By MPP Toby Barrett
Many are familiar with the catchphrase, “If you ate today…thank a farmer.”
As a former teacher, a member of several generations of farmers and teachers, and a great believer in teachers and the job they do, I’d like to state, “If you read today, thank a teacher,” or for that matter, if you wrote something or did some calculations.
Being a farmer, you might think that I am over the top asking for thanks on two fronts. Farmers work hard, but I also want to state unequivocally that I appreciate how hard Ontario’s teachers work to educate young people — something teachers have been doing even before the days of Egerton Ryerson, a local boy also known as the Father of Education in the Province of Ontario.
Because we have been taught how to read, write, and calculate numerical problems, I think everyone can thank a teacher.
Our plan, “Education that Works for You” is working to create an environment conducive to both teaching and learning. Plus, teachers, parents, students and employers can rest assured that what is being taught will help to produce a bumper crop of young people fully-prepared for challenging and fruitful careers.
I would like to reflect with gratitude on a teacher with a connection to Haldimand-Norfolk who really made a difference in our education system for generations of Ontarians.
Dr. Vera Good, born in 1915, was a legendary and inspirational educator. Her career encompassed teaching 32 children from grades 1 to 8 in the one-room Riverbank School near Breslau, to 1948 India and hearing Mahatma Gandhi speak the day before his assassination, to earning her doctorate in education from Columbia University, to being the Ministry of Education’s first female inspector to, and perhaps most famously, being the original producer of the educational and entertaining TV Ontario production, Polka Dot Door. That’s an impressive series of accomplishments. Quite a career!
I know that some of us were able to enjoy and learn from Polka Dot Door. I was a few years past their target audience’s age range when it was first broadcast in 1971. My elementary school experience was also one-room school. As in the day of Dr. Good — 8 grades in a one room, one teacher, 32 kids in her case — as was the case in so many one-room schools.
Being a teacher with 32 students in a one-room school with 8 grades, one can only speculate what Vera Good would think about the provincial government’s plan for our school system. For example, we are maintaining class sizes for Kindergarten to Grade 3, establishing a consistent approach to class sizes for grades 4 to 8, and aligning secondary school class sizes more closely with other Canadian jurisdictions. We are introducing a new approach to e-learning and reducing pressure on school boards to put students in portables and split classes.
Dr. Vera Good was an excellent educator. She taught in so many ways on so many platforms: classrooms, offices, television, and in our provincial government. So I say thank you Dr. Good, a visionary — whom I had the pleasure to meet locally a few years ago — who, at the age of 104, recently passed away in Simcoe. With her expertise and forward thinking, she was able to make positive change in Ontario’s schools.
Toby Barrett is MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk