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June 1998

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On Being Qualified to Teach

The College is taking the issue of teachers being properly licensed very seriously. It’s an important part of our mandate to serve the public interest and provide better guarantees of high quality service to students.

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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 Ontario’s publicly-funded classrooms.

The Education Act is unequivocal. It says, " … no 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 of education.

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 didn’t 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 they arrived.

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 today’s 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 emergency."

It’s 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.

It’s 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.