Shortage of French immersion teachers frustrates parents
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.