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June 1998


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First-year Ontario teachers are finding work – and gaining valuable experience – outside Canada.

By Rosemarie Bahr

A first-year teacher in London told her junior class to wait in the hall. They filed out. She went out a moment later to find them gone. She was furious. Eventually they came back to the classroom, saying, "We waited in the hall. Where were you, Miss?"

"Hall" means gym in England. The teacher was from Ontario.

Another class dissolved in giggles when their teacher mentioned pants. But their teacher was talking about "trousers," not underwear.

These first-year teachers are not only adding new words to their vocabulary, they’re adding classroom teaching experience to their resume.

There may be more teachers than classrooms in Ontario, but in other places, like the U.K. and California, teachers are in short supply and well-educated Ontario teachers are in demand.

OISE/UT student services surveyed the teacher graduates who used its services. Of the 890 graduates who replied, 65 took jobs outside Ontario. Forty-two per cent responded that they had full-time teaching jobs, up from 31 per cent last year.

Gary Hunt, director of student services at OISE/UT, reports that the international sector is one of their largest employers. "We have a lot of schools, particularly from South America and Mexico, that don’t require previous experience to teach," Hunt says.

In these international schools, instruction is in English and the teachers cover the whole range of subjects, unlike schools in Japan or Korea, in which the teacher teaches English only.

One alternative for the adventurous is to head for England, where there is a shortage of teachers. Unlike being hired for an international school, jobs are not guaranteed. Teachers pay their own way to London and register with one or more of the private agencies that supply temporary teachers.

For several years now, British schools have been responsible for finding their own supply teachers, spurring the growth of private companies that recruit teachers. Initial Personnel Services is one company that actively recruits Canadian and other teachers from overseas. Initial helps the new arrivals find accommodation, set up bank accounts and generally provides support.

According to Amanda Brownell, director of development recruitment at Initial, British schools have difficulty getting highly-qualified staff and Canadian-trained teachers are in high demand.

"Most of our Canadian teachers are interested in longer-term placements," says Brownell. "They’re very career-oriented, dedicated. In the classroom they go above and beyond the call of duty as a matter of course. They’re gaining a very good reputation in London schools."

By and large, says Brownell, the classes are extremely multicultural, and can be quite demanding, with a range of ability levels. The schools ask for Canadian teachers, commenting on the calibre of their training and their thoroughness and dedication to the profession.

Brownell is eager to recruit more teachers. Her company has placed more than 200 Canadians in long-term positions and another 350 are working ad hoc (supply).


Recently-graduated Ontario teachers Victor Dos Santos, Liette Nix, Tim Pace, and Paula Turner are four of Canadians registered with Initial. They are all on long-term placements in their own classrooms at De Beauvoir Primary School in Hackney.

De Beauvoir is an inner city, multicultural school, described as tough by some, challenging by others. For these first-year teachers, it’s an opportunity to practise their profession. When they arrived in London, they all started with supply teaching, waiting for the 7:30 a.m. call from Initial, complete with instructions on how to find the school by tube and bus. Unlike their experience in Ontario, the calls came every day.

Soon, they were being offered long-term placements. Liette Nix went in for an interview and had the job that afternoon. "Contracts are a dime a dozen," she says.

All four comment on their surprise at the schools’ lack of resources. "Every day, it’s an experience," Paula Turner says. "The second week, the school ran out of copying paper. I was down to the point where I was breaking crayons into three so I could have enough of a colour to hand out."

"There’s not much of a difference as far as the people here," says Victor Dos Santos. Although, he says, the sheer size of London takes some getting used to, as does the cost of living and crossing the street.

No one reports missing the snow, although Tim Pace admits he goes to an Internet cafe to check hockey scores on the NHL web site.


Another part of the world without snow in which there is a growing enclave of Ontario teachers is the small Newhall school district in southern California. About 14 per cent of its 280 teachers are Canadian, mostly from Ontario.

This growth results from an initiative in California that offers incentives to school districts to limit class sizes to 20 in the early grades. The shortage of well-qualified teachers locally sent the school district looking for graduates of the best teacher education programs.

According to Anne Hazlett, who is responsible for personnel in the district, Canadian universities ranked among the best. Contact with a graduate of Queen’s faculty of education brought Hazlett and some principals to Ontario to recruit teachers.

"Everyone comes back (from recruitment trips) with great satisfaction," says Hazlett. "Our schools are very highly ranked and our parents have really high expectations." The district’s principals find the training provided to Canadian teachers to be of high quality.

The district copes with immigration, helps find housing and banking and provides coaching and other support for the new teachers. "It’s tough because expectations are so high," says Hazlett, "but it’s very satisfying for all of us."


The jobs outside Canada are not permanent, and the teachers expect to return to Ontario. When they come back, if they’ve been successful, says U of T’s Gary Hunt, they enter the market as experienced teachers.

Tara Jack is back home in Bolton. She’s on the supply list with the Peel board and will soon start working as a long-term occasional in a Kitchener-Waterloo high school. Jack spent eight months in Britain, doing a combination of supply and a long-term, half-time position in inner city high schools.

"It helped professionally," she says. In her interviews, "everybody was impressed" that she had done it. Jack adds a caution, "I don’t know how much weight it holds compared to getting experience in Ontario."

"But I would do it again," she says. Like the other teachers in London, she found the size of the city and inner city teaching took some getting used to. But if she needed help or advice, Shawna Hill at Initial Personnel was always there.

Hill, from Val Caron and Andrea Mullings from Trenton were among the first Canadian teachers recruited by Initial to work in London. Both now work for Initial.

Mullings took Hill’s job, supporting the new teachers and sending them out to schools. She says, "I didn’t realize how valuable I was as a Canadian-trained teacher. Schools request Canadian teachers."

Hill, who now helps recruit teachers, says half the battle to working in London is getting the eligibility to come over. The teachers usually come on working holiday visas or European Community passports, or on the strength of having a parent or grandparent born in the United Kingdom.

The opportunity to travel is another benefit for choosing London. Mullings says she’s becoming addicted to travelling, "You’re so close. The whole world opens up to you." Mullings sums up the experience for them all when she says, "I grew more in the first six months here than I had the previous two years."

Initial Education Personnel has recently opened an office in the Toronto area. They can be reached at (416) 226-5880. For more information about teaching jobs in California’s Newhall school district, e-mail nsd@newhall.k12.ca.us .