I have been a teacher for 20 years. After teaching in the Strait Board for several years, I returned home to Cape Breton where I currently work. My passion and commitment began here and grew from work in committees, meeting the challenges of leadership and responsibility, through a spectrum of union experiences, leading to my seat around the table as member of the NSTU Provincial Executive and currently as the Secretary/Treasurer.

As a Mathematics Coach I see varied and numerous issues that members deal with on a daily basis. I have access to different schools and grade levels through my work which places me in many classrooms to see first-hand the overwhelming issues educators face. Despite the 2.5% increase in preparation time negotiated in the last contract, teachers are barely surviving with the workload. Teachers’ timetables are unrealistic. Keeping up with new initiatives which are introduced regularly is not only challenging, but stressful for all involved.

The expectations we have in the present system are increasingly difficult to maintain with the quality and professionalism that our teachers expect of themselves. High school teachers now have this issue compounded as they have semestered terms with different courses to prepare, and for many, no prep time to do it. Elementary and middle school teachers face dealing with issues beyond their level of expertise while waiting for diagnoses.

Teachers once had the autonomy to teach with students’ best interest in mind. The pressure of cookie cutter standardized tests, at the same time implementing and maintaining school improvement plans, is too much. With pandemic teaching, teachers were required to completely change their teaching practice and present lessons online with no formal professional development given. Teachers need the time to prepare lessons and assess students properly. Without time, this simply does not happen.

Safety in the workplace, violence in schools, and working conditions are issues that can look very different for different members. As a union, we need to better support the membership on how to deal with these issues by giving clear guidance and representation. As NSTU President, I want to ensure members have full, inclusive access to union services provided in this ever changing climate.

Schools are places for learning. The added expectation of schools has been made quite clear during the past two years. Schools have replaced much of what once happened at home, and teachers are doing what once was expected to be the work of the parent. The expectation placed on teachers is no longer to simply teach. The expectations are that we do such things as feed and clothe our students, and that we care for students’ mental health even though only a small percentage of educators are properly trained to do so.

The NSTU did not create conditions of poverty in Nova Scotia. It is the responsibility of the government to fund the social programs that are provided freely through educators' own time and finances. More and more, communities, schools, and families are run on the good will of teachers, and often from their pocketbooks. The President of the NSTU should not be allowing the good will of members to be taken advantage of and prop up a province that the Premier recognizes is in dire need of support. This needs to change. If Covid has shown us anything, it is that the cracks in the education system run deep and are being held together by the generosity of teachers. Teachers will always give, but they cannot fix all that ails Nova Scotia.

Understanding the needs of our varied membership is important. One concern that every member has is the health of our pension plan. This is an often-misunderstood area that was used by the previous government as a scare tactic, and to further vilify teachers. We need solutions based on valid information to benefit all members.

I have used my voice to advocate for teachers’ rights and to improve classroom conditions. From speaking at law amendments on both the imposed contract and the implementation of the Glaze report, to media interviews, and social media use to bring awareness to the very real working conditions in schools today, I have represented the membership. I have dug deeply and courageously to call out those in power on their policies that negatively impact educators, and to stand up for the contractual rights of the membership. Help make my voice be the voice of the NSTU. On May 25th, vote Peter Day for NSTU President.