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A system of support: How Ontario sets its teachers up to succeed

newsworks
  • ontario part3
    Ian Willms/For Keystone Crossroads

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When Erica Brunato decided to become a teacher in Ontario, she knew the road ahead would be long and steep.

“We all knew coming into this program — even just applying for the program — what it was going to be like, right? And I said, ‘I wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl.’ So that didn’t stop me,” she said.

Compared to Pennsylvania, teacher preparation in Ontario is more rigorous and the job market is much more competitive.

There, students must earn a four-year college degree and then complete a teacher training program that includes a lot of classroom practice. 

That training program used to be one year, but the Ministry of Education recently doubled it — moving in the direction of countries like Finland and Singapore, which are considered leaders in teacher prep.

For a university student like Brunato, completing that program is only one in a series of steps to becoming a classroom teacher.

Because there’s currently a surplus of teachers in Ontario, students typically must do prolonged stints as substitutes, which they call “supply” teaching, before being considered for a full-time position.

“No one right now graduates and gets a permanent teaching job,” she said. “You do your time in a supply teacher position.”

Top education officials in Canada tout this as a major boon for their system.

They say that by the time a student like Brunato is responsible for a group of students full-time, she’s proven both her commitment to the profession and her ability to put theory into practice.

And school principals largely agree.

“When I’m looking at the teachers entering the profession, they’re ridiculous. They’re masters,” said Rose Avenue elementary principal David Crichton. “They’ve got great skills in technology. They might have had a second career. I mean, they’re just outstanding people.”

Read the rest of Part 3 of this series at NewsWorks

 

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Kevin McCorry

Kevin is WHYY/NewsWorks' senior education writer.