A member of Border Land Teachers Association has been named the first recipient of the 1922 Award for service to the teaching profession.

At it's annual general meeting, the Manitoba Teachers Society (MTS) recognized Peter Wohlgemut for demonstrating leadership, commitment, and fortitude in service of union values and priorities to achieve positive and sustained change for current and future union members.

"[The award] commemorates what happened to a group of teachers from Brandon back in 1922 when they were ordered to take a 25% pay cut or get fired," explained Wohlgemut. "Rather than take the pay cut, they ended up being fired. That was a very significant event in the history of unionism in Manitoba and certainly for the Manitoba Teachers Society who supported those teachers and help them through that period of time. It's an award that recognizes that important part of our history, and that idea of working together for the collective good, which is what unions are about."

To be associated with historic colleagues who acted with such bravery, tenacity and caring is a huge and humbling honour said Wohlgemut.

With retirement waiting at the end of the school year, the Altona teacher reflected on their 31-year career.

"I got involved with our local association - I think it was my second year of teaching - and I've been involved with both the local association and the provincial organization ever since, off and on doing various things. In the local association I've taken various chair positions there. I have been the President a number of times. I've served on the provincial executives and served on a number of provincial committees as well, spoken at legislative hearings on legislation that affected teachers. These are things you feel you need to do, and you want to be involved in. When you get to this point, you look back and it's like - I did quite a lot of things over the course of my career!"

Wohlgemut's work has also included involvement with diverse identities in school, as well as expanding libraries to include material relevant to Indigenous, Philipine and People of Color communities.

"It's interesting in that I got the award, but it's really for having spent my career working with many other people. Whether it was books in the library or different committees, you're not doing these things alone. You're always working with other people. That's been one of the great things about it. I got to meet so many people ... got to know so many different, interesting people. It's been wonderful in that regard."

What has motivated Wohlgemut to take their particular path?

"Some of it was just: this needs to be done, I'm in a position to do it and it's something that I need to do for my fellow teachers, for public education, for the students ... a responsibility. Sometimes I like to push myself. There are a number of occasions where it was definitely outside my comfort zone. I got to actually be parliamentarian for a Canadian Teachers Federation meeting at one point. So, some of those kinds of things are an opportunity to push yourself and develop your skills beyond what you would have otherwise."

Once retired, Wohlgemut is anticipating having control over their own time, 

"Doing what I want to do, when I want to do it - whether that's my quilting, whether it's gardening, spending time with Denise. We'll have our time to do what we want and go on from there."


Written with files from Candace Derksen