Nova Scotia Teachers Union elects new president amidst contract talks

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union, in the midst of negotiating a contract with the provincial government, has elected Liette Doucet as its new president.

Liette Doucet of Halifax says she wants to improve the image of teachers in Nova Scotia

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union is in the midst of negotiating a contract with the provincial government. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union elected a new president Thursday evening, while in the midst of negotiating a contract with the provincial government.

Liette Doucet, who has taught elementary school for 26 years, says her goal is to improve the public's view of Nova Scotia teachers. She says the online commentators are especially difficult to stomach.

"They're very disparaging and it brings you down. It brings down your optimism; it makes you feel like you're not doing a good job even though you know you are," Doucet said.

"​That image needs to change."

Liette Doucet has been an elementary school teacher for 26 years. (Nova Scotia Teachers Union)

Working conditions 'very real issue'

The union is still negotiating a contract, after members voted against a tentative agreement supported by union executives in December. Union President Shelley Morse then said the disagreement was due to teacher dissatisfaction with working conditions. 

Doucet said she voted against the agreement — against the union's recommendation.

"Personally I felt that the union should have realized that working conditions were a very real issue for teachers and that those things should have been discussed at the table," she said. 

"It didn't give us the opportunity to sit at the table with the government to talk about issues in the classrooms. It didn't give us a chance to discuss workload."

Doucet won against opponent Wally Fiander, NSTU's current first vice-president, on a second ballot of the run off election. Turn out was 65 per cent, according to the union.

"I want to make them proud, proud that they supported me, and I will absolutely support them in whatever I can do," she said.

Teacher discipline

When asked about teacher discipline in Nova Scotia, Doucet said she supports keeping names and other case details concealed, citing privacy concerns.

"I don't really see that changing," she said. "If it were to change, I think I would have issues with that."

CBC previously found Nova Scotia revokes teacher licenses at the highest rate of any English-speaking province, the majority of which were for sexual in nature offences or allegations

Mental health, poverty top issues

Mental health, poverty and students dealing with violence and stress outside of school will be top subjects for this teacher in her two year term, Doucet said. She said she worries members of the public underestimate how seriously these issues affect students' ability to learn in the classroom.

"They're coming to school with that, so we have to be aware of that every day," said Doucet, who most recently taught at Fairview Heights Elementary School. 

"It's very difficult as a child to come in and be open to learning when you're thinking about what you saw on the way to school or what happened the night before."

Doucet takes over the job Aug. 1. She will vacate her current position as Halifax City local president, for which a byelection must be held.