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

  • Trump orders Republican organizations to stop using his name for fundraising

    World News CTV News
    Lawyers for former U.S. President Donald Trump sent out cease-and-desist letters Friday to the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee for using his name and likeness on fundraising emails and merchandise, a Trump adviser tells CNN. Source
  • Trump says he'll campaign against Murkowski in Alaska next year

    World News CTV News
    Former President Donald Trump said Saturday he plans to campaign against GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska next year when she's up for reelection, intensifying his pledges to oppose GOP lawmakers who have bucked him. Source
  • Dozens rally before ex-officer put on trial in Floyd's death

    World News CTV News
    ST. PAUL, MINN. -- Dozens of people gathered in front of the Minnesota governor's mansion on Saturday to demand accountability for police officers, days before a former Minneapolis officer is scheduled to go on trial in the death of George Floyd. Source
  • Italian prosecutor seeks life for U.S. men charged with murder

    World News CTV News
    ROME -- An Italian prosecutor on Saturday requested life in prison for two young American men charged with slaying an Italian police officer in central Rome. Prosecutor Maria Sabina Calabretta asked the court to find the two defendants -- Finnegan Lee Elder, 21, and Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, 20 -- guilty and to impose Italy's maximum sentence for the death of Vice Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega. Source
  • Disneyland gets green light to reopen as California eases COVID-19 restrictions

    World News CBC News
    California health officials set new rules on Friday that would allow Disneyland and other theme parks, stadiums and outdoor entertainment venues to reopen as early as April 1, after a closure of nearly a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Source
  • NHL star's mom donates kidney to arena manager who let her boys skate extra hours

    Canada News CBC News
    They're grown men playing professional hockey now, but when Bonnie O'Reilly's boys were growing up in Seaforth, Ont., Graham Nesbitt was a local legend. As manager of the local arena in the community of about 3,000 people, located an hour north of London, Nesbitt would open the doors on snow days or after regular hours so scores of local kids could skate. Source
  • Dolce&Gabbana seeks over $600M damages from 2 U.S. bloggers

    World News CTV News
    MILAN -- The Milan fashion house Dolce&Gabbana has filed a multimillion-dollar defamation suit in an Italian court against U.S. fashion bloggers who reposted anti-Asian comments attributed to one of the designers that led to a boycott by Asian consumers. Source
  • An 18-year-old wins $25,000 on her very first lottery ticket in the U.S.

    World News CTV News
    Now that she had turned 18, Sloan Stanley decided she'd do some grown-up things. One item on her to-do list: Buy her very first lottery ticket. Imagine her surprise when a scratch-off she paid US$5 for ended up netting her a sweet $25,000. Source
  • Hundreds gather in illegal COVID-19 protest in Stockholm

    World News CTV News
    STOCKHOLM -- Swedish police dispersed hundreds of people who had gathered in central Stockholm to protest coronavirus restrictions set by the Swedish government. Swedish authorities said Saturday's demonstration was illegal as it was held without permission. Source
  • How this 17-year-old boy is using 'CovART' to help children in Kenya

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- A 17-year-old boy from Kingston, Ont. was inspired to give back this summer when he saw how the pandemic was impacting African youths’ access to education. Evan Sharma, the founder of CovART Challenge, decided he wanted to do something to help people in need this summer, and after speaking to friends and watching the news, he decided to put his art to good use in an effort to provide meals to students in Kenya. Source