Western University to its math majors: You're a teachers college shoo-in

Nov 17, 2021 | Barrie South

Western University is trying to get ahead of an expected teacher shortage in Ontario by ensuring students studying math are automatically accepted into the school’s teachers college.


With a goal of increasing the number of math teachers in the province, the agreement between the faculty of education and the department of mathematical and statistical sciences guarantees admission to the bachelor of education program for Western students in math, actuarial science, financial modelling, data science and statistics.


“It’s this idea of creating these opportunities for those students who are at Western, to be able to stay at Western and grow their professional careers, in particular in education,” education dean Donna Kotsopoulos said.


Historically, she said, there are fewer unemployed teachers who have mathematics qualifications.


“It is one of the top five additional qualifications that teachers look to acquire,” Kotsopoulos said. “In Canada and globally, we have work to do in terms of attracting teachers, individuals who do well in or who enjoy mathematics to create teaching careers. It’s a sector-wide challenge.”


French and music teachers are also in high demand and both French and music students also are guaranteed a place at Western’s teachers college, she said.

“French is a challenging area. We know the entire province is struggling to attract and recruit and retain French teachers,” Kotsopoulos said.


A teacher shortage in the province has been predicted for up to 10 more years, a shortage that has been exacerbated by the pandemic that has triggered a surge of retirements, according to the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT), an umbrella organization in charge of licensing Ontario teachers.


”More teachers are retiring and leaving than we actually are producing,” Kotsopoulos said. “At the faculty of education, we have the capacity to do more, but we are really restricted.”


Teachers colleges are limited by quotas set by the government, she said.


The Ontario College of Teachers said in December 2020 report that the shortage of teachers in Ontario “is growing and that French and English school boards face significant recruitment challenges ahead.”


The pandemic was worsening the teacher shortage, with 3,000 Ontario teachers not renewing their licences in 2020.


“The coronavirus further stresses a hiring situation that is already challenging,” report author Frank McIntyre said.


Days ago, the London District Catholic school board announced it was looking to hire 600 casual employees, half of them teachers.


About 300 substitute teachers are needed amid a surge in new students due to migration from the GTA and other countries.


Just 10 years ago, school boards were overwhelmed with applications for a scarce number of teaching jobs. It often took qualified teachers years to land a full-time position.


“For many years, there wasn’t an abundance of new full-time jobs,” said Vince Romeo, the Catholic board’s education director. “We now have opportunities that haven’t existed for nearly a decade.”


Meanwhile, Kotsopoulos said the teachers college is “ready to do more” in an effort to get more teachers into classrooms.


 “We have the capacity to do more, and the demand,” she said. “But, we, like all faculties of education, are subject to those constraints.”


“The previous surplus that was available already is depleted and employment rates are at record lows.”


This year, the Ontario government allowed university students in teacher education programs to work in schools as supply teachers as a way to get around the shortage of educators.


The province also has started an international recruitment program for French- language programs, which included a pilot project with France to increase the number of qualified teachers.


“We are taking action and making progress to help end the national and decade-long French teacher shortage to ensure the continued growth of quality French-language education in Ontario,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce in a statement last month.


Author of the article:Heather Rivers

Publishing date:Nov 15, 2021