Frequently Asked Questions: Relief Teachers

Frequently Asked Questions: Relief Teachers

Like other school districts across the province and the country, the Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows School District (SD42) has been experiencing high levels of daily teacher absences that it has been unable to fill. 

For the 2024/25 school year, SD42 will be joining other districts in the Fraser Valley in addressing these unfilled absences by hiring educated and experienced yet uncertified individuals to join our team as uncertified teachers on call (relief teachers). 

Additional information is provided in the list of frequently asked questions below. 

What are relief teachers?

Relief teachers are individuals hired to temporarily fill in for absent teachers. Relief teachers will only be deployed in situations where the school district has exhausted the list of all available certified teachers teaching on call. While relief teachers may not have full certification, they will undergo dedicated training and receive support to ensure they can effectively manage classrooms and support the delivery of education.

Why is the district hiring relief teachers?

Like other districts in the province, the Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows School District is facing a significant teacher shortage. This shortage, in turn, is impacting our ability to find certified teachers teaching on call (TTOCs) to fill teacher absences. Hiring relief teachers is an immediate solution to ensure that classrooms remain staffed when certified TTOCs are unavailable, thereby minimizing disruptions to students’ education. The shortage of TTOCs has also impacted the ability to release and cover classroom teachers for professional development opportunities, mentorship and collaborative planning.

What has been the district’s rate of unfilled teacher absences?

The district has seen an increase in teacher shortages over the past several years. For the 2023/24 school year (September to June 15th), we saw an daily average of 20.5 instances where teacher absences could not be filled with a TTOC, referred to as “failures to fill.” The number of these unfilled absences varies each month and day. In the 2023/24 school year, the lowest average number of unfilled absences was in January 2024 at 7.5, while the highest rate was in May 2024 at 36.8. On any given day, the number of unfilled ranged from 0 to 56. 

How has the district been managing the failure to fill teacher absences over the past few years?

The school district has been reallocating support teachers, principals, vice principals, English Language Learners teachers, librarians, and other such professionals to cover classrooms when a certified TTOC is not available. While this has helped to fill immediate gaps, it has created a strain on the system and prevented these staff members from performing their primary responsibilities. This approach is not sustainable in the long term and impacts the overall functioning and efficiency of our schools. Hiring relief teachers will help alleviate this strain, allowing staff to focus on their designated roles and responsibilities.

Are other school districts implementing this initiative?

Yes. Abbotsford, Chilliwack, and Langley school districts have all implemented this initiative. Many northern school districts implemented this initiative several years ago.

What, if any, steps has the district taken to hire more certified teachers?

In the 2022/23 school year, the school district partnered with Simon Fraser University’s Professional Development Program (PDP). In the 2023/24 school year, the school district provided dedicated space at Westview Secondary school for a PDP module, which hosted 32 PDP student teachers and two SFU faculty members for in-person coursework as a part of the practicum. For several years, the school district has also partnered with the University of Fraser Valley to open more teacher training practicum opportunities for student teachers and encourages opportunities for practicum placements from other post-secondary institutions, including the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria. The school district is represented at many teaching recruitment fairs provincially and nationally.

Will the school district continue to seek out and hire certified teachers teaching on call?

Yes. We have an open posting and continue to actively recruit certified teachers teaching on call.

How will the hiring of relief teachers affect current staff and students?

The hiring of relief teachers is intended to reduce the number of “failures to fill,” which are instances where teacher absences cannot be filled with a teacher teaching on call (TTOC). The school district has been attempting to address these unfilled absences by pulling other professional staff, including support teachers, English Language Learners teachers, libraries, and school administrators, from their responsibilities. This has created a strain on the system and prevented these staff members from doing their own work. The district believes that relief teachers will help reduce this strain and provide stability, benefiting both students and staff.

How will relief teachers be selected?

The school district will be seeking individuals with a post-secondary degree and demonstrated experience working with children/youth. Priority will be given to candidates in a professional development program and/or independent school certification. More specifically, the school district will be recruiting individuals who:

  • have a post-secondary degree (not necessarily teaching specific);
  • are currently completing their degree to become a teacher;
  • are formerly BC Certified teachers with lapsed certification;
  • are teachers who completed their teaching degree in another country and are not currently teaching in British Columbia;
  • have 3-5 years’ experience working with children/youth;
  • have specialized training, education, or experience in specialized areas (culinary, French, metal work)
How will relief teachers be trained?

Relief teachers will undergo a dedicated training program covering classroom management, planned lesson delivery, and student engagement to ensure they are well-prepared to support students. Their role will be to carry out the classroom teacher’s plans and maintain a safe, caring and inclusive learning environment.

When will relief teachers be dispatched?

Relief teachers will only be dispatched on a day-to-day basis after all available TTOCs have been deployed.

How is the district working with the teachers' union on this initiative?

We will be in regular dialogue with the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association to address any concerns and incorporate feedback into the planning and implementation of this initiative. Our goal is to take all necessary steps to support the success of relief teachers and ensure the initiative is effective. The current collective agreement language requires the school district to employ non-certified teachers teaching on call (TTOCs) to cover for teacher absences when a certified TTOC is not available. The collective agreement reads as follows:

1. The Board shall provide a certified Teacher Teaching on Call (TTOC), upon request, for any absent classroom teacher or teacher-librarian, and after three (3) consecutive days absence for a counselor, except in exceptional circumstances where a certified TTOC is not available, in which case the Board will provide a non-certified TTOC, if one is available.

Will relief teachers be members of the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association (MRTA)?

No. Relief teachers will not be MRTA members.

Can current CUPE support staff employees apply for a relief teacher position?

Yes. Current CUPE support staff employees can apply for a relief teacher position if they have the required qualifications. Please note that successful applicants will need to resign from their CUPE position upon accepting the relief teacher position.

Are relief teachers paid the same as certified teachers?

Relief teachers are compensated fairly for their work, though their pay will differ from that of fully certified teachers. Details about compensation are provided during the hiring process.

Will relief teachers be a permanent solution?

Relief teachers are a temporary measure to address the current teacher shortage. We are committed to ensuring relief teachers are well-prepared through training and ongoing support. Additionally, we will encourage relief teachers to pursue certification, providing guidance and resources to help them achieve full certification.

We are also continuing to prioritize long-term solutions, including increasing the number of certified teachers through continued recruitment efforts and partnerships with local universities.

Can relief teachers be requested by teachers?

No. Relief teachers cannot be requested by teachers.

Will relief teachers be able to work multiple days in one assignment?

The school district will endeavor to dispatch relief teachers to single or half day assignments. It is possible, however, that a relief teacher may be assigned to the same class for a successive day if there are no certified TTOCs available.

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