Forty-two Surrey teachers spent four days online attending the 2022 BCTF AGM from Saturday, March 19 until Tuesday, March 22. Read what some of them thought about the experience.   

Andrea Leeks

The 2022 AGM also marks my sixth year of attendance as a delegate for Surrey. For four days, more than 750 delegates from around the province came together virtually to hear perspectives on important issues and to have a voice in the decisions made by the union. One of the new elements of this year’s AGM was the creation and presentation of the Connie Jervis Early Career Teaching Award. This award is granted to a member who has made an outstanding contribution to public education and is currently in their first ten years of teaching.

The legacy of Connie Jervis and, “The Langley Affair”, is known by some but not all. In 1939-40, Connie Jervis, a 24-year-old early career teacher, provided union leadership to a group of Langley teachers. She was instrumental in securing labour rights that would require school boards to participate in binding arbitration to settle salary disputes. Connie stood up to threats of firings, forced transfers, and public ridicule from her employer as she insisted on the right for her and her colleagues to be paid their legally arbitrated salaries. Despite intense criticism, local president Connie Jervis and her colleagues remained united and unyielding. Connie Jervis and the Langley teachers won an important victory for all their colleagues across the province.

It is with great pleasure to announce that Surrey’s own Rick Kumar was the first-ever recipient of this award. As a young worker myself, I appreciate that the BCTF recognizes and acknowledges that young worker members like Connie Jervis and Rick Kumar are essential to the collective strength of the BCTF.

Rick Kumar 

This year’s BCTF AGM was unlike any other for myself and the young workers and early career teachers I continue to represent.   

At my first BCTF AGM in 2018, much to my surprise, I had the entire meeting room laughing when I made a rookie mistake and inadvertently used inappropriate language to describe the working conditions of Adult Ed teachers.  I remember getting a gentle warning from then president Glen Hansman about the use of my language, but the fact remains that Adult Ed teachers still not getting the working conditions they deserve is no laughing matter.  

I couldn’t have imagined that 4 years later, now 29 years wise, at the 2022 AGM I would be chosen as the recipient of the Connie Jervis Early Career Teaching Award granted by the BCTF. This award is granted to a member who is currently in their first 10 years of teaching who has made an outstanding contribution to public education and shown exemplary service to colleagues through activism in the BCTF. This is the first year that this award is being presented so it’s not only a landmark event in my career as a young worker and teacher of colour, but in BCTF history.  

More than for myself or for the teachers who I serve, I am happy to receive this award in honour of my mom who worked tirelessly, loved unconditionally, and cared endlessly. My mom raised me to be strong in the pursuit of passion, humble in the grace of honour, and resilient in the midst of adversity. She made me the union worker I am, unabashed in my work, unwavering in pursuing a just union, and a person who will take on the inconveniences of others because it’s the right thing to do. Thank you to the amazing teachers of Surrey for whom we do this work!