The union representing British Columbia’s 46,000 teachers has elected a new leader, who will take up the top job when the current president ends her third and final one-year term.
Clint Johnston was elected B.C. Teachers’ Federation president on Tuesday, and will begin in that role when current president Teri Mooring’s term ends in June.
Johnston is a former Chilliwack primary school teacher, but has been on leave serving as the union’s first vice-president, and is also vice-president of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation.
Prior to serving on the union’s provincial executive served as president of the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association from 2012 to 2014.
While he won’t formally take up the duties of president until June, Johnston said he’s already engaged in bargaining with the province over the union’s latest collective agreement, which began last week.
“Given COVID, the impacts of COVID, the pre-existing issues before COVID, getting our members a good deal at that table that keeps them from falling further behind is the main priority,” he told Global News.
“After that, it will be looking at how we can more forward after bargaining even to maintain teachers in this province. We know we have a teacher shortage in this province, and that’s an issue we need to continue working on.”
Johnston said COVID-19 has shown how important the education system is for kids and families.
But he said the pandemic has also been tremendously difficult on teachers, and that as president he will push to ensure those challenges are recognized by the province.
“I think the public now understands more broadly what that is, it’s more than just the teaching we do, we provide a safe place, we support kids, we feed kids lots of times,” he said.
“I think it’s that additional wear that COVID put on teachers so we need to see from the government some real initiatives, some real ideas and resources around supporting the mental health of teachers that are doing that vital work.”
Speaking with CKNW on Tuesday, Johnston said other priorities include continuing to support LGBTQ2 children through inclusivity initiatives like SOGI 123, and decolonizing the K-12 education system and integrating the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls for action is another important priority for him.
Johnston is also a father of five, including three children still in the K-12 education system — experience he says he’ll take with him to the top job.
“That experience as a parent is valuable,” he said.
“I certainly take away what they’re doing and their experiences at school inform my advocacy.”