British Columbia·Q&A

Jim Iker reflects on his 3 years as BCTF president

Jim Iker joined Rick Cluff on CBC Radio’s The Early Edition to reflect on his time as BCTF president during the past three years.

Teachers' union leader will step down in June and accept a 1-year executive committee member position

This is Jim Iker's third and final year as BCTF president. He was vice president for six years. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Jim Iker says he is proud of his time at the helm of B.C. Teachers' Federation, noting the organization's contribution of adding more aboriginal content to curriculums and advocating for anti-homophobic policies throughout the province.

Iker announced on the weekend he will step down in June, and accept an executive committee member position for a year.

His term was defined by a five-week strike in 2014 that delayed students from returning to school in September of that year and an on-going court battle over class size and other bargaining rights.

He joined Rick Cluff on CBC Radio's The Early Edition to reflect on his time as union president during the past three years.

What are some of the harder moments you'll remember in this role?

Definitely one of the hardest moments was the strike, but it was so uplifting in other other ways in terms of seeing the courageous stand that our members took, not for themselves, but for their students. Because that strike was about trying to improve class size and class composition and getting more services for our students with more funding. They stood the line for so many days without pay, without strike pay and that kept me going.

What are the moments you're the most proud of?

I'm also very proud of the work that we have been doing in the areas of aboriginal education, aboriginal issues. We've done a lot of work in terms of truth and reconciliation, endorsing the TRC commission's 94 calls to action.

We've created some workshops in terms of the true history of the residential schools. We've got an amazing resource for our teachers and others … working toward reconciliation. And also working also with the survivors and the elders and communities. We have aboriginal content and culture and knowledge and First People's principles now being infused throughout our grade levels and curriculum.

Another area that I've been proud of in our organization [is] our advocacy to ensure that … every school board across the province needs to have a anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia policy in place so that all of our students, regardless of their diversity, their gender, their sexual identity, feel safe.

What is it like leaving before the court battle over teachers' bargaining rights has been resolved?

We look forward to making our arguments in front of the Supreme Court and we're hopeful that we will win, but it will be up to the Supreme Court and we respect the legal process. And I will be on our executive in the next year as past president, so I will still be involved in that way.

What advice would you give your successor on fostering a relationship with the government?

You have to work with whatever government is in power during the day and I came into the presidency with that attitude. Glen Hansman is running for president and … will continue that work in terms of keeping the dialogue open between us and government and the other partners.

Because, despite our differences, we still have to be able to work with government and with our partners to advance the issues for our students and our classrooms because that's who we are as classroom teachers, specialist teachers. We want the best and we want to be able to make the difference and support all of our students ensuring they have the best possible education, their needs are met.

What will you be working on between now and June 30, when your term ends?

I will keep doing the work that we need to do. We're involved in the curriculum revision across every grade level right now, which we've had members working on these curriculum teams and we've been supportive of the direction. But we know we need our government to step up to the plate  and start putting in the necessary funding and resources and time.

And I'm hoping in the next three months we will be able to ensure that here is money for our teachers to get familiar with the curriculum in terms of the implementation.

And of course, always advocating for our students and for more funding back in our schools. Right now we're still a $1,000 less per student than the Canadian average — second-worst funding across Canada.

This interview has been condensed and edited. To listen to the full interview, click the link labelled: BCTF president Jim Iker says there much to be proud of in past three years.


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