On World Teachers’ Day, Vancouver Island faces teacher shortage

On World Teachers' Day, Vancouver Island faces teacher shortage

WATCH: Premier John Horgan was surrounded by teachers Thursday as he marked World Teachers’ Day. But on a day celebrating educators, many school districts on Vancouver Island are getting a harsh lesson in recruiting as they struggle to fill vacant classroom positions. Mary Griffin reports. 

South Park Elementary School students provide the backdrop and the colour on Thursday during celebrations of World Teachers’ Day at the legislature, presided over by Premier John Horgan.

“I am so humbled to stand before you today as the premier of British Columbia, as a direct result, of teachers intervening in my life,” Horgan said. “To make me a better person.”

But on a day marking the importance of teachers, many school districts on Vancouver Island are still scrambling to fill positions.  A grade seven class at Dunsmuir Middle School is being taught by Pam Joyce.   Her usual position is at the Sooke School District’s administration office as manager of human resources, and labour relations.

“Today I’m going, having an absolutely wonderful time interacting with a group of grade seven students,” Joyce said. “I’m replacing a colleague who had to go have some emergency dental issue seen to.”

Last year, the Supreme Court of Canada ordered the provincial government to re-instate provisions stripped from teachers’ contracts in 2002.  That means millions of dollars are going back into the school system and districts are hiring hundreds of teachers.

“With the filling of all the vacancies that came as a result of the Supreme Court decision we’ve provided jobs to people who are literally walking out of their university training, and they are walking straight into a classroom,” Joyce said.

Even the district’s superintendent, Jim Cambridge, filled in for a day last week.

“Somebody needed to go into the classroom. And we had a big staff at the board office that could do that,” Cambridge said. “I thought that I should probably be the first one to go.”

The students’ regular teacher should be back tomorrow.  But with a shortage of on-call teachers, and the flu season around the corner, Joyce may find herself back in the classroom.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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