That Connected Feeling: ARTA’s Branches
Retiring from teaching meant freedom to me. It meant freedom to travel, freedom to pursue my creative side, and freedom to stretch my body and endurance in physical activities. I was a busy lady when I first retired.
I did not miss the stresses of teaching; however, I soon began to miss my colleagues and the sense of community that was part of teaching. I missed feeling connected. A few years later, after the heady rush of retirement’s freedoms had passed, a friend introduced me to our local branch of retired teachers. Why did I not know about our district’s retired teachers’ association? The answer to this question came later, when I found out how FOIP makes it difficult for a branch to get information about new retirees.
At the first event I attended, I met not only former colleagues but also teachers who had taught me! I wanted to be part of this group, so I joined the branch and also volunteered to become part of its executive. That was almost ten years ago, and the sense of community and sense of purpose I felt then is still with me now.
The social events organized by our branch included a joyful breakfast in early September when we celebrated our freedom from the school bell, and a Christmas turkey lunch enjoyed by those who looked forward to connecting with friends at Christmas and who may have craved a turkey dinner but did not find it practical to cook one. There were also smaller events like a Segway tour in the river valley, tea at the legislature, paint night, and a wine tasting event. Since COVID-19, such activities have been on hold, but our social committee is eager to plan them again soon.
Community: a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
At this time, Calgary, Edmonton, North West, and the Heartland branches offer mini-conferences online, often not only to their members but to members from other branches as well. Branch ties with ARTA have been tremendously helpful, and ARTA has sponsored Branch Zoom Grants to enable branches to continue with both executive and member meetings.
Most branches reach out to members through their website, a branch newsletter, or by email or phone to keep them informed about relevant local or provincial updates. Additionally, information about retirement is often shared through these media, providing articles, links, or virtual sessions that report on housing, volunteer opportunities, health, financial wellness, and more.
Each branch president is also on the Board of Directors of ARTA and represents their members in ARTA’s decision-making.
There are eighteen branches of retired teachers — seventeen in Alberta and one in British Columbia. Each branch is unique.
Although large urban branches have many members, smaller branches often consist of a community whose members know each other well.
Some branches have existed for a long time, while others are relatively new. All of them are run by volunteers who believe in maintaining a community of engaged retired educators where members can feel connected to each other through their experiences in the classroom.
Almost all branches have websites. Although some branches pay for and maintain sites by themselves, many others are sponsored by ARTA for the cost of development and their upkeep. The websites include information on how to become a member, the history of the branch, its bylaws, contact information, and reports on past and future events. Membership forms and bylaws explain whether the branch is limited to retired teachers or if membership is extended to educational assistants or ARTA members in associated public and private sectors.
Although most branch members have worked in the area where the branch is located, some members have joined branches in the location to which they have retired. Most notably, the branch in British Columbia includes members who relocated there from all over Alberta.
Some retired teachers are members of more than one branch. This option allows them to stay in touch with colleagues from home as well as make new friends who share similar backgrounds.
Whether someone is recently retired or has been retired for a long time, they will be welcomed at a retired teachers’ branch in their area.
If you are searching for an organization that you can feel connected to, please contact someone at the location you are interested in joining; they will be happy to answer your questions.
To find a branch near you, visit artabranches.net
Note: ARTA and the branches are connected in many ways, and are mutually supportive; however, they are distinct entities that are independently governed.