Short­age of French im­mer­sion teach­ers frus­trates par­ents

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - FRONT PAGE - HEATHER RIVERS

When Miriam Richard enrolled her son in a French im­mer­sion se­nior kinder­garten class at a St. Thomas ele­men­tary school she never imag­ined he’d be ed­u­cated by a non-French speak­ing teacher.

But just days into the new school year last month, an English-lan­guage sub­sti­tute teacher took over the class.

Richard, who be­lieves learn­ing French is vi­tal for her child to have bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties and fu­ture suc­cess, is dis­ap­pointed by the change.

“Par­ents, in gen­eral, are frus­trated be­cause they signed their child up for French im­mer­sion,” Richard said.

Jim Voir, su­per­in­ten­dent of hu­man re­sources for the Lon­don Dis­trict Catholic school board, said there’s a short­age of French teach­ers across the Catholic board as well as the prov­ince and coun­try.

“We and all the other school boards through­out On­tario are look­ing for French teach­ers,” he said.

The board has about three po­si­tions open, but that will in­crease to eight to 10 in a month or two, when re­tired teach­ers who have been filling in stop teach­ing.

“They’ve al­lowed us to bridge the gap for a short time,” Voir said.

The ad­di­tion of 571 pupils this year has strained the sys­tem even though the board hired 17 French teach­ers last year, he said.

“Even with all the ex­tra hir­ing, we are still short.”

Voir said the board has been ap­proach­ing teach­ers with French qual­i­fi­ca­tions teach­ing other sub­jects to ask if they would con­sider re­turn­ing to teach­ing French.

“We con­tinue to ad­ver­tise and re­cruit,” he said. “We en­cour­age fac­ul­ties to ad­mit more French-speak­ing ap­pli­cants.

An of­fi­cial with the Thames Val­ley Dis­trict school board said the board didn’t have any French im­mer­sion teacher va­can­cies prior to the start of school for the last two years be­cause of its re­cruit­ment strat­egy.

Sylvie Blais, prin­ci­pal of Cedar Hol­low ele­men­tary school and for­mer prin­ci­pal of Ken­sal Park French im­mer­sion ele­men­tary school in Lon­don, is part of a team of hu­man re­sources staff and ad­min­is­tra­tors tasked with re­cruit­ing French teach­ers.

“It’s al­ways been chal­leng­ing in terms of re­cruit­ing teach­ers with French qual­i­fi­ca­tions,” she said.

For the past few years, mem­bers of the Thames Val­ley re­cruit­ing team have met with French stu­dents at job fairs across the re­gion be­fore they grad­u­ate from teach­ers’ col­lege. Af­ter an on­site in­ter­view, they of­fer them a con­di­tional of­fer of em­ploy­ment, es­sen­tially scoop­ing them up be­fore they grad­u­ate.

The board re­cently hired 28 French im­mer­sion teach­ers.

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