It was a “surreal” moment for Lloyd Edwards as he was honoured by the Surrey Teachers’ Association Saturday (April 30).
Th STA has renamed its building in honour of Edwards, the association’s first Black president. The Surrey Teachers’ Association held the event at Queen Elizabeth Secondary, just up the road from its building.
Now the Lloyd Edwards Building, the STA offices are located at 9030 King George Blvd. It was previously named Park Place Building.
Edwards worked at one Surrey school, Princess Margaret Secondary for 25 years, from 1964 to 1989, until his retirement.
Edwards told the Now-Leader he never thought he’d leave such a lasting legacy in the Surrey school district or in B.C.’s education system.
“I never thought of myself as being any great person or anything like that. I know what I did. I always tried to do it for the benefit of teachers and students,” he said, pointing to his dad, who was also a “dedicated” teacher.
As the STA president in 1974, Edwards led more than a thousand Surrey teachers on a one-day strike to the legislature in Victoria to protest the Surrey school board’s increase of class sizes.
Because of Edwards’ — and Surrey teachers’ — work, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation was able to negotiate a deal with the premier over the next three years to reduce classes sizes all over the province and the hiring of close to 4,000 additional teachers across B.C.
Edwards was also recognized for his anti-racism work in the Surrey school district that led to changes throughout B.C.
During his time as a teacher in Surrey, he noticed an increase of racism toward South Asian students.
Edwards created a committee against racism at his school and over time, increasing numbers of students joined in, with the school ultimately electing a South Asian student as their council president.
“Five years before, nobody would have dreamt that,” Edwards said.
“Academic education has never been a huge problem in Surrey, but Surrey because of the fact that it’s got so many different immigrants from all over, racism has always been a bit of a problem.”
Teri Mooring, the BCTF’s president, said Edwards’ has a legacy within the federation.
“Because the work initiated by Lloyd back in the ‘70s, it is still reverberating today,” she said.
It was during the BCTF’s 1975 annual general meeting that Edwards made a call for an anti-racism program. The program was created and Edwards was active in it, delivering workshops for teachers across B.C.
“When you look at the work Lloyd did by raising the issues of racism as a Black man in an overwhelmingly white profession, we see a little bravery and insistence on racial justice that is so inspiring,” Mooring noted.
“It all traces back to Lloyd.”
STA president Jatinder Bir, who is now the association’s first South Asian president, noted a unique connection between her and Edwards.
“I just think it’s so awesome that Lloyd Edwards became president the same year that I immigrated to Canada with my mom and brother,” she said, pausing as she was overcome with emotions.
“And now, look where we are. Standing before you, I am humbled to be in this position, but it shouldn’t take this long.”