HALIFAX - No amount of snow or wind was going to keep Rachel Creasor from standing up for what she believes in Feb. 13.
Creasor, a resource and behavior intervention resource teacher at the Canning-based Glooscap Elementary School, protested outside of the Legislature building in Halifax for hours at the peak of a blizzard that resulted in storm closures throughout the province.
The Annapolis Valley educator’s one-woman demonstration was planned for the same date as a session that could have resulted in the government tabling legislation that, Premier Stephen McNeil had previously announced, would put an end to the ongoing contract dispute with the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union (NSTU) as soon as possible.
“The strike action by the union has impacted students and their families for too long,” McNeil said in a Feb. 11 statement referring to the work-to-rule job action first launched Dec. 5.
Creasor couldn’t bare the thought of sitting idle knowing there was a potential for Nova Scotia’s MLAs to support the idea of a legislated contract for teachers. She bundled up, grabbed some posters crafted especially for the occasion and did her best to reach a captive audience – on the streets and online.
“It’s very windy and the snow’s coming at all angles,” she said, during a brief lunch break.
“The wind really is the hardest part of it.”
Creasor posted several video updates on her personal Facebook page to raise awareness of her protest. She sent special shout outs to the students tuning in, and even sang a song they all know and love at Glooscap Elementary.
She felt compelled to take action out of fear that the government would table critical legislation in the midst of a snowstorm that prevented several interested parties from travelling to Halifax to have their voices heard.
“I drove in when it was safe to drive in and I did a bit of protesting yesterday knowing that today would be the way it is,” she said.
“I’m very concerned about a government ignoring the collective bargaining process.”
Creasor said she speaks for herself, but stands for all teachers who feel their concerns aren’t being taken seriously.
“If you haven’t been in school for 15 years, you wouldn’t even recognize it. It’s really hard and it’s not for lack of trying because every teacher I know (is) working away very hard,” she said.
“It’s 9,000 people saying something is wrong, but they don’t hear us.”
The public school system is in dire need of tangible changes in order for classroom conditions to improve, Creasor said.
“In an average classroom a teacher is trying to reach children of various levels academically, (and) they do not give supports for academics. They give it for behaviour or medical needs,” she said.
“They’re asking teachers to meet the needs of all of these students, at the same time collecting data about them, and there is no time to actually teach and reach every student in your class.”
She would like to see a contract offer that outlines specific steps that will be taken to address the teachers’ concerns regarding class sizes and a lack of in-class supports.
“We don’t need another committee to talk about things. We need real things, real changes – now,” she said.
The evening sitting of the Legislature was ultimately cancelled due to inclement weather Feb. 13, and rescheduled for Feb. 14 at 8 p.m.
“Tomorrow we will proceed with our plans so the lives of students and their parents can return to normal as soon as possible," said McNeil in a press release the Premier’s Office distributed following the postponement of the session.
Creasor hopes members of the public who are inspired by the story of her standing out in the storm will reach out to their MLAs as soon as possible.
The Kentville resident admits she’d rather be anywhere else but in the spotlight, but she’s received an outpouring of support from teachers, students and parents throughout the province since sharing videos of her solo protest via social media.
“I find it totally overwhelming but if it makes a difference then I’m really happy,” said Creasor.
She said the thought of quietly accepting a legislated contract that does not benefit teachers or students is more unsettling than the idea of sticking her neck out for the sake of democracy.
“I’m far more nervous of living in a society where when people see something that they disagree with, they’re afraid to speak up,” said Creasor.
“I’m more afraid of being that example to the children I teach and to the children that I’m raising.”