Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New teachers could find work instructing cons

Prison agency scouts U of M

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You're graduating in education and can't find a teaching job, but have you considered going to prison?

Correctional Service Canada is in the market for 55 full-time teachers to work in penal institutions in the three Prairie provinces, including Stony Mountain and Rockwood just north of Winnipeg.

The agency's "help wanted" sign was a big attraction Monday for education students at this year's Ed Expo at the University of Manitoba, where students about to become teachers are facing a tough job market.

Teaching in prison is basically the same as at an adult learning centre, although truancy is highly unlikely.

"Our focus is on attaining a high school diploma. We're changing from (short) contracts to government employees," explained Shelly Sealy, chief of education for the Prairie prisons.

Sealy and regional manager of education Pamela Booker explained that the agency offers high school credits in math, science, language arts and social studies, using the Alberta curriculum.

Some inmates have no high school credits at all. In fact, some have had so little education that Correctional Service Canada needs even elementary school teachers, Sealy said.

"We're looking for generalists," she said, though teaching English as an additional language is also helpful, as is being able to teach computer skills.

That's strictly for upgrading, Sealy said. "They don't have access to the Internet."

Teacher candidates must go through rigid security checks and receive training to work inside a prison.

"Class sizes are smaller, 12 to 15 students," Sealy said. Like adult education centres on the outside, students bring a strong focus and commitment.

"You don't put up with classroom management issues," she said. "They decide whether they're going to grow by co-operating with the classroom instructor."

Salaries average about $57,000 annually, but there's a 20 per cent top-up because prison schools are in session year-round.

Sealy said there tends to be high turnover among contract instructors, so Ottawa is now looking for teachers ready to settle into the job permanently. She couldn't guarantee at which institution or in which province applicants could be assigned.

The annual Ed Expo had fewer public school divisions this year, but there was a smattering of independent schools and remote communities represented and foreign recruiters for teachers in England, Mexico and South Korea.

"There's not a lot of jobs. It's not hard to get substitute teachers," said Robert Praznik, director of education for Winnipeg's Catholic schools.

"People still need to be willing to go outside the city" to find their first job, advised Kelly Barkman, superintendent of Morris-based Red River Valley School Division.

There are more education grads than teaching jobs in the province, said Ed Expo co-organizer Mehrunnisa Khan, an early-years education specialist.

"There is a trend" to go overseas for experience, she said.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 1, 2011 B2

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