The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association first came to us in the midst of collective bargaining in 2015. Their immediate needs were to allay members’ fears and manage public perceptions of teachers as a potential labour action approached.
Matter over mind
While news reports tended to focus on numbers and bargaining positions we zeroed in on a key disconnect in the public’s mind. Many people had fond memories of specific teachers and how educators had shaped their own lives, but these good associations tended to disappear when they thought of teachers as a group.
Our solution was the #TeachersMatter campaign. By focusing on the impact teachers have in the classroom, and beyond, we reminded people of all the good teachers had done in their lives.
The result was a broad-reaching, deeply impactful campaign. Mixing radio ads, video spots and carefully targeted social media with a thorough website, we generated more than 32 million organic media impressions alone. Though ultimately a strike was never called, the profile and public perception of the teachers and their union both increased significantly.
On firmer footing, OECTA looked to us to solve another long-standing perception problem. As the religious arm of Ontario’s public school system, Catholic teachers often face serious scrutiny about their funding and function in a secular society.
Our research revealed that while people were often nervous about Catholic schools as a concept, we found that they were greatly in favour of more moral and ethical instruction from school teachers — just the kind of beyond-the-classroom teaching that’s an everyday part of the Catholic school experience.
Tying it together with our earlier research on the role of teachers, we grew this insight into the Lessons for Life campaign, highlighting the way OECTA’s teachers prepare their students for the world beyond reading, writing and arithmetic.
As we rolled the campaign out through 2016 and 2017, the centrepiece has been a series of videos profiling how Ontario Catholic teachers have helped their students learn core values like resiliency, respect and community.
We also incorporated it into an influencer-led campaign that shared peoples’ personal experiences with the way Catholic teachers have helped shape who their children have grown up to be.
School’s not out
The ongoing campaign has helped turn OECTA into one of the most prominent voices on education matters in the province. The perception of Catholic teachers and the benefits of more values-based education in Ontario has steadily risen. And with three years of insight and a healthy cache of stories about the crucial work their teachers do, OECTA is prepared for 2018’s provincial election.