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Kitchener parent worries about her child’s education amid French teacher shortage


Andrea Anao’s son will be going into Grade 9 next fall, but she’s concerned he won’t be as prepared as he should be because he hasn’t had a permanent French teacher in months.

“I’m worried, will he actually be able to get his Grade 9 credit?” Andrea asked.

Her son, 13-year-old Alex Bloedorn, goes to Canadian Martyrs Catholic Elementary School in Kitchener. He’s currently learning French through an online platform introduced earlier this month – an additional resource for classes that lack a regular teacher, according to the school board. Before that, he had a mix of substitute or supply teachers.

“I think I’d much rather have a real teacher,” Alex told CTV News.

Alex said he doesn’t learn much with the substitute or supply teachers that have been filling in since November.

“It’s like simple activities, or not even French sometimes,” he explained.

Andrea said it was the same story when Alex was in Grade 8. There was also no permanent teacher for more than six months.

“It was a teacher who was not qualified. And he was only qualified to teach junior grades. So not intermediate grade,” she said.

Canadian Martyrs Catholic Elementary School in Kitchener, Ont. (Heather Senoran/CTV Kitchener)

Ongoing problem

The union representing Catholic teachers in the region admitted that supply and substitute teachers fill in often, and sometimes, they aren’t qualified.

“They are just people who have come and volunteered to be, in fact, a warm body in front of the classroom for the day,” said OECTA president Patrick Etmanski.

Comment from WCDSB

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) admitted that long-term substitute teachers and daily supply teachers have been filling in for French classes.

“It is indeed a challenging situation, as securing a permanent French teacher at CM has not been straightforward. This issue isn't unique to that school, or our school board; it reflects a broader teacher shortage across Ontario, with French teachers being particularly hard to find,” Judy Merkel, the superintendent of learning at the WCDSB, said in a statement to CTV News.

The school board told CTV that staff are actively working to address the issue.

Searching for teachers

Andrea said she’s worried about her son’s future.

“What if he wants to do a job where bilingualism is important? Are we taking the opportunities away from him? Are we closing those doors?” she asked.

OECTA said as the region keeps growing, hiring of teachers gets harder.

“We used to post a job and there would be five to 10 people applying for it. And now sometimes there are no applicants,” Etmanski explained.

He said he visited a local school recently that had more than 60 new students enrolled since the Christmas break.

For some, the only other option is outsourcing the help.

“If you hire a tutor, it is between $30 and $50 an hour. However, it is actually hard to find a French tutor,” Andrea said.

In the fall of 2023, the provincial government announced funding for the training and recruiting of more French teachers for this school year.

Some worry that’s not happening soon enough.

While it may be too late for Alex, Andrea hopes raising awareness will help other parents with younger kids. Top Stories

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