LETTER: Teachers appreciate the gift

Teachers have the opportunity to do something special in lives of others

We know that he gave it without expecting anything in return, but my colleagues and I would be very grateful if you could pass along our thanks, via your paper, to the wonderful retired gentleman who stopped by our picket line at Windebank Elementary on June 24, 2014 with a very generous gift to treat us to lunch.

He mentioned that he had been a member of various unions over the years and that he had a teacher living next to him, so he understood what we were going through. We were so surprised by his unexpected generosity that we forgot to ask his name.

We want him to know that we saved his gift until the afternoon shift arrived and bought everyone pizza (about 18 people), including the support workers who are members of a different union and have been walking the picket line alongside us, supporting us in our efforts to obtain a new collective bargaining agreement.

I’m sure that my colleagues would agree that one of the main reasons that we love our job is because we have an opportunity to do something special in the lives of others. That’s why we are so upset when the government makes it increasingly harder to do that with unworkable class sizes and compositions.

We were further upset when we bargained away (since 1987) pay raises and other benefits for the sake of improved working and learning conditions only to have that ripped out of our contract illegally by the Liberal government 12 years ago. We were also upset when the Liberal government reduced our pay 10 per cent and locked us out from volunteering to do extracurricular activities, graduation ceremonies, year-end field trips, and supporting our students who needed extra help at recess, lunch, before, and after school.

This unilateral alteration of our contract by the Liberal government is the antithesis of the collective agreement process, and it provoked the B.C. teachers to once again strike, and dashed our hopes for a respectful and reasonable resolution of our differences by not bargaining in good faith.

The Liberal government made us feel like teachers’ efforts for our students in public schools are not only unappreciated but actually unwanted. It seems as if the Liberal government is making a concerted effort to ensure students do not find success in public schools and drive parents to pay twice by putting their students in private schools, online courses, or home-school rather than schools paid for with their (and our) taxes.

It is so discouraging that, despite our best efforts, for the sake of the Liberal government’s “user-pay” ideology, many wonderful children that teachers work with every day from families who can’t afford to, or refuse to, pay twice will be irreparably harmed. That is why we feel so overwhelmingly grateful to that retired gentleman, and everyone else who have brought us gifts and encouragement, because we once again feel like our efforts for students in public schools in Mission actually have been worthwhile, and they actually are valued.

We want you to know that you also have done something else that is very valuable and meaningful in our lives. You’ve lifted our spirits in a time of need, and we thank you.

Michael Van, and the teachers and CUPE workers on the picket line at Windebank Elementary