Cassandra Hallett DaSilva

Secretary General, Canadian Teachers’ Federation

Bachelor of Arts (Hons.), English, 1991

The best teaching moments are feeling that spark of learning with students and realizing that I am learning too.

When Cassie Hallett DaSilva arrived at King’s, which for the BAH ’91 graduate now seems a lifetime ago, she had a law career in her sights. Well, rarely does life’s path follow a straight line. She quickly realized that her place was in the classroom instead of the courtroom, and never looked back.

“I am a teacher. It’s who I am,” she says with a smile, knowing she made the right choice.

That passion for teaching has since led her around the world. First at the Jonah Amitnaaq Secondary School, in the tight-knit northern community of Baker Lake, Nunavut, and years later in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Today, as the Secretary General of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF), and first woman to hold the position, Cassie leads an organization that represents and advocates for more than two hundred thousand teachers across the country.

What may seem a far cry from her days as an undergrad, Cassie clearly traces her diverse career in education back to those formative years at King’s.

“Because the classes tended to have smaller numbers at King’s than at some bigger universities, I had phenomenal role models - professors who at their core, were teachers. That’s a piece of how I got here I think,” she recalled. “It shaped me as a person with reasonable self-confidence, and also a very keen appetite to learn from others.”

So it’s fitting that the best teaching moments, she says “are feeling that spark of learning with students and realizing that I am learning too.” Add the spark she got learning from colleagues and culture in both the frozen tundra and tropical air and it quickly becomes evident how invaluable those experiences were in her shift to the boardroom of CTF.

In Ottawa, Cassie leads a team of 29 staff, and among a plethora of responsibilities, provides guidance to the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors and the President. Although the daily meetings and fierce politics of education can be intense and tough with “wicked disagreements,” she admits that it is also fun and collegial. They not only remind her of the importance education holds in society, but often of her tutorials at King’s.

“We were really taught to embrace questions. King’s is that comfortable community where it is absolutely ok, in fact it is encouraged, to disagree so that the end result is the best possible.”

And while the reality of running a national organization is far different from the classrooms of teenagers she once managed in Nunavut and Tanzania, Cassie says she would go back to teaching in a heartbeat “if life took me in that direction.”

Posted: Apr. 2016

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