French immersion enrolment is on the rise in the region’s three school districts. (Canadian Parents for French photo)

Sooke, Saanich, Great Victoria school districts address need for French teachers

Enrolment in French immersion programs rapidly rising

The region’s three school districts are working hard to fill the need for French teachers as enrolment in French immersion programs rapidly grows.

According to a statement from Canadian Parents for French British Columbia and Yukon (CPF), French enrolment has been increasing province-wide for 20 consecutive years.

In SD62, enrolment is double the provincial average.

“As a result of the booming popularity of this well-established program, districts around the province are scrambling to find enough qualified teachers and teaching assistants,” the statement reads.

Cendra Beaton, the former SD62 chapter president of CPF said it’s a good sign that enrolment is growing as the job market shows an increased demand for bilingual employees.

READ MORE: SD62 leads with French immersion enrolment

“That’s looking at the future for your kids,” Beaton said. “As a parent you always want them to have more than what you did.”

Compared to other areas in the province, Beaton said she thinks it is a little easier to convince teachers to come to the Island due to its location and officials from the school boards agree.

Dave Eberwein is the superintendent of SD63 and said Saanich is a destination for many teachers who want to escape big city life but still want to be in close proximity to a city.

Eberwein said the French immersion program is “always an area in demand” and the District is working with the University of Victoria as well as using social media tactics to find teachers.

“We’re trying to be creative,” Eberwein said. “There continues to be a need for French teachers.”

READ MORE: Pressure to recruit French immersion teachers with increasing enrolment in B.C.

Stephanie Hedley-Smith, the associate superintendent at SD62 said the Disctrict’s French immersion enrolment numbers have definitely gone up. She said that in anticipation of the increase, the District recruited French teachers last year.

“We actively recruited and we don’t have a shortage this year…we’re doing great,” Hedley-Smith said. “We have French teachers on the [substitute] list.”

Hedley-Smith said she and others in the district went to Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto to find teachers. She said she found that many of the teachers wanted to move to the Island.

“We’re hoping we can recruit every other year and are hoping to work with the other districts together to recruit teachers,” Hedley-Smith said.

READ MORE: French immersion programs ‘overcrowded’ in SD62

SD61 has also taken measures to hire more French teachers.

Lisa McPhail — a spokesperson for the District — said that in the last four years “the District has taken part in hiring fairs nationally to recruit teachers.”

She added principals have been sent to Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta to help find teachers.

McPhail said the District has also partnered with the University of Victoria.

“All UVic students who are placed in District schools for practicum are given priority status for hiring subject to successful completion of their degree program, as well as meeting the language proficiency threshold,” she said an email.

shalu.mehta@goldstreamgazette.com


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