Gwen Dueck, someone powered by passion in all of her public education endeavours, felt quite humbled to be named a recipient of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) Special Recognition Award.
“I’m not sure I fit into this category,” Dueck admits, “I’m feeling a little inadequate, quite frankly.
“There are incredible people I’ve had the chance to work with, and to be recognized by peers and professionals is honouring.”
Dueck earned a Bachelor and Master of Education from the University of Saskatchewan, and completed graduate coursework at the University of British Columbia. She became an educator in 1980 with the Saskatchewan Valley School Division, teaching across grades 1-4 and serving as both a teacher‑librarian and learning resource coordinator. After 13 years, Dueck joined the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) as the Saskatchewan Professional Development Unit Director.
In 2003, Dueck was appointed as the STF’s Assistant General Secretary (now Associated Executive Director), and was named General Secretary (now Executive Director) in 2008, leading in this role for nine years. She became the first woman to serve in either role with the STF, and became renowned for her tenacity and optimism.
“I think others would describe me as, and I would characterize myself to be, visionary and able to see the long view of things we were engaged in,” she said. “It’s the ability to see beyond the current state, and find something more desirable to work towards.”
During her 24 years with the STF, Dueck has played a vital role in negotiations and collective bargaining with the provincial government, excelling in areas including strategic planning, policy development, and policy and by-law development. Dueck opened up about certain moments of difficulty in dealing with partners’ conflicting perspectives, but revealed that this was not necessarily a negative thing.
“It was challenging, but that’s what the work’s all about,” she stated. “Negotiating, pushing for improvements, that’s what we do.
“To advocate for public education fuels our desires to make a difference.”
Dueck’s vast career also includes collaborative roles in international projects looking to support the professional development of teachers around the world. One of her standout experiences involved her time in Malaysia as part of the John M. Thompson Fellowship Program, which aims to develop a number of skills, including strategic planning and collective bargaining.
“I was inspired by the circumstances and had the opportunity of forging relationships,” Dueck shared. “The culture is different, but the passion is there, for teachers and leaders.”
Dueck also stayed in India for an extended period, as part of STF’s partnership with the All India Primary Teachers’ Federation.
“That broadened my perspective, and certainly my world view,” she revealed. “I came back from that experience much more grounded in terms of international education and global support for education for all students, regardless of where they come from.”
Public education was a profession in which Dueck thrived from beginning to end. Her retirement in 2017 has allowed her to enjoy less structure and more time with her family, but she does miss her work.
“It has not been an easy transition,” she disclosed, “but I knew that it was time to step away, and time for other leaders to take the organization to new levels.
“But I truly loved the work that I did.”