Ontario English Catholic Teachers

Past President - Ann Hawkins


In her native Scotland, Ann Hawkins went through the “11-plus exam,” a pre-teen intelligence test (since discontinued) that determined what sort of education a child would receive thereafter – either academic or skilled trades.

At the headmaster’s insistence, she was pushed into science before switching to history with the encouragement of her parents, who went into the school to advocate on her behalf. Hawkins went on to earn a history degree at York University and study history as an elective in teacher’s college.

“It’s one of those subjects that people think is all about dates… but listen to the stories,” says Hawkins. “It’s about how we got to where we are, it’s about murder, mayhem, and conflict, and how we relate to one another.”

While still in college in Scotland, a cousin talked her into coming to Canada for Christmas and she fell in love with the country. Her aunt and uncle sponsored her, and Canada soon became her permanent home.

A teacher since 1975 for what is now the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, she most recently taught social science at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton. “Teaching is the best job in the world,” she says. “I got into my first classroom and figured, ‘Why would anybody want to do anything else other than this?’”

In the staff room of her first school, people started talking about contract negotiations. “At the time, I was so thrilled to get a teaching job, I hadn’t asked about wages. Then I discovered the people in the school next door were making more. Then I found out I didn’t have the right to strike.”

In 1975, with the adoption of Bill 100, teachers gained more rights within their profession, as the legislation laid the foundation for teachers to finally be able to legally strike. However, the seeds of her political interest were sown earlier.

“My first political activity was at the age of nine, supporting Winnie Ewing [an avid Scottish nationalist and prominent Scottish National Party political party member].”

Her father’s eyes were damaged from a bad wartime inoculation so he had trouble seeing in order to cast his vote. “He marched me to the local school where the election was, and told me ahead of time who to mark that ballot for,” she says. “That was my first real memory of a political act, marking that ballot for my father so he could put it in a box.”

And speaking of divisive political issues, it was the Mike Harris years that “sealed the deal” and got her involved provincially.

According to Hawkins she had no idea her involvement in the association would lead her to become President, and now Past-President, of the Association.

Hawkins is passionate about promoting human rights and women’s issues, and she represented OECTA several times at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, in New York City.

The mother of three (and grandmother of five) says that being positive in all things is essential in a constantly changing environment. “Positivity is my thing, as you can’t control everything.”