Western University’s faculty of education is speeding up and modifying the process to become a certified teacher amid what officials are calling a critical shortage in classrooms provincewide.
Kathy Hibbert is associate dean in Western’s teachers college. She says the consultation process began during the pandemic when “everyone could see a shortage of teachers starting to occur in classrooms.”
So after more than two years of talks with students, school boards, faculty and their union, the school has made a “major modification” to the program – it’ll remain the same length, but the summer break during the two-year program is being eliminated, compressing it into four straight terms, starting in September.
The first two terms will be taught in person. The third and fourth terms will be almost fully online.
Hibbert said the online component came from the faculty recognizing they had more and more applicants coming from other careers, or who were established in a location outside London and were raising families.
“We had a commitment to reduce and remove barriers for a more diverse student population,” she said. “The online environment gives our students a lot of flexibility – we still have a mandated number of practicum days and mandated alternative field experience days.”
The changes to the program will not affect students currently enrolled, she said.
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Hibbert said both the London District Catholic and Thames Valley District school boards “are thrilled” with the new streamlined course.
“They’re telling us London is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada and the boards of education are one of the top employers in the city and they need teachers now,” she said.
Back in 2015, Hibbert said, when the course switched from a one- to a two-year program, the government cut back on the number of students that faculties of education could admit. That move is now colliding with a wave of retirements in the profession after the pressures of COVID-19.
“I think teaching is like any other profession where people have been re-evaluating the conditions in which they would like to work,” Hibbert said.
The shortage of teachers was so acute for the London District Catholic school board that, at one time, they had called for the elimination of the second year of the program so they could get more qualified teachers, more quickly. Catholic board spokesperson Mark Adkinson said they welcome “any initiatives that would increase the number of available teachers”
The Catholic board is looking to hire 100 permanent teachers this fall and as many as 200 occasional teachers, he said.