On Being Qualified to Teach
The College is taking the issue of teachers being
properly licensed very seriously. Its an important part of our mandate to serve the
public interest and provide better guarantees of high quality service to students.
By Margaret Wilson
The profession has made it very clear
during this past year how important teachers believe it is for their College to ensure
that only qualified teachers are in Ontarios publicly-funded classrooms.
The Education Act is unequivocal. It says, "
person shall be employed in an elementary or secondary school to teach or perform any duty
for which membership in the College is required under this Act unless the person is a
member of the Ontario College of Teachers."
Membership is required to work as a classroom teacher,
principal, vice-principal, consultant, co-ordinator, superintendent (academic) or director
Over 2,200 persons who were not in good standing with the
College had teaching positions in late February 1998. More than half were holders of the
now-expired Ontario Teachers Certificate who had not yet registered. Many of these
teachers had returned from leaves of various kinds and said they didnt know about
the College and the requirement to register.
Some teachers had been suspended from membership in the
College for non-payment of fees. The solution to their problem was obvious pay.
Some new teachers had not yet completed all the requirements
for registration. We put a special staff team in place to deal with their documents as
The problem of Letters of Eligibility is more complex. The
Letter of Eligibility is not a teaching certificate or licence to teach. It is granted to
a teacher trained outside Ontario whose paper qualifications meet Ontario standards. If a
teacher is offered a teaching position including occasional teaching the
employer must confirm the job offer and the teacher must apply for registration with the
College and an Interim Certificate of Qualification before taking charge of a classroom.
Both the Letter of Eligibility and the Interim Certificate
(and its predecessor, the Letter of Standing) are term-definite. Interim Certificates or
the old Letters of Standing must be converted to a Certificate of Qualification following
proof of 200 days of successful teaching. This conversion must be completed within six
years of receipt of the Interim Certificate.
We did find a number of people teaching under expired Letters
or Certificates. Now the College has to re-evaluate their status according to todays
qualification standards. We have already been able to confirm that a large number of these
teachers meet current standards.
The media have also reported widely on the use of unqualified
persons as occasional teachers. Regulations allow the appointment for 10 school days of a
person "who is not a teacher or a temporary teacher" in the "case of an
Its absurd to think any definition of emergency allows
a school district to develop an electronic dispatch list of over 600 unqualified persons
and deploy them routinely to replace teachers engaged in planned in-service programs. But
it seems at least one board has done just that.
Emergencies do occur, and in some program areas such as
French as a Second Language, schools experience real difficulties from time to time in
finding qualified occasional teachers.
Its important for principals and HR superintendents to
remember that 1998 graduates from the faculties of education are not qualified to teach in
this school year. However, thousands of 1996 and 1997 graduates who are registered with
their professional College but remain unemployed or underemployed deserve a chance to
teach which is denied them when unqualified persons are hired. Our profession is devalued
and, worse, our students suffer.