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Edmonton Catholic Schools looking to Ontario to fix teacher shortage

Amid the backdrop of the biggest student enrolment increase in about 50 years, Edmonton’s Catholic school board is going outside the province to hire teachers.

The district is hoping to bring in as many as 200 new teachers. The board is gearing up to recruit teachers from Ontario, because it says there are only so many candidates available in Alberta.

“Of course, this is only after we have exhausted and interviewed graduates here,” explained Lori Nagy, spokeswoman for Edmonton Catholic Schools.

“After we have no more that we can choose from in Edmonton or Alberta, then that’s when we go to Ontario.”

The board is trying to accommodate the largest increase in student numbers since the 1960s. Student enrolment jumped in the Catholic system to over 40,000 students this school year, an increase of 1,159 from last year.

Nagy said the slowdown in the Alberta economy doesn’t seem to be reducing student numbers.

“We have found families that have moved here for work are staying here,” she said. “We’re still finding that these people and families are happy in Edmonton.”

In addition to the increasing number of students, there are other factors behind the Ontario recruitment drive.

The board is noticing many young teachers are starting families of their own and taking parental leave.

Teaching candidates have to prove their Catholic faith by submitting either a baptismal certificate or pastoral reference to the school board.

“We’re looking for Catholic teachers so it’s important that we choose universities or choose graduates who are Catholic and want to work in a Catholic school district,” Nagy said.

Ontario curriculum similar to Alberta’s

This is the second year the district is going to Ontario to find teachers.

Teaching graduates from Ontario are considered an ideal fit to hit the ground running in Alberta.

The curriculum in Ontario is similar to Alberta’s, meaning there’s less of a learning curve for the teachers who decide to move here.

“Ontario works well for us because they have publicly-funded Catholic education and there are a number of graduates coming out of the universities that aren’t able to get a job there and are looking elsewhere,” Nagy said.

Ontario graduates have also shown a strong interest in Alberta teaching jobs.

The manager of staffing for Edmonton Catholic schools went to Toronto last November to make a pitch at an information session for potential recruits. He was expecting to see about 10 people there, but 50 showed up.

The Alberta Teachers Association has seen a growing trend among various school boards to recruit outside of the province in the past five years.

One reason is not all new Alberta graduates immediately go into teaching.

“In Alberta, you’d be looking at about 2,000 graduates coming out annually but automatically a quarter of them don’t go into education, so you’ve got a little bit of a deficit there,” said Mark Ramsankar, president of the ATA.

Instead of going straight into the classroom, Ramsankar said many new graduates choose to take a break or simply decide teaching isn’t for them and try something else.

“Once you get your teaching degree you’re highly qualified for many other areas,” he said. “And the challenge of public schooling and teaching is very great, and teachers see that and when other opportunities raise themselves, teachers take those opportunities.”

Edmonton Public Schools also has a growing enrolment but is still able to find enough teachers locally.

Student numbers in the public system have grown to about 92,000 this school year, an increase of about 2,300 from last year. But the public board hasn’t had to go outside the province.

While the district is still hiring, it has already employed 546 new teachers, in full-time and part-time positions, since May.

The Catholic board hopes to duplicate its recruiting success last year.

“We sent information out to a number of places in Ontario, obviously the universities there,” said Nagy. “We’re posting some ads and, of course, we’re posting some information on special sites that we know people who are looking for a job in education are looking at.”

The Catholic board is aiming to have 200 new teachers in place by June 2016.


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