ETFO members who ran for office in the provincialelection reﬂect on the qualities that teachers bring topolitics and on the impact of the campaign experience on their teaching.
Katy Austin, NDP – Simcoe-Grey Katy Austin says that running for oﬃce has underscored the importance of teaching critical thinking skills and encouraging students to take an active role in the democratic process. Being a teacher contributed to her conﬁdence in public speaking and her ability to multitask during a campaign. Austin retired this spring after 23 years as a full-time teacher and currently has a long-term occasional assignment.
Cory Judson, NDP – Burlington Cory Judson ran for oﬃce in large part because as a teacher he sees the impact of poverty and the lack of aﬀordable housing and nonproﬁt licensed childcare. He identiﬁes organization, goal setting, and self-reﬂection as useful teaching skills he brought to his candidacy. Back in his grade 5/6 classroom in Brantford, Judson values the enhanced critical thinking skills he acquired as a candidate and the experience of having to consider issues from diﬀerent perspectives.
Yvette Blackburn,NDP – Scarborough-Agincourt
Yvette Blackburn’s candidacy attracted strong support from her grade 8 students in Scarborough, many of whom volunteered in her campaign. Blackburn believes their involvement improved their leadership skills and got them more involved in the Student Vote campaign that coincided with the election.
Blackburn has also worked as a program counsellor for at-risk visible minority students, an employment readiness counsellor for women facing barriers to workplace participation, and an instructor with a police foundations program.
Frank de Jong, Green Party – Davenport
As leader of the Green Party, Frank de Jong is a seasoned campaigner, having run for federal and provincial oﬃce a dozen times. These experiences have deepened his understanding of how politics aﬀects education and strengthened his commitment to teach young people about their civic responsibilities and the importance of being politically engaged. Teaching has helped de Jong be well organized, listen before speaking, and read his audience. His assignment as a half-time teacher of grade 7 and 8 design and technology provides him time to serve as party leader.
Lynda McDougall, NDP – Duﬀerin-Caledon
Lynda McDougall ﬁrst entered provincial politics when she ran in the 2005 Duﬀerin-Peel- Wellington-Grey by-election. Her teaching experience helped her to focus during all-candidates’ meetings and to see questions through the lens of what is best for children, families, and the community. Politics has taught McDougall valuable listening skills. She asks herself how her response relates to the thinking of the person asking the question, a process that often moves others towards change. McDougall has spent 28 years teaching. She is vice-president of the Upper Grand Teacher Local and served on the ETFO provincial executive for four years.
Matt Richter, Green Party– Parry Sound-Muskoka
This election was Matt Richter’s ﬁrst foray into elec- toral politics. Like others, he credits teaching with giving him the conﬁdence and listening skills he needed for public speaking and communicating with voters. He was able to speak directly about how government policy aﬀects the classroom, making use of ETFO resource materials to do so.
Richter hopes his candidacy shows his grade 6/7 students that individuals can do more than talk about issues: they can take action to eﬀect change. His candidacy had an immediate impact on the Student Vote program in his Bracebridge school and in the board: in that election the Green Party won.
Nerene Virgin, Liberal – Hamilton Mountain
In addition to her teaching background, Nerene Virgin brought several years of media experience to her candidacy. She starred in TVOntario children’s programs and later worked in news for both CBC and CFTO. An occasional teacher with the Hamilton-Wentworth board, she has also been a full-time teacher with assignments that include special education.
Rick Moffitt, NDP – Kitchener Centre
Rick Moﬃtt says his federation experience, including four years on the ETFO political action committee, and his time on the Waterloo Region Labour Council executive – he has been president since 2005 – helped him in his run for provincial oﬃce. Moﬃt teaches grade 7 language arts in Waterloo. He’s been a teacher for 20 years, but spent a number of years as the communications oﬃcer for the Waterloo Region Teacher Local. Back in the classroom, Moﬃt is using his political experience to assist students with public speaking and to develop a unit on advocacy for students.