Despite the isolation and the very long hours of daily work to prepare her lessons, she
said she always had enough material. In her classroom, there was a fax machine, a
telephone and a photocopier, as well as French music and movies.
The biggest obstacle she had to overcome was making sure her students spoke French in
the classroom. Several of them only speak French in school. "The influence of the
English language is pervasive. One really needs to create ways to foster the French
culture. Older students must help younger ones." Clermont says teachers must find
activities to encourage children to speak French outside the classroom.
Lise Gadoury, director of education at the Conseil scolaire de district catholique
Franco-Nord in North Bay, shares her view. "Depending on the area they come from,
teachers have to meet different challenges," she says. Gadoury first taught in
Kapuskasing before moving to North Bay. She finds the language issue less of a challenge
in a region where French is spoken at home.
For Gadoury, the role of directors of education in French-language school boards is
also one of watchdog for the quality of education, even though there is a definite
shortage of teaching materials in French. "The choice is more limited," she
says. "Sometimes books suggested by publishers do not reflect the curriculum
guidelines. Theres no market for this in Ontario."
Marcelle Donnelly spent five years in North Bay as a consultant. She also considers the
preservation of the French language a tough challenge to meet in this area. Teachers must
work with a minimum of resources. "Students are really anglicized in this region. We
try to meet the curriculum requirements but students speak French only in school. They
lack the vocabulary to the point they sometimes have a hard time understanding what is
She says teachers learn by themselves to motivate their students to speak French. Their
ultimate goal is to help them to better understand the texts, directions and vocabulary
required to guarantee their education will be equivalent to that of English-language
However, Donnelly says the shortage of resources in French is common all across the
province, no matter where you live. "The access to appropriate French materials is
limited everywhere. This is the reality of a minority."
An equally difficult challenge for teachers in northern Ontario is finding timely and
relevant opportunities for professional development. Unlike colleagues in large urban
centres in the south of the province, they must travel long distances to take courses.
Hélène Koscielniak, a superintendent in the Conseil scolaire de district catholique
des Grandes-Rivières, is responsible for the Services consultatifs de langue française
French-language advisory services in the area. The aim of this provincial
program is to help French-language teachers access professional development.
Five consultants, co-ordinated by the Réseau de formation et de programmation du
Nord-Est, support the work of other consultants working within school boards in
northeastern Ontario. These consultants travel all across the region to hold training
sessions. "Teachers have to receive their training outside the classroom," she
says. "We must give them enough time to read a new curriculum and compare it with the
old one. It is difficult to offer relevant professional development activities with only
four professional development days a year."
Shes one of many French-language teachers in the North who are worried that this
help will fall victim to budget cuts. "The contribution of the Services consultatifs
is vital," says Koscielniak. "We take advantage of these peoples expertise
as much as we can. We cant afford to lose this essential tool."
Lise Gadoury agrees. She is satisfied that French-language school boards still have
access to Services consultatifs training opportunities for one more year. The
consultants work is still considerable. "Co-ordinating the training requires an
incredible amount of work in such a vast region. People are always on the road. It is
exhausting and we have to set priorities for training. There are so many new curriculums,
we barely have time to absorb them."
Nathalie Jacques, a teacher in Marathon, points out that elementary teachers in small
communities need an in-depth knowledge of the curriculum for many grades. She finds
professional development activities are rather complicated to organize in northern
Ontario. "For every summer course, we must travel very far, and the choices are so
SHARING OF RESOURCES
However, there are advantages in working in a vast region where communities are small,
few and far between. In Marathon, teachers organized a system where they can borrow
resources from each other. In North Bay, Gadoury admits that, even though isolation can be
a negative factor, it brings educators closer together. There is a great deal of
co-operation between French-language school boards in the province and directors of
education meet on a regular basis to share ideas, projects, resources and grant requests.
According to Donnelly, a large number of very good French-language teachers decide to
stay in the region. "We try to improve the quality of the language, it is
stimulating... there is a lot happening here. Our community benefits from all this
co-operation. It is fairly easy to convince teachers to stay here."
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said everywhere. Hélène Koscielniak regrets the
fact that too many good teachers leave Kapuskasing. "We must constantly train new
people. Its the same thing for principals these people reach the age of
retirement or they find positions somewhere else. We have to start all over, all the