Manitoba’s strict teacher certification rules are discouraging educators who have trained and worked outside the province from taking jobs locally, and contributing to chronic staffing shortages in northern schools.

“The Professional Certification Unit is doing a great disservice to the students of Manitoba by treating teachers (with resumés like mine) poorly,” said David Lamond, a Canadian-certified teacher who has worked at multiple local and international schools over the last decade.

Lamond, originally from southwestern Ontario, holds teaching licences in Ontario, Nunavut, Kuwait, Indonesia, and Melbourne, Australia.

The globetrotting professional returned to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic, owing to declining enrolment at his former employer, Jakarta Intercultural School, because of the global health crisis and a desire to be closer to family.

He has been working as an itinerant resource teacher based out of Thompson since the start of the school year, but indicated he is quitting because of a lowball salary offer that does not value his accomplishments or enable him to support his family.

Lamond took the job and began teaching for the lowest-rung wage available in anticipation of a sizable raise and retroactive pay that never materialized.

The education department initially offered him $59,000 per year in recognition of an honours bachelor degree and master of education. Following an appeal, he was granted an annual salary of $64,000.

The updated figure, representing a Class 5 Manitoba teacher with one year of experience, acknowledges a single year of work he completed at a public school in Nunavut. It does not take into account his postgraduate qualifications in special education and English as a second language, or the seven years he worked at international private schools that deliver U.S. curriculums.

In contrast, Ontario’s regulatory counterpart has awarded him the highest category placement available in that province.

Education stakeholders, including the chief superintendent of northern Manitoba’s largest district, indicated the situation is but one example of the bureaucratic issues facing teachers who have studied and worked out-of-province or abroad and as a result, school communities at-large.

“So many teachers coming from other jurisdictions come here, fight with the Manitoba (certification) branch and then leave after a year because they’re frustrated,” said Reg Klassen of the Frontier School Division.

While Klassen noted the province’s firm rules were designed to strengthen the local workforce, he said they are “handcuffing” divisions that do not have enough candidates to fill jobs and, ironically, forcing them to hire uncertified individuals.

Frontier is ending the school year 20 teachers short across its facilities, which are located in northern communities ranging from Gillam to Cranberry Portage to Leaf Rapids to Red Sucker Lake.

The division employs a designated recruiter to travel to job fairs across the globe and attract applicants. The position was created in 2021-22 in an effort to address longstanding retention and recruitment challenges in the North that only worsened during the pandemic.

This time last year, senior administrators were incentivizing teachers to work in northern communities in 2022-23 with a $5,000 signing bonus for successful eligible candidates.

Manitoba is obligated to accept teacher’s licences obtained in other provinces under the Canadian Free Trade Agreement. It does not have to recognize all specialty training credentials obtained in neighbouring jurisdictions or teaching experiences in classrooms outside its borders.

The education department declined to accept international experience on Lamond’s resumé, citing a clause in provincial legislation that requires eligible experience to occur at an approved school that is “supported by public funds.”

International schools that use an American or Canadian curriculum must lease it, which speaks to their credibility because they must have a relationship with a western government, said Robert Mizzi, who researches the experiences of Canadian-certified teachers working abroad.

“Communicating skills and experience gained overseas can be a challenge because leaders, school administrators or superintendents do not have the intricate details of the international work context,” said the associate professor of educational administration at the University of Manitoba.

“They don’t understand how it builds character, resilience, intercultural competencies, language development.”

Mizzi encourages teachers who choose to work in other countries to keep in touch with local contacts, continue to participate in extracurriculars and other activities that are popular in Canadian schools, and tout their unique experiences upon returning.

“It makes absolutely no sense” all teaching qualifications aside from a professional certificate are approved on a piecemeal basis, said Cameron Hauseman, an assistant professor of education at the University of Manitoba.

The academic, who previously worked as an elementary teacher in Ontario, cited Manitoba’s arbitrary rules that reject his home province’s equivalent of a special education teaching certificate.

In order to be a resource teacher in Ontario, a professional must complete 345 hours of special coursework — 15 hours fewer than it takes to obtain Manitoba’s equivalent certificate, he said.

Hauseman added he is in favour of anything that increases the workforce’s mobility because red tape affects job satisfaction and ultimately, student education.

A provincial spokesperson said Manitoba Education is undertaking “preliminary work” to identify regulatory barriers for certifying teachers and recognizing their experience. Education Minister Wayne Ewasko did not provide an interview Wednesday.

“We can’t wait,” said Klassen, who oversees education across northern Manitoba.

The Frontier superintendent said his division is working with the Manitoba Teachers’ Society to find a temporary solution to rectify bureaucratic challenges at a local level because updating provincial legislation is a lengthy process.

Lamond said the cumbersome and time-intensive application and appeal process has been “totally pointless,” so he hopes changes will be made to improve the experience for future applicants.

While some talented teachers are leaving, others without the means to move are demoralized and that is hurting students, he said.

While the teacher indicated he previously planned to buy a house in Thompson, he is now searching for other opportunities in Canada and elsewhere.

By Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 24, 2023 at 21:47

This item reprinted with permission from   Free Press   Winnipeg, Manitoba
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