John Church was a teacher, writer, curriculum developer, COPE School Trustee and strong supporter of public education.
He earned a BA in History and after teacher training took a Master of Arts degree in History. He taught at elementary and secondary schools in Prince Rupert, Langley and Vancouver where he was Social Studies Department Head for ten years at Gladstone Secondary.
In 1964 he joined the Professional Development Division of the BCTF. He took a leave of absence to be a representative of the UBC Faculty of Education in a CIDA sponsored teacher training project in Tanzania in 1968. On his return to Canada he co-published an extensive school library study, "Personalized Learning". This led to the establishment of demonstration school library projects in Vancouver and Vernon from 1970 to 1975.
In the late 1970’s, John was a consultant with the Canada Studies Foundation and Chair of the Board of Project Canada West. The project produced uniquely Canadian curriculum, one of John’s professional passions. He felt strongly that the traditional British and more recent American influences needed to be countered with Canadian points of view.
During his working life and in retirement John was an active leader in progressive pedagogy and democratic decision-making in schools. His service to education was recognized in 1982 when he won the G.A. Fergussion Award, the highest honour granted by the BCTF. The following year, he received Honorary Life Membership.
Education was a high priority for both John and Shirley. She was Division Head of English and Modern Languages at Langara Campus of Vancouver Community College. John and Shirley were articulate, perceptive, intelligent members of the COPE Education Committee, often hosting the meetings.
In November, 1984, John was nominated by COPE to run for School Board in a campaign labeled "the school wars". After years of Social Credit cutbacks, COPE presented a platform of "No More Cuts!" The voters responded by upsetting the incumbent and compliant NPA Board and electing a COPE majority. John chaired the important Education and Student Services Committee.
After an unprecedented series of public meetings to test citizen support, the COPE Board submitted a "needs" budget $14 million over what the Socreds decreed. On May 6, 1985, the entire School Board was fired. But the public support remained with the fired trustees rather than with the restraint-minded government. With Expo and a provincial election looming, an embarrassed Socred government was forced to call a by-election. To John’s delight, COPE swept all nine seats and ended up with a sometimes embarrassing 9-0 vote on most issues.
John continued his work with COPE ED and served as President of COPE for three years in the early 1990’s. We will all miss his vision, comprehension and tenacity. Much of John’s life was dedicated to support for the importance of public education and we will always honour and respect his efforts in the ongoing struggle.