The Alberta Teacher Association (ATA) is the professional organization of Alberta teachers. Founded in 1918, it is mandated by law to improve the teaching profession by providing teachers with opportunities to enhance their knowledge and skills, by encouraging teachers to take responsibility for their own professional growth and by ensuring that teachers conduct themselves in a professional manner.
One way that the ATA works to improve the caliber of the profession is by organizing and conducting teachersâ€™ conventions. Held annually across the province, these conventions help teachers keep up with educational developments, enhance their knowledge and skills, and exchange ideas with teachers in other school jurisdictions. Teachers have a professional and legal obligation to attend their annual convention, and penalties can and have been levied on teachers who are absent from convention without legitimate reason.
In addition to benefiting from conventions, teachers are given an opportunity to enhance their knowledge and skills through their membership in one or more of the ATAâ€™s 21 specialist councils. These councils serve as a clearing house for leading-edge research on specific subject areas such as language arts and science and as a channel for exchanging ideas and teaching techniques. Specialist councils routinely organize conferences and workshops and publish their own professional journals and newsletters.
To ensure that teachers maintain and improve their teaching skills, the ATA encourages its members to develop annual professional growth plans. Professional growth is a career-long process that involves teachers reflecting on themselves as individuals, talking with their colleagues and taking concrete steps to enhance their professional practice. In developing written growth plans, teachers assess their unique learning needs, identify strategies for advancing their professional development and modify their plans over the school year as they share them with their colleagues. These growth plans have the goal of helping teachers improve their effectiveness in the classroom to the benefit of their students.
The ATAâ€™s Code of Professional Conduct ensures the integrity of the teaching profession by setting out minimum standards of behaviour that teachers must observe in relation to their students, their colleagues, their school board and their profession. For example, the code requires teachers to treat students with dignity and respect and prohibits them from openly criticizing other teachers unless these teachers have been properly informed of the criticism. The code sets forth the expectation that each teacher will act in a manner that maintains the honour and dignity of the teaching profession. Teachers found guilty of unprofessional conduct can face penalties ranging from a reprimand or fine to suspension or expulsion from the ATA. In serious cases, teachers can lose their right to teach in public and separate schools in Alberta.