Edward Hancock wins the Canadian Teachers’ Federation 2015 Special Recognition Award
By Kate Hawkins
Edward Hancock fell in love with teaching and later with union work with a vigour that few ever get to experience.
Hancock, who retired from the position of Executive Director for the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association (NLTA) last year, said his 39 years of involvement with the NLTA were incredibly fulfilling.
“I called it ‘the journey of a lifetime,’ and for me it really was… it was a career you could only dream of,” he said.
Hancock got his first teaching job in 1973 before he had even finished getting his bachelor of education from Memorial University.
“Back then of course, the Newfoundland student population had reached its peak, so there was a high demand for teachers,” he said.
“I hadn’t quite finished my degrees and I received a call from a superintendent asking if I’d be willing to teach the last two months of the school year.”
A teacher had abruptly left without notice during the Easter break and the superintendent was desperate.
“I still had four courses left to do, but after giving it some thought, I decided I could still go back for the summer semester and finish my degrees. So I took it. I went to that school for two months and I stayed there for 13 years,” he said.
“I enjoyed teaching very much… for the first number of years that I was on the NLTA staff, I missed the classroom quite a bit.”
That same year, the NLTA achieved collective bargaining rights, something that greatly interested Hancock and drove him to volunteer with the association.
“I suppose I’m inquisitive by nature, but the whole idea that a group of people in St. John’s were now going to negotiate a contract that was going to decide working conditions and salaries and terms of employment and all of that, I remember thinking to myself ‘how does one get involved in this?’”
His dedication as a volunteer at the branch level of the NLTA led him to pursue a career there in 1986 when an opening became available. Hancock became an administrative officer with the organisation, even though his true interest was in collective bargaining, arbitration and grievances.
After just a few years however, shifts in the staffing structure allowed him to pursue his real passion in the benefits division. Ten years after that, in 2000, Hancock became the Executive Director of the NLTA, as well as serving on the Canadian Teachers’ Federation board of directors.
“The position of Executive Director not only gave me the opportunity to be involved with the collective bargaining side, to be involved with teachers within the province, visiting schools and the like, but also gave me a focus nationally and even internationally with some activities with Education International… It really was a perfect 13 years.”
Throughout his years as a teacher, NLTA volunteer and eventually a staff member, Hancock defended the rights of educators. He worked with the NLTA to battle teacher cuts, was present for the debate on Newfoundland’s interdenominational school system, was challenged by the 1993 teacher strike concerning collective bargaining rights and helped to keep the NLTA finances in order. All of which, he said, he enjoyed heartily.
“When you find within your work elements of all those things that you enjoy doing, it stops being work to a certain extent,” he said.
“And yes, in any kind of work, you always have days when you seem to be rotting in place and not getting any work done because of the demands that are on you for that given day. But when I look back on it overall, I have to say I have a lot of trouble picking out any kind of major negatives.”
Although he still volunteers with the NLTA as a retiree, Hancock finally has some time to spend traveling with his wife and visiting his three grandchildren.
The honour of receiving this CTF Special Recognition Award, he said, lies in the fact that it celebrates the changes he has spent his career trying to make for teachers.
“It is extremely significant and heartwarming to be recognized by one’s peers at the national level,” he said.
“When I look at the kinds of things that occur nationally that impact education, from Aboriginal education to child poverty to the criminal code, and on and on… it’s quite rewarding to know that my efforts have been appreciated and have been noticed.”
(Kate Hawkins is a journalism student who has worked as a communications officer with the Canadian Teachers’ Federation during the summer of 2015)