ETFO Celebrates 10 Years of Success: Bringing Elementary Education to the Forefront

Mary Morison

Political action and public relations go hand in hand. While our leaders and activists respond to government initiatives, solicit opposition party support, and lobby MPPs on both sides of the legislature, ETFO promotes its work and the work of its members not only with politicians, but also with other education stakeholders, the media, community activists, and the public at large.

From its inception ETFO knew that it would have to build a public profile for the federation and for elementary education and that its messages would have to resonate with its members and with parents. ETFO was aware that it had a powerful and important role to play, giving voice to elementary educators and the students they teach.

ETFO also knew that the first challenge it faced with the public and with politicians was to build credibility. We could not start our new life as a federation asking for support without demonstrating our commitment to elementary education. With this in mind, ETFO undertook two early public relations initiatives.

The Teachers Bring Learning to Life campaign had two important features. First, ETFO used its own members as “models” on the billboards, and we have continued to do so. Second, the campaign provided members (and their students) with bean seeds for students to plant and with supporting curriculum materials that demonstrated our message.

The second initiative – later titled  From the Ground Up – started as a consultation with our members about what they believed needed to be improved in elementary education. From the results of the consultation we produced a report, brochures, and posters that summarized our beliefs about public elementary education. These beliefs, grounded in our membership, have informed much of our work since.

ETFO’s public relations campaigns are based on core messages that resonate with our members and reflect what we stand for:

  • It’s all about our students.
  • We care passionately about public education.
  • We are proud of the work we do.
  • We are working with parents to help our students succeed.
  • We are working to be the best teachers we can be.

Our campaigns were carefully planned to ensure that we built upon the credibility of public elementary school teachers, stayed true to the voices of our members, and crafted clear messages that would be easily understood.

Our public relations campaigns have taken many forms and have had different audiences. The primary audience is always our own members. Public relations campaigns support our members in their work and provide them with opportunities to share their work with the public. In some instances, our campaigns are specifically designed to support the collective bargaining ETFO does on members’ behalf. The first large-scale PR campaign ETFO undertook to support bargaining was  Campaign 200 in 2004. This was followed by the  No Substitute 


Student cast of Annie

Kerry Withrow was dismissing his grade 8 class, little knowing it might be years before things would ever be the same again. The town’s 5,000 men, women and children, many of whom had moved there to escape the pollution and stress of urban life, were about to face an enemy that had apparently been lurking in their neighbourhood for years - E. coli.

teacher sitting with students at large table in cafeteria

When I was a young learner there was a clearly defined understanding of the role of teachers in schooling and in their interactions with students and families.