I hope that you all had a relaxing and enjoyable summer vacation and that you also enjoyed the Labour Day long weekend.
Now that all schools in Nunavut are open, I wanted to take this opportunity to tell all the returning NTA members Welcome Back! I am sure that your schools and students have missed you over the summer months. To our new NTA members, whether you are a recent NTEP graduate teaching full time for the first time or a teacher coming to Nunavut for the first time, welcome to you as well. I hope that you find your teaching experience in Nunavut as rewarding as I have.
As we start this 2022-2023 school year, we are all hoping to have as “normal” a school year as we can. Schools will be opening across Nunavut with no mask mandates. Assemblies and gatherings can happen again in school. For a lot of our Elementary school students this will be happening for the first time! Many of you have been looking forward to this and I hope that you can fall into the regular routines that you have been missing over the last couple of years.
Unfortunately, as we come out of one crisis, we are entering another. Education across Canada is facing a major shortage and Nunavut seems to have been hit harder than most areas. We are starting the year down 105 members out of an 858 membership. The reasons for this vary. COVID fatigues has hurt many sectors including ours. Nunavut’s housing situation is getting worse and affecting Nunavut’s ability to staff positions. Negative media coverage over the last couple of years, paired with the ability to easily find work outside of Nunavut, is impacting the teaching market. The picture being painted of what teaching in Nunavut is by the media is far from the reality of what many of us have come to know and love. There are difficulties that come with teaching everywhere, but only Nunavut can provide some amazing opportunities that you would never see in a school in southern Canada. All of these factors are hitting at the same time and the result is we are facing one of the largest teacher shortages we have seen in a very long time.
We can speculate and blame, but what we really need to do is seek solutions. We have been in regular communications with the Department of Education over the last few weeks trying to seek solutions on how to fill some of the major shortages that are facing some of our schools. Housing is unfortunately not an issue that will be solved anytime soon. While we can take no legal action when it comes to housing as we are bound by the Public Service Act, we can certainly lobby and make noise to the Employer about it-which we have and will continue to do so for our membership. The government and particularly the Department of Education are fully aware of our concerns and share many of them, but solving the housing situation is going to take years, which means unfortunately, this is going to continue to affect some of our communities the way it has been until more housing units are built and completed.
Violence in schools has been a big issue that has made the news multiple times. In an effort to help get support to the communities that need it the most our NTA Safe Schools committee has been working hard and collaborating with the GN on a new reporting system
that should be easier for our membership to use. This is scheduled to launch in October and will make tracking incidents and getting help to where it is needed the most much easier.
The NTA will be starting this year with two NTA PD Co-ordinators. More and more of our members are availing of the many benefits our PD fund has to offer. Now with a second PD Co-ordinator, we hope that we will be able to facilitate all of your PD request even quicker than we have before. The NTA offers teachers one of the best PD funds in the country. Last year over 300 credit courses were paid for by the NTA PD fund for our members. We offer an Ed Leave that pays you 100% of your salary while off, or you can apply for distance ED courses and earn your Master’s Degree for free over the course of a couple of years of distance education courses. If you have any questions about the many PD benefits available to you while you are an NTA member do not hesitate to reach out to our NTA PD Co-ordinators.
In recent weeks, I’ve had some good conversations about curriculum with some MLAs. I am hoping to gather as much help as I can to put as much pressure on the Government to invest in Nunavut Education. It is time to support our students and their needs and provide them with a curriculum that speaks to them. For far too long we have relied heavily on the curriculums of other jurisdictions, and this is something that I will continue to strive to change. We need curriculum that represents our students, not curriculum our teachers constantly need to adapt and change to fit students’ needs, adding to the workload teachers already have.
The Government needs to recognize the extra burden they are putting on teachers and connect that with 105 vacancies that we are facing. The Government must factor that into the reason that our retention rates are some of the lowest in the country. Nunavut doesn’t have a recruitment issue; it is a retention issue that needs to be solved by the GN treating their employees with respect and providing them with the tools they need to have success as teachers in Nunavut. As stated earlier, the country is facing a teaching shortage, not just Nunavut. If Nunavut cannot provide our teachers with what they need, they will, and apparently have been, leaving the profession or going to where they feel they will get the support they need to do their job.
As your NTA President, I will continue to advocate for you and highlight all of the great hard work that you do. I will express to the Government that they need to show how much they want to keep you. A lot of demand is put on us as Educators, but we are the ones IN high demand. We accept the demands put on us because we love what we do, but this is a job that is hard, and always under-appreciated. It is time for you to see the appreciation that you deserve, and it is my goal to work towards getting you some of that appreciation from your Employer. I wish you all have a great 2022-2023 school year.