The Centres et Réseaux
de formation de lOntario is a network of
centres, some physical, some virtual, created to
serve teachers in Ontarios French-language
By Jacqueline Pelletier
How do you provide top-notch
professional development services to less than 10,000
teachers in a geographic area the size of Ontario
when resources are scarce? How do you make sure the
teachers in areas where there are only a few get as
much access as teachers in the big population
The answer, in
the Franco-Ontario education community, was to create
the Centres et Réseaux de formation de
lOntario (professional learning centres and
networks of Ontario).
centres, the Centres et Réseaux are based on the
principle that professional development be done
"by and for teachers." The networks and
centres develop and deliver programs for their own
regions and provide the learning programs needed to
implement Ministry of Education and Training
efficiency of a training program is directly linked
with the level of involvement of teachers in its
development. As long as the Centres et Réseaux will
abide by this principle in the identification of
needs and the provision of services, they will remain
an invaluable tool for teachers across the
province," says Diane Chénier, president of the
Association des enseignantes et des enseignants
1992 and 1995, the Centres et Réseaux are regional
consortiums of Catholic and public school boards,
professional associations and various partners such
as colleges, universities and tfo, TVOs French-language
equivalent. There are six, one in each Ontario
region: southwest, central, mid-northern, northeast,
northwest, and east. They all have headquarters, but
their chief characteristic is that they operate on
the highway, whether virtual or asphalt.
traditional teacher centres, Centres et Réseaux have
no meeting places. "Our centres are the 129
schools and the board offices," says Lise
Charland, co-ordinator of the eastern network.
whether travelling or logging-on, teachers in the
French-language system throughout the province have
access to top quality in-service professional
learning designed for them and delivered in French.
learning programs for teachers in the French-language
system used to be non-existent in Ontario. Teachers
either took their in-service training in English or
went to Québec. In 1986 with the passage of the new
French-language services law, the need for programs
increased even more.
now a superintendent of education, is widely
acknowledged as the founder of the Centres et
Réseaux. In the 1980s, Brisson was working at the
Centre danimation pédagogique (CAP) at the
Ottawa Roman Catholic Separate School Board.
CAP was, as
Brisson puts it, "the first shaky step toward
the Centres et Réseaux." Her experience there
and her concern about the scarcity of resources
convinced her of the urgent need for new structures
based on teachers sharing of their knowledge
and expertise and their own assessment of their
In 1990 Brisson
attended the International Conference on Teacher
Centers in Toronto. "At the time," she
says, "there was a network of Canadian teacher
centres, but nothing in the Franco-Ontarian education
community. To learn more about it, I toured teacher
centres in England, where the concept
returned from this tour more persuaded than ever of
the need for a model that would involve educators
directly, both as learners and experts. With the help
of several colleagues and the firm support of Raymond
Chénier, then an assistant deputy minister at the
Ministry of Education, she redoubled her efforts. She
promoted the concept through lectures, articles in
professional journals and meetings with
work culminated in 1992 when the ministry signed the
first of six agreements creating the Centres et
Réseaux de formation de lOntario. Brisson
became director of the first one, serving central
Over the next
three to four years, each region received $500,000 to
$560,000 in funding. In 1996, the ministry integrated
French Language Consultative Services (FLCS) into the
Centres et Réseaux. This meant four to 11
consultants for each centre.
Arsenault, co-ordinator of special projects at the Education Quality and
Accountability Office, explains, "The integration
of the FLCS makes it easier to align provincial and
regional priorities. With more resources, we can gear
our training and work to both local and ministry
The centres are
increasingly being supported by their regions.
"One of the boards pays the rent, another does
our accounting and a third supervises our
activities," explains Danielle Lemieux,
co-ordinator in the mid-northern centre.
"Its a truly co-operative effort."
co-operation extends from the regional to the
provincial level, where a provincial association of
Centres et Réseaux meets regularly, albeit sometimes
via teleconferencing rather than being in one room.
The association analyzes needs and develops
professional development strategies.
Every year, the
six centres divide up provincial portfolios such as
physical education and health or the arts. Each
centre designs programs to share across the province.
A physics course designed under a partnership
agreement involving the centres in southwest and
central Ontario and Contact North is currently being
tested on the Internet.
"There is a very strong sense of partnership
among the regions. We share everything we do, and our
discussions create a synergy that is rare in my
experience and keeps on growing."
cuts out duplication. Constance Legentil,
co-ordinator of the southwest centre, explains,
"When the new report card was introduced, our
centre designed a detailed manual on managing the
electronic component of the report card and offered
distance education, with input from a program
consultant from each region."
co-ordinator Charland confirms it. "There is no
duplication," she says. "When one region
delivers a service, its shared whenever
possible. Our mission is to maintain the quality of
education, and we have to co-operate and use every
method we can to achieve that."
and Custom Services
created by the Centres et Réseaux range from
workshops on specific topics to job-shadowing school
principals to teaching-related discussion groups.
Topics are varied and include leadership,
administration of provincial tests, curriculum
planning and teaching strategies. Wherever possible,
the centres recruit experienced classroom teachers
from the region to develop and deliver the programs.
request a program. They identify their interests and
submit them to their principal, who makes a request
to the regional centre and negotiates how it will be
delivered. If necessary, the centre or network will
develop a customized program.
A board may
identify a need for professional development for the
entire teaching staff. In such a case, the centre
creates a targeted plan that may include both
existing and new modules.
individual needs are offered personalized support or
directed to an existing service, perhaps to a
university in the region.
surprisingly, people realize that the quality,
variety and number of professional learning products
have improved immensely since the Centres et Réseaux
have come on the scene. Summer schools, Saturday
courses and lecture series on specific topics,
delivered over several evenings or weeks, have sprung
up. Every year, there is less duplication of services
as organized programming takes hold.
The creation of
12 French-language boards is a considerable challenge
for the Centres et Réseaux. Will these boards
embrace the joint action approach of the Centres et
Réseaux? Will they dedicate the financial resources
needed to provide solid support for in-service
Arsenault, they will have to, because the next step
after the sharing of resources will be to design a
training plan for each district. Throughout the
province, the feeling is that these are still the
same schools, teachers and needs as before. If the 12
boards co-operate, the centres will be able to carry
on their mission. It is unlikely, and undesirable,
that each board will have its own professional
learning section. After all, joint action has already
Arsenaults view, the start-up of the centres
was a timely occurrence. Without them, he says,
professional learning for the teachers in the
French-language sections and small boards would now
be minimal and scattered across the province.
College of Teachers will soon be able to certify
learning programs and the organizations that provide
them. Lemieux probably speaks for all the centre and
network co-ordinators when she says, "We must
prove that our Centres et Réseaux are in the best
position to deliver programs, and that our services
are highly relevant and of impeccable quality."
The Centres et
Réseaux de formation have made a name for
themselves, and a modern and dynamic learning
environment has evolved. Geographic isolation is
vanishing thanks to province-wide co-operation and
efficient communications technology. The vast area of
Ontario has become a village as far as training for
French-language teachers is concerned.
work in cities or rural areas, and large or small
Catholic or public school boards, francophone
teachers now have more access than ever before to
quality professional development delivered in their