Future teaching retirements putting pressure on local schools

By Scott Roblin
December 4, 2017 - 5:06pm Updated: December 4, 2017 - 7:26pm


MEDICINE HAT, AB – Teaching turnover at Medicine Hat schools is climbing with more and more instructors reaching retirement age.

While local school divisions haven’t hit the panic button yet, it’s something they’re keeping a close eye on as the calendar changes to 2018.

For SD76, 73 instructors were hired for the 2016-17 school year, which is up 13 teachers compared to 2015-16 numbers, with a total of 438 teachers in the division.

Superintendent Mark Davidson said they’ve had to expand their scope to attract more job seekers.

“We're having to go farther, advertise [in a] farther field,” said Davidson. “Perhaps go recruiting in eastern Canada in order to find qualified people to fill some of those positions.”

All permanent teaching positions are filled by SD76, with only a few openings in elementary and middle schools.

However, most hiring challenges for the division are coming in the high school trades programs, according to Davidson.

“CTS positions, the shop and that kind of thing, very hard to find people who are certificated teachers who also have a ticket, who are in a good position to do that work.”

Connie Atkison has been teaching cosmetology at Medicine Hat High School for 16 years, and said these challenges can have an effect in the classroom.

“A lot of us are going to be retiring in the next few years and it's very difficult to find people that have both the education degree and journeyman status,” said Atkison. “So, what they're going to have to do is hire two people for the one job.”

As for the Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education, they say recruitment has actually gone better than expected this year when it comes to teachers.

The Catholic Board of Education currently employs 135 full-time teachers, with all of their positions filled three months into the school year.

Though, Associate Superintendent Chuck Hellman said they still struggle to attract teachers in their French program.

“Medicine Hat and our area, the universities don't put out a lot of French immersion teachers,” said Hellman. “And right now, our French immersion teachers are younger and going off on maternities and things like that. So, we're trying to fill positions when we can.”

Like the public division, Hellman said they’re working on contingency plans for pending retirements, which includes keeping local teachers in the system.

“We tend to get our local students that we've put through our division go out to universities, a lot of them want to come back and work with us,” he said. “So, that's been something good for us, for sure.”

Davidson said these concerns are province-wide, and divisions will have to be pro-active to contend with even more future openings.

“As the retirements continue, if we don't start seeing more and more people coming out of those programs and willing to move, then our challenges will grow.”

According to Davidson, he wants to see colleges in Alberta open up more spots in their education programs to fill these soon-to-be open positions.

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