and hearing the phrase “Setting the Standard for Great Teaching” in connection with the Ontario College of Teachers.

The College is launching a public awareness initiative in 2014 designed to make the public aware that the College exists and to explain what it does. The initiative will include a range of cost-effective tactics using a variety of media and a broadening of College activities that reach out into the community.

The College licenses, governs and regulates 237,000 members of the teaching profession in Ontario. It sets standards of practice and ethical standards, accredits teacher education programs and conducts disciplinary hearings.

“We’re here to inspire confidence among members of the public in our profession, and we have a duty to communicate with the public on behalf of members of profession,” says Michael Salvatori, OCT, the College’s Chief Executive Officer and Registrar. “This new initiative is a catalyst, or a little energy infusion, into that role.

“We’re telling the public about greatness in teaching and how we’re there to make sure the greatness is maintained. We do that by making sure that teachers are qualified and competent, that the teacher education program is deep and rich, and that teachers uphold the standards of the profession.”

The “Setting the Standard for Great Teaching” tagline will grace the College website, display advertising and the public e-newsletter. The College plans to rebrand its Facebook page, print products, a special brochure, corporate display panels and promotional merchandise with the new tagline and key visuals.

The College will reach out to the public through magazines, online and radio. It will also take part in conferences, trade shows and exhibitions targeted toward parents, and will create a College Speakers Bureau to encourage community speaking engagements.

Another focus will be on high-profile speaking opportunities at education, regulatory and community-based events. The College is looking at offering presentations on its role to Parent Involvement committees at the board level, to school trustees, and other community organizations like local chambers of commerce, Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs.

“A recent survey of the general public showed that only a small minority of the public are aware of the College and its existence,” says Richard Lewko, Director of Corporate and Council Services.

The College’s mandate actually requires the organization “to communicate with the public on behalf of the members of the College.”

The public awareness initiative is also in keeping with the advice of former Ontario Chief Justice Patrick LeSage, who was commissioned by the College in August 2011 to carry out an independent, wide-ranging review of its disciplinary policies and practices.

The May 2012 LeSage report included 49 recommendations — the most important being “The College should develop a communication strategy to increase public awareness of the College and its mandate. This would include explaining the distinction between its role and responsibility and that of School Boards.”

The College Council has made communication with the public a priority. At its June 2012 meeting, Council approved a recommendation to implement a communications strategy to increase public awareness of the College and its mandate. Helping parents understand how the College’s role and responsibilities are different from those of their local school board will be an important feature of this strategy. At their special meeting on April 29, 2013, Council adopted a set of principles to guide the campaign.

The initiative’s ongoing communications with the public will reflect the ethical standards to which all Ontario Certified Teachers aspire — care, trust, respect and dignity. They will be appropriately sensitive to Ontario’s diverse population and provide geographic coverage of the province. Communications will be in English and French. The strategy will be regularly assessed to measure its impact and success.

Lewko says the College conducted focus groups in six Ontario communities, meeting with teachers and the public — parents with students in the system — and received helpful feedback.

“You’re a submarine organization,” was one Thunder Bay parent’s observation. “I’ve never seen you.” Another commented: “I can’t recall ever hearing about you guys.” One London parent spoke for many when he said: “It [the College] is the best-kept secret.”

Perhaps not for long.