Challenge, Change and Resilience
When I was appointed Registrar & CEO of the Ontario College of Teachers, I joined an organization on the cusp of a significant evolution in how we fulfil our public mandate of ensuring the safety and well-being of Ontario students.
That evolution is enabled by the provincial government’s passage of Bill 229 in December. The new legislation enshrined key College-recommended updates to our operations and governance structure that will enhance transparency, strengthen public engagement, and help us respond more quickly to the needs of educators while meeting our obligation to protect students.
With that obligation in mind, the College developed a professional advisory with updated guidelines on maintaining professional boundaries between students and their educators. We also launched a Therapy & Counselling program for victims of sexual abuse or prohibited acts of child pornography.
Strengthening public institutions is an ongoing endeavour, but occasionally we must shore up the foundation. That is why the College recommended the dissolution of our previous governance structure in favour of a model that ensures equal representation for the public and members of the profession on Council and statutory committees. The newly balanced ratio enables the College to tap into the wealth of diverse expertise and perspectives available across Ontario as we recalibrate for the future.
The College has been well guided by its governing Councils over the years, and I offer sincere thanks to all those who stepped forward to serve in the interest of protecting students.
Change rarely comes without challenge. My confidence in the capacity of the College and our members to navigate this transitional year is strong, given what I have learned about how they adeptly adapted to the many challenges of 2020.
First and foremost, of course, was the COVID-19 pandemic that shuttered the College offices and schools around the province. The College responded by quickly taking our operations virtual to maintain our connection with members and other stakeholders to develop responsive initiatives including:
- issuing video conferencing guidelines to support elementary and secondary teachers who had to take their classrooms online
- addressing the teacher shortage by reaching out to more than 132,000 educators who were retired, in good standing and not teaching, and recent graduates to consider returning to the classroom
- working with faculties of education to ensure their virtual classroom environments continued to effectively develop Ontario’s next generation of educators.
In 2020, racial tensions around the world also reached a boiling point. As part of its longstanding commitment to anti-oppression, equity and inclusion, the College continued to examine these issues with sensitivity and candour.
The College launched the development of a new Additional Qualification and professional advisory on anti-Black racism. Changes to the regulation that underpin discipline in teaching made hatred and discrimination an act of professional misconduct.
We have taken and will continue to take proactive steps to encourage Ontario Certified Teachers and members of the public who identify as a member of an underrepresented group to participate in vital Council and committee work. Opportunities for everyone to lend their expertise and lived experiences to our regulatory mandate will continue to grow and solidify as our new governance structure evolves.
We will not soon forget 2020, and we would be wise not to. Its many and varied challenges reinforced the importance of building resilient public institutions. The College and the profession put their resilience on display time and again. I will surely keep their efforts and lessons in mind as the College continues the fulfillment and strengthening of our mandate through this year of transition.
Dr. Derek Haime, OCT
Registrar and Chief Executive Officer