As teacher shortage bites, B.C. school district hires non-certified 'replacements'

The North Okanagan-Shuswap School District is hoping to hire non-certified teacher 'replacements' to supervise and instruct classes due to a shortage of certified on-call teaching staff.

On-call workers with university degrees will instruct classes when teachers aren't available, official says

The North Okanagan-Shuswap School District says it is forced to hire people without teaching certificates because of a shortage of on-call teachers. (CBC)

A school district in the B.C. Interior is facing such a severe shortage of teachers that it's advertising for non-certified teacher "replacements" to instruct and supervise classes.

In a post shared widely on Facebook, the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District says it is hiring people without teaching certification to do on-call work that matches the description of a typical teaching job.

"Teacher Replacements are needed at the Elementary, Middle and Secondary Level with specialized disciplines such as Music, Arts Education, French Immersion, Applied Design, Skills and Technologies, Mathematics & Science, English Language Arts, Social Studies and Physical and Health Education," reads the online ad posted by the district.

"Teacher Replacements will perform the normal duties of a teacher such as instruction, supervision, lesson preparation and marking for the day's assignments."

In order to qualify, applicants do not need a teaching certificate, says the post, but instead a university degree, experience working with children, the ability to connect with students and a demonstrated ability to safely manage groups of children. Applicants must also complete a criminal record check.

B.C. schools usually require teaching certificates issued by the Ministry of Education which are granted if applicants have training in education, teaching experience and are deemed fit to work with children.

Many people are reacting online, some applauding the idea, others more critical.

"What an insult to the profession of teaching," writes Ben Van Nostrand. "Do they do the same for nursing or doctor shortages? No certificates required?"

'What a sham'

"This is horrible," said Brigette Fidler. 

"What a sham to just assume because they have just any degree that they can teach children of all ages in all classes and be educated enough to do so properly."

In response, the school district reiterates that replacements would only be called in when there are no certified teachers available.

It says the hiring practice is allowed under the B.C. School Act for periods of up to 20 days with board approval.

"I'm certain all of us feel a certain discomfort .. the orientation can't possibly replace months and months of practicum experience," said Peter Jory, superintendent of School District 83.

"We're hoping that it will be on a limited basis."

'We're going to go very carefully'

Jory said the province-wide hiring of additional teachers, along with typical winter staff vacations and cold and flu season have contributed to a shortage of on-call or substitute teachers.

He assures parents that this is a short-term solution and that suitable candidates will be hired.

"We're going to go very carefully and slowly and see how it goes," said Jory.

B.C. Ministry of Education says a blitz on hiring teachers has depleted the number available for on-call work. (CBC)

In 2016, the B.C. Teachers' Federation won a landmark decision in the Supreme Court of Canada that returned its right to limit class size. 

Since then, school districts have hired nearly 3,500 teachers, the largest hiring blitz of teachers in B.C.'s history.

School District 83 continues to actively recruit certified teachers to fill on-call vacancies.

To apply for a teacher replacement position, applicants are asked to submit a resume and references to apply@sd83.bc.ca.

With files from CBC's Radio West and Sarah Penton

About the Author

Jaimie Kehler

Jaimie Kehler is a web writer, producer and broadcaster based in Kelowna, B.C. She has also worked for CBC News in Toronto and Ottawa. To contact her with a story, email jaimie.kehler@cbc.ca.

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