Report touts transition centre for internationally-trained teachers


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Manitoba needs a central support hub for teachers who have studied education and worked in classrooms abroad so they can be mentored to succeed in the local workforce, newcomer advocates say.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/03/2022 (439 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba needs a central support hub for teachers who have studied education and worked in classrooms abroad so they can be mentored to succeed in the local workforce, newcomer advocates say.

The Newcomer Education Coalition is releasing a new report today that proposes solutions to improve the limited representation of racialized immigrant, refugee and newcomer teachers in the province.

Among the report’s key calls to action is the launch of a transition centre for internationally trained teachers.

Sherry Khanna worked as a teacher for more than 20 years in India. Time-intensive work was required to update her Indian teaching credentials to become a certified educator in Canada. (Jessica Lee / Winnipeg Free Press)

“There is a fear of the unknown. There is no proper portfolio made for international teachers to have their transitions be a comfortable one,” said Sherry Khanna, a substitute teacher in Winnipeg, who recalled all of the time-intensive work she has done to update her Indian teaching credentials to become a certified educator in Canada.

Khanna immigrated to Winnipeg from Delhi, India, in 2015. She had worked as a permanent teacher for more than 20 years and specialized in teaching English as a second language.

The experienced educator, who has a masters in English literature, took on an office job while she received a credential assessment and later enrolled in post-baccalaureate courses to upgrade her resume to meet Manitoba requirements.

When she started applying for teaching gigs — a process she described as “exhausting and pretty demotivating,” Khanna said she felt discouraged by employers’ seemingly impossible requests, such as a need for “Canadian (job) references.”

Khanna said she felt both overprepared and underprepared. On the one hand, she was an experienced educator. On the other hand, she said Manitoba teaching practices and curriculum implementation differed significantly from what she was used to.

“What we hear is they are left out on their own to navigate this system without any support and that is why something like a transition centre would be so important,” said Kathleen Vyrauen, co-chairwoman of the coalition.

Vyrauen noted there has been much talk about teacher shortages throughout the COVID-19 pandemic while there is a pool of internationally trained educators who could fill positions if certain barriers were eliminated and they were supported in a transition.

The coalition’s 2021 State of Equity in Education report outlines how newcomer settlement and community-based organizations, school divisions, university faculties of education, governments and other stakeholders could collaborate to do just that.

The report proposes the launch of a transition centre, which would be operated jointly by the partners, for internationally educated teachers and racialized newcomer, refugee, and immigrant teachers who are either working as substitutes or are on a term contract and want to become permanent educators.

The hub would provide participants with support services ranging from advocacy and advisory related to credential assessment and employment to coaching, so teachers can deepen their understanding of the Manitoba curriculum.

The pitch includes internship and mentorship opportunities with school divisions through the hub and access to tuition, living allowances and child care.

The report compares the model to an internationally educated teachers pilot project that the University of Manitoba developed in 2006 to address a “diversity gap” in the teaching workforce. After the pilot’s funding expired, it was not able to find sustainable support from either the university or province, the report notes.

Vyrauen said shew hopes to revamp the pilot and increase the number of educators who can access support services.

The coalition has submitted a letter of support to U of M’s faculty of education for a grant application to secure funding.

There is a dearth of data about the number of racialized newcomer teachers versus the parallel student population.

“I see diversity and inclusion in the student population. I see Black and brown faces everywhere. But not (among) teachers,” said Khanna, who works in central Winnipeg schools.

In 2018-19, approximately 12 per cent of permanent teachers in the Winnipeg School Division self-identified as members of a visible minority, the latest NEC report says.

The coalition found Louis Riel, River East Transcona, and St. James-Assiniboia did not collect such data, while Pembina Trails did not provide any figures. Seven Oaks declined to participate in the formal survey.

While Seven Oaks did not participate in the State of Equity in Education survey, the division provided the results of an internal workforce survey conducted in 2020-21. The northwest Winnipeg district found 17 per cent of respondents — approximately 80 per cent off all staff members, ranging from teachers to clinicians to settlement services employees — were born in another country.

Vyrauen said the coalition wants all divisions to take detailed demographic surveys and swap “visible minority” with more specific categories.

“We’re not promoting things like hiring for tokenism or hiring because you need to meet a quota or something like that,” added the co-chairwoman of the coalition.

“You need to authentically understand what your community and demographic look like and what those needs are in terms of representation in your staff.”

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.


Updated on Sunday, March 20, 2022 10:33 PM CDT: Copy edited

Updated on Monday, March 21, 2022 9:12 AM CDT: Adds paragraph about Seven Oaks' internal workforce survey

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