It is with mixed emotions that I move on to the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers. When the opportunity presented itself, I decided to go for it. To become the president of QPAT was something I had thought about, maybe down the road, once I got some years under my belt as PTU President. But when Sébastien Joly, former QPAT President, accepted the Director General position, I realized that I had to make a choice. The decision-making process felt similar to when I decided to run for president of PTU in 2016. It was not an easy decision. I sat down and made a list of the pros and cons. I needed to consider my family, the travelling involved, the job I was leaving, the people I work with, the level of responsibility and visibility I would be taking on, etc. But more importantly, I thought about the teaching profession. The profession I had somehow stumbled into and love. I wanted to make sure that teachers have someone on whom they could count, someone who would listen to them, someone who would fight for them: I want to make sure that the voices of the English school system teachers in Quebec are heard.

A lot of things need to be fixed. When visiting schools and speaking with teachers, I realize that the issues are the same: the regular class is no longer “regular”, the needs of the students have increased and are not being met, an already demanding workload has become even more challenging, the profession is not valued as it should, and teachers are feeling overwhelmed and worn-out. These concerns are draining the energy out of the teachers. Some teachers no longer feel that they are actually teaching anymore. Stamina and survival have become the name of the game. When I speak to union leaders across Canada, the narratives are similar.

The CAQ government has stated that it is putting education first –  a top priority. I will believe it when I see it! Government cutbacks under the previous Liberal government really made the last round of negotiations difficult. We were fighting for the status quo. There were few gains and, thankfully, few losses. Jean-François Roberge, the Minister of Education, seems open to discussion, and has sat down with the various stakeholders. We will soon see if he has really been listening.

Next year is a negotiating year. Not the best time to be learning the ropes of a new job! But I have a great advantage: Sébastien Joly (he was definitely on the pro side of my list) has not left QPAT and he holds the experience that I may be lacking. We have a similar philosophy and I am convinced that we will make a great team. I am really looking forward to working closely with him as well as with all the other members of the QPAT staff.

So, it is a bittersweet moment. I want to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all PTU teachers. Your support during the last two and a half years has driven me to work harder and become a better leader. A special thank you to the professional staff and to the members of the Executive team for making my job so much easier and creating an atmosphere of healthy debate (a lot of laughs too!). Thank you especially to all of our delegates for their involvement and devotion, which are essential to PTU. And, I can’t forget the support staff at the PTU office for their dedication and hard work to keep things rolling.

I won’t be too far away…just across the hall, doing what I love, fighting for teachers!

Heidi Yetman