A world of teaching experience
Filipino group helps internationally trained educators apply for Canadian certification
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Audry De Leon longs for the laughter, smiles and excitement of children in a classroom.
“I miss my children, and their parents too,” the Filipino newcomer said. “I feel empowered. I have hope… I know the first steps to pursue my dreams will be overwhelming, but we just have to stick with it.”
De Leon, 28, arrived in Winnipeg last July on a work permit. She’s currently employed in retail, but in the Philippines she taught at public and private primary schools.
She aspires to do the same in Canada, and thanks to the help of a local Filipino non-profit, she might see her dream realized.
On Saturday, De Leon and roughly 180 other aspiring immigrant teachers gathered within an auditorium at Maples Collegiate for an educational seminar hosted by the Manitoba Association of Filipino Teachers.
The event took place in two sessions and was aimed at helping people navigate the numerous forms and documents required to apply for a Canadian teaching certificate.
Many who participated were Filipino, but others hailed from India, Egypt, Syria, China and Ukraine.
It was the fifth time the association has hosted the seminar, allowing applicants to troubleshoot their challenges in real time with a pair of representatives from the Manitoba Education and Early Childhood Learning department.
Applying for permanent teaching certifications can take months or years to complete, even for those with decades of education and experience, said association president Mary Jane Napolitano.
Some applicants need to update or redo their teaching degrees, and nearly all must earn credits in Canadian and Indigenous history, a requirement in Manitoba. The process is further complicated by international conflicts such as the war in Ukraine, where it can be difficult to recover the necessary documents.
It can be confusing, discouraging and expensive for newcomers working to establish themselves in a new country, Napolitano said.
“These are people who are in our community and in need of help,” she said.
Napolitano hopes the seminars will help newcomers expedite the certification process, something that would bring a welcome boon to Manitoba’s education industry.
Many of the province’s schools, particularly those in rural areas, are currently feeling the pressure of a national shortage of teachers.
The Brandon, Western and Sunrise school divisions have all resorted to hiring substitutes with limited qualifications. Many have little more than clear background checks and an interest in working with children.
While the schools treat experience coaching, providing child care or serving in youth leadership positions as an asset, it is not required.
Neither is a formal degree in education.
Education stakeholders attribute the shortage of qualified teachers to urbanization, an aging population and the complex needs of students.
Since November 2022, Sunrise — which serves roughly 4,600 students in eastern Manitoba — has enlisted the help of more than 50 uncertified educators, superintendent Cathy Tymko told the Free Press in January.
“It’s not as good as having a qualified, trained teacher in front of kids — but it’s way better than having no teacher… cancelling classes, or combining or having really huge classes,” she said.
Tapping into the wealth of newcomers with education experience could provide a possible solution. It could also improve representation for students, Napolitano said.
“We know students want to see people like them in the (education) system,” she said. “In Manitoba, the centre of education is with the student. We focus on who the student is. We are not trying to dissolve the student’s identity, we are trying to highlight them. We need to make sure they are visible and heard.”
During the seminar, working Filipino teachers who participated in the previous education sessions provided testimony to the crowd, assuring them that despite the challenges, there is hope of earning Canadian certification.
That brought comfort to De Leon.
“I know we were in the same position before… You can’t pursue your dreams with prayers alone, you need to get out and work,” she said.
“I feel inspired.”