Kidder praises Re-Imagine initiative while reminding teachers of their important role

Sask Bulletin
November 19, 2019

Annie Kidder addresses Councillor Conference in which she praised the
work being done in Saskatchewan education and by the Saskatchewan
Teachers’ Federation in particular. She also reminded teachers of how
critical their role is.

It wasn’t difficult to spot the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation hierarchy following keynote presenter Annie Kidder’s speech at the Councillor Conference opening session.

By all accounts, they were the ones with the smile on their face. Without any prompting, Kidder, the widely respected executive director of the Ontario-based People for Education non-profit association, praised the merits of the Re-Imagine Education initiative undertaken by the STF and a host of outside organizations in contemplating the future of public education in Saskatchewan.

Unlike many keynote presenters at conferences here, Kidder had clearly done her homework before coming to Saskatchewan. She also worked tirelessly as not only the keynote, but also at a host of workshop-related activities during her two days in Saskatoon.

In Kidder’s words, what is happening here is both “extraordinary and rare,” in reference to the Re-Imagine initiative in particular.

She lauded the fact that these sorts of initiatives are being taken on by a teacher organization like the STF; a situation which she bemoaned is not happening in her own province where hardly a day goes by without the latest round of deep funding cutbacks and loss of jobs for teachers.

“Class size is a nice and easy thing to talk about, but what gets lost in the conversation is how it’s all about the funding cutbacks. That will lessen flexibility, and we all suffer when this happens.”

Citing her own organization, of which Kidder is a founder and has been involved with for two-plus decades, she noted how they are about advocacy for public education and are attempting to amplify the public conversation about public education.

Somewhat of a media darling in her own backyard, Kidder is frequently the spokesperson whom the electronic and newspaper journalists seek out to comment on the latest turn in this seemingly never-ending soap opera since Doug Ford became Premier in Ontario, and whose financial agenda seems squarely aimed at the respective teachers’ unions and the profession.

Kidder said she is bemused by what she referred to as “polarized conversations, which are very problematic. Public education is an incredibly important part of a civilized society and public education is connected to everything. It is the hub at the centre of some of the issues we are struggling with like truth and reconciliation, knowledge economy and wanting to have an engaged citizenry.

“When you look at the funding cutbacks, we need to realize that money put into education is an investment and will result in cost savings in health care, social assistance and crime years down the road. The problem is it takes a long time to see the return for governments and we need to continue to build a public dialogue about what is happening.”

Of course, none of this is groundbreaking news to teacher associations or members of the profession in general. According to Kidder though, it is imperative to have the hard evidence on your side when building your case to the general public.

Kidder noted the rather unique situation in Canada where she indicated 95 percent of the populace attend public schools.

Touching on the work People for Education is involved in, Kidder said it often involves working across sectors in an effort to better inform people outside of rooms like this what an enterprise education is.

“Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and reflect,” she indicated, sharing the organization’s pledge to follow up on what she called “the new basics” rather than merely reverting to the back-to-the-basics mantra.

“For our students today, it’s about thinking creatively and critically, and learning to learn and communicating effectively. It’s about developing a sense of self and developing constructive relationships. Our students in elementary school won’t even know what the jobs will be in the future of this rapidly changing world. That’s why we need to prepare them with these traits. We need the next generation to deal with a lot of complex problems that we have left them with,” she noted.

This is why she reminded teachers how critical their role is on a daily basis.

“You are actually making a difference in millions of kids’ lives and there is no more important job in the world than yours. It’s easy sometimes for teachers to take their own work for granted.

“You are the experts when it comes to education and your voice needs to be honoured. It is important to link what you’re trying to do so that our kids can thrive in the world in the future. That’s how critical education is, and we have the same challenges and issues across the country. That’s part of our [People for Education] mission to help be that voice. We need to stand together to continue to build that important public dialogue,” she stressed.