Struggling with staff shortages, Manitoba school divisions are looking to hire substitute teachers – whether they are certified teachers or not.
According to the Manitoba Teachers Society, the use of non-certified teachers has been going on for years in rural areas.
“Quite frankly, there’s been a shortage of certified substitutes in the rural area for a number of years,” says James Bedford, Society president.
Brandon, Sunrise and Western School Divisions all have substitute job postings up but aren’t requiring applicants to be certified teachers.
The postings target applicants who have different experiences and varied education and are interested in working with children and youth.
Additionally, they must pass both a Criminal Record and a Child Abuse Registry Check.
Bedford says larger urban centers like Winnipeg and Brandon have not traditionally had a shortage of substitutes but that is no longer the case.
The Brandon School Division says they increased their number of subs by 50 from November 2021 to November 2022 but that hasn’t been enough.
“There are multiple times when there are not enough substitute teachers available to cover all of our classroom positions and we were concerned with the impact on preparation time for our teachers,” said Mathew Gustafson, superintendent of Brandon School Division.
The job posting for uncertified substitute teachers went up in the fall and Gustafson says it is a very thorough process.
“We do try to build to their strengths. And so they may have areas where they prefer to fill in.”
Applicants are put through a screening process in which they are interviewed by administrators who then do a second screening.
From there, successful candidates attend a training session where they learn strategies and get a better understanding of what the job would look like.
“(It’s) to make sure that they’re successful because ultimately we want them to be as successful as they can and for it to be a good experience for them and the students.”
“Then following that, those candidates then do a job shadowing with the current teacher in their area of preference,” added Gustafson.
Bedford says the absolute preference is to have certified teachers in the classroom as they have a lot of knowledge and experience.
“It has to be remembered that, you know, the work of a teacher is complex.”
“It’s five years of preparation, time of education, time within the university, which involves a considerable amount of time being spent on practical terms in the classroom, learning how to teach with a certified teacher.
“And a layer on top of that is a considerable amount of experience. It’s more than just having familiarity with a subject you’re going to teach or the simple familiarity with having worked with children in the past.”
Retired teacher David Harkness says the classroom is still where he loves to be and even after 10 years of retirement he still comes back to substitute. Retired teachers play a key role in filling vacant substitute positions.
“I still do some subbing because it amuses me and makes me smile.”
Harkness agrees there is a concern with uncertified people teaching kids but it’s better than no one and education jobs need to be more attractive economically and psychologically.
“When you see cutbacks in education, you’re going to see cutbacks in people who are willing to go into education,” he says.
Manitoba’s minister of education Wayne Ewasko says the province is looking at solutions to the ongoing shortages.
“I think this is something where myself and the department are working with those education partners on best practices and how we can encourage more and more people to get into the field but know this isn’t something that we didn’t potentially see coming.”
– with files from Global News’ Teagan Rasche