A Tap on the Shoulder Bears Fruit

Rachelle Marsan

Elizabeth Barnett has come alive.

2007 was a year of change for Barnett.

When both of her parents died within months of each other, Barnett decided to dig deeper for her passion. “I realized how short life is, and I began re-evaluating my life,” she recalls.

Her parents, both former teachers, were the role models for her community activism. “My parents taught me to fight for what I believe in, and to speak out for those who can’t speak out for themselves.” Barnett feels strongly that everyone should “live their passion, get involved, and find what makes you come alive.”

This innovative leader began her teaching career with the Halton District School Board 14 years ago. She is now the special education resource teacher at Sir Ernest MacMillan Public School. Barnett found her voice through her involvement with ETFO. She has been actively involved with the federation in numerous capacities.

“Brenda Dolling, who has been retired for 10 years now, ‘tapped me on the shoulder’ in my first year of teaching,” says Barnett. “She was very political and used to talk ETFO and politics in the staff room all the time. It was a great environment to be in and a great learning experience for me! She strongly encouraged me to get involved with ETFO. I did... and all those doors opened for me.”

Barnett also credits ETFO’s Leaders for Tomorrow program: “This was a major turning point for me. I met strong, intelligent women who were all working towards the same goal of building personal leadership skills while working on issues of equity and social justice. I learned that I could be a leader.”

Barnett began her work with ETFO as the steward at Munn’s Public School in 1998. She went on to work on the Halton local’s newsletter Babble On , joined the local executive as a member at large, and sat on the local’s constitution and political action committees.

Barnett has been a delegate to ETFO’s Annual Meeting many times, and was a member of the provincial Status of Women Committee.
Barnett created and was the first chair of the Halton local’s Human Rights (now Social Justice) Committee and worked to ensure the inclusion of an LGBT focus within the local and within her board. The committee undertook a number of initiatives, including joining with the Halton board to purchase  We’re Erasing Prejudice for Good kits for every school in the board. The curriculum resource is based on a variety of children’s books, and for several years the committee purchased a book for every school to accompany the kit.

The committee also staged the workshop “Homophobia in the Classroom” and liaised with HOPE, the Halton Organization for Pride and Education, a nonprofit group. A major focus for


women and girls posing with political leaders

Tanya Ferro reflects on her students’ participation in Girls’ Government, a program that encourage grade 8 girls to get involved in government and public policy.

ETFO president Sam Hammond

While this past year was extremely challenging, it has also been incredibly inspiring and galvanizing.