The Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) has been challenged to make teaching desirable, by changing the image of the profession.
Speaking at the Frank B Seepersad Memorial Teacher of the Year Award Ceremony 2012 Sunday, acting chairman of the College of Science Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago (COSTAATT) Gillian Paul said while the increase in salary is critical and long over due, TTUTA needed to take up the responsibility for shaping the public's perception of the teaching profession.
"I am calling on TTUTA tonight to take on in addition to the salary struggle a public relations initiative to get the powerful stories of teacher success and teacher effectiveness out into the public domain.
"I want to say tonight in taking a stand for teachers, I want to challenge TTUTA to examine in greater depth the phenomenon of professional socialisation because I think if we do not take responsibility of shaping public perception of the profession we will be relegated to the people who put on red jerseys and protest."
Paul recommended that TTUTA facilitate the renaissance of a master apprenticeship programme so that young and freshly graduated teachers can gain wisdom and insight into teaching from the older and successfully retired teachers which will help rebuild and shape the new generation of teachers.
"If we fail to do that then it means we will not be attracting the very best to the teaching profession which is what this country needs to take us to the end of the 21 Century."
Paul lamented the absence of TTUTA at career fairs promoting teaching as the preferred profession and called on the Association to change this.
"There are no other professions without teachers. There are no doctors, no lawyers, no engineers no scientists, no politicians... We represent the mother of all professions. All professionals owe their very existence to teachers," she said.
President of the Trinidad and Tobago Teachers Association Roustan Job is losing patience with the slow pace of the current negotiations, said.
Job said, "The patience of Job and teachers is running out. How can we live on 2008 salaries? This government must pay salaries that reflect the importance of teachers in Trinidad and Tobago.
One cannot talk about quality education without quality salaries. Invest in your teachers."
Job said that the best teachers need to be attracted and retained as teachers are critical to education and national development.
"Teachers are not comfortable at this time. We would like to be in our classrooms to carry out our sacred trust. That is educating a nation.
"We continue to call on the powers that be, to negotiate in good faith, towards a prompt and just settlement of teachers salaries based on the External Market survey figures, so teachers can comfortably return to their critical role in national development," Job said.
The winner of this year's teacher award Navin Harry of the Gran Couva Roman Catholic Primary School who was chosen from five finalists also called on teachers to shine as they carry out their duties.
The four other finalists for this year's award were Roslyn Alexander-Benjamin, from the San Fernando East Secondary, Sookoo Sonnylal from the Siparia Secondary, Geneva Frances Drepaulsingh from the Barrackpore West Secondary and Gillian Lenore Lewis from Tobago.