Northern communities struggle to recruit and retain teachers: advocates

VANCOUVER -- The first year Clint James worked as a teacher in northern Ontario, a student asked him in October whether he was coming back after Christmas.

See Full Article

It's a sadly familiar question for educators in remote communities. A decade later, James leaves personal items in the classroom over the holidays to let the kids know he isn't leaving them.

"The kids see teachers come and go so often," he said. "A lot of times kids are afraid. They need that constant presence in their lives that they sometimes don't have."

As La Loche, Sask., mourns the loss of two teenage brothers and two educators in a shooting allegedly carried out by a young man, community leaders have raised the alarm about a chronic lack of resources for youth.

One way to improve the lives of young people in remote areas is to address a shortage of devoted teachers who will stay for more than a few months, advocates say. And though there are challenges, many in the education system speak of the incredible rewards of teaching in the North.

James spent 10 years in Sachigo Lake, Ont., and now works in Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, also known as Big Trout Lake, Ont. He applied through Teach for Canada, a non-profit group that works with remote Ontario First Nations to recruit, prepare and retain teachers.

He said teachers coming to indigenous communities from elsewhere in Canada should arrive with an understanding of the culture and a readiness to work with the chief and council.

"We're not here to be saviours. We're not here to save the children. We're here to work with the community," he said. "We do our best to help communities achieve their goals."

Lyn Blackburde, principal and education director for Pegamigaabo School in Big Grassy River First Nation in southwest Ontario, said under-funding by the federal government means her community can't afford to hire very experienced teachers.

Sometimes young teachers come to work at remote schools for a short time and leave once they've gained the experience they need, she said, adding that she believes some have come just to take advantage of the travel allowance offered by her band.

"Some of them don't even stay for six months," she said.

"You'll have a year of children waiting and waiting to see if they can trust you, waiting to see if they want to invest their heart and soul into anything that you have to say or tell them, because they know that you're going to be gone."

Blackburde, who is Anishinaabe, estimates her school receives about one-third of the funding that provincial public schools get. The under-funding also means her band struggles at times to find and fix up adequate housing for new teachers, she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised on the campaign trail to invest $2.6 billion in First Nations education over four years. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada said in a statement that the government remains committed to "significant new investments."

The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation said it would challenge the assumption that teachers are in the North because they are unable to secure positions elsewhere.

"For many people, teaching in small communities, including those that are remote and northern, is a destination of choice," it said in a statement.

Heather Smith, president of the Canadian Teachers' Federation, said there are some great rewards to teaching in the North but there are challenges as well.

The challenges include a lack of resources for inexperienced teachers, including mentors or professional development, a shortage of teachers trained to work with special-needs kids, and little separation between one's personal and professional life.

A lack of community mental health services means students often turn to teachers if they are suffering abuse at home or feelings of depression, Smith said.

"You're carrying all this with you, and that's not what your training is. Your training is to be a teacher."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Monsanto pleads guilty to illegal pesticide use in Hawaii

    World News CTV News
    HONOLULU -- Agrochemicals company Monsanto on Thursday pleaded guilty to spraying a banned pesticide on research crops on the Hawaii island of Maui in 2014, prosecutors said. Monsanto, now owned by the pharmaceutical company Bayer of Germany, has also agreed to pay $10 million for charges it unlawfully stored the pesticide, which was classified an acute hazardous waste. Source
  • 97 orcas and belugas make the long trip to freedom after release from Russia's 'whale jail'

    World News CBC News
    When the world learned last winter about the existence of a watery prison holding dozens of whales in Russia's Far East, environmentalists such as Oganes Targulyan feared the creatures were doomed. Targulyan, a longtime campaigner for Greenpeace based in Moscow, says the likelihood of the whales surviving a prolonged stay in iced-over pens seemed remote. Source
  • New Zealand jurors to decide if British tourist was murdered

    World News CTV News
    This Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, CCTV file image released by New Zealand Police shows 22-year-old English tourist Grace Millane in central Auckland, New Zealand. The image was captured on Saturday night, about 7:15 p.m. and is the last known sighting of Millane, whose 22nd birthday was the next day. Source
  • In wake of troubling breach, Desjardins pushes digital ID procedures as safer way to store data

    Canada News CBC News
    The head of Desjardins Group urged provincial lawmakers Thursday to pave the way for more secure digital identification systems while responding to questions about a data breach that's affected 4.2 million people. Guy Cormier, president and CEO of Desjardins, the largest federation of credit unions in Canada, said the current identification procedures used by financial institutions are cumbersome, outdated and ill-equipped to meet the security challenges of the 21st century. Source
  • Doug Ford's measure allowing Ontario students to opt out of fees for 'non-essential services' struck down

    Canada News CBC News
    Ontario's Divisional Court has quashed a measure by the government of Ontario Premier Doug Ford allowing post-secondary students to opt out of paying for services deemed "non-essential." Those services include student-led programs such as clubs, campus newspapers, food banks and other support services, as well as the provision of part-time jobs. Source
  • Missed Day 5 of the impeachment hearings? Here are some key moments

    World News CBC News
    The final testimony of an extraordinary week of impeachment hearings came from a former White House national security adviser who wrote the book on Vladimir Putin — literally — and a political counsellor at the U.S. Source
  • Trudeau appears open to safe opioid supply proposal in Vancouver, mayor says

    Canada News CBC News
    Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared open to a proposal from the municipality to provide millions in funding for a safe supply of opioids to reduce overdose deaths. The city's health agency has applied for $6 million from Health Canada to allow for the safe distribution of diamorphine — a narcotic painkiller more commonly known as heroin. Source
  • Departmental review finds no 'credible' link between Saudi arms exports and human rights abuses

    World News CBC News
    Global Affairs Canada says it has found no credible evidence linking Canadian exports of military equipment to human rights violations by the government of Saudi Arabia — and it has another 48 applications for permits to export military equipment to the kingdom ready for government approval — a newly released document shows. Source
  • Extra! Extra! Take over this small-town Alaska newspaper, for free

    World News CBC News
    Want a newspaper? Like, the whole operation? Then Larry Persily is your guy. The owner of The Skagway News in Alaska is willing to turn over his small-town business to the right person, for a good price. It's free. Source
  • Loblaw launches new online marketplace in bid to compete with Amazon

    Canada News CBC News
    Loblaw Companies Ltd. launched a "curated marketplace" online Thursday that will include brands and products the company hasn't stocked before in a move aimed at setting the retailer up to compete with Amazon for Canadian market share. Source