PGN Renewal Plan includes having all teachers become members

Sask Bulletin
December 29, 2020

As evidenced by the mere fact that 26 of the 28 professional growth networks participated in the virtual PGN Day recently, there is considerable interest in the concept, albeit that some of the annual challenges in terms of recruiting new members persist. However, according to Scott Burant, Managing Director, Member Services at the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation and member of the PGN Advisory Committee that shared its findings as part of the envisioned PGN Renewal Plan, there could be some significant changes ahead to address those issues.

The vision of the Advisory Committee is that in future, all Federation members (teachers in the province) will be a member of a professional growth network.

This will be accomplished by membership fees for a PGN becoming incorporated as a service available as part of the STF membership. The associated budget required will need to be approved by Council.

Burant explained this would go a long way to increasing the profile of the PGNs. The STF member survey undertaken in 2020 indicated that, while on the increase, still only half the teachers in the province are even aware that PGNs exist.

Burant and his colleagues on the Advisory Committee have been contemplating how the future might unfold for PGNs since 2015. That has included raising the profile, while at the same time looking at the significant governance changes such a shift would entail. The hope is that, if Council gives the go-ahead, the renewal plan could be implemented by the fall of 2021.

“The timing is everything. It just seems like the right time to proceed with these changes after many years of talking about where it is as a profession that we want to go in offering professional development for teachers,” Burant noted.

“There has been an increase in people’s awareness of PGNs, but it is not highly visible. We hope this will raise the profile and make teachers aware of the rich potential for professional development in their particular subject area,” Burant said. He added the plan is not to make it in any way restrictive and that teachers could change PGNs on an annual basis if they choose.

“Our focus throughout this process is that we want PGNs to focus on activities to support members in terms of professional development activities. It doesn’t have to be limited to holding a conference, but also how to make teachers aware of the resources available. This might be a workshop, whether that was remote or in person.”

Increasing membership in the respective PGNs would play a significant role in the Federation’s long-term goal to expand the range of professional activities that would benefit teachers.

This is seen as being particularly poignant under the current circumstances given that professional growth opportunities are being centralized within school divisions and thereby limited in scope. Burant said the Advisory Committee has also explored, via the governance structure, that instead of the current practice of each PGN electing an executive, in the future there would be elections for a board of directors. He offered that this format would hopefully attract new people to the process.

“The Advisory Committee has been doing some very good work, and I think we have made some strong connections which will ensure their sustainability. Any time there is a change, it can seem overwhelming, but we believe there is an appetite for this. We have to plan so far ahead and so you have to be adaptable. We’re getting feedback along the way so we’re building this as we go.

“It’s been small steps, but our hope is that this renewal will help all PGNs work toward a common vision,” Burant said.