With a lack of teaching positions within the city, many new teachers are taking work as substitute teachers and moving to remote northern communities to hopefully get their foot in the door.
At the University of Winnipeg, education is one of the largest faculties, with hundreds of students entering the program each year.
But with the recent economic recession, many existing teachers are putting off their retirements, making full-time positions for new teachers graduating from the program hard to find.
“Our professors encourage us to be open to anything,” said Natalie Fitkowsky, president of the U of W Education Students’ Association (EdSA). “They always say ‘don’t expect to graduate and get your dream job.’”
Fitkowsky is in her fourth year of the integrated program. She noted that repetition within the courses almost over-prepares students for their future careers.
“Once you get into the real life settings (practicum), the repetition is consolidated through experience,” she said, noting that she thinks practicum is the most important component of the program.
According to Pat Isaak, president of The Manitoba Teachers’ Society, there is more to being a teacher than classroom experience.
“The biggest challenge is the workload ... not just teaching but coaching, committees – new teachers put a lot of pressure on themselves to make a good start, a good impression,” she said.
While full-time teaching positions within Winnipeg may be scarce for years to come, there seem to be more opportunities in rural and northern communities.
Isaak said that with 700 public schools in the province of Manitoba, regardless of whether it is inside or outside of the city, there will always be a more of a demand for educators who are specialists in a subject, rather than general educators.
But even with higher salaries as an incentive to teach in a rural or northern community, it is a matter of where people are comfortable living.
“A lot of people come to Winnipeg to get an education degree to go back and teach in their home communities,” she said.
What might keep city-born teachers from making the move is simply a matter of not being familiar with other areas.
“Students need to see these northern communities first-hand rather than just hear about what they can offer to them when they start looking for jobs,” said Jon Sorokowski, vice-president internal for EdSA.
Sorokowsi is in his third year of the integrated program and spent most of his summer working in First Nations communities where he was able to get a look at schools there.
“Maybe a northern community practicum should be something the faculty of education looks into,” he said.
Published in Volume 65, Number 5 of The Uniter (September 30, 2010)