Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut May 17, 2018 - 9:30 am

Iqaluit principals complain they can’t find substitute teachers

No applicants for Inuktut language specialist job at Inuksuk High School

Nakasuk School Principal Cody Prusky at a meeting of the Iqaluit District Education Authority on May 14. “Finding subs? There aren’t any,” he said, referring to a shortage of substitute teachers that sometimes forces schools to cancel classes.  (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
Nakasuk School Principal Cody Prusky at a meeting of the Iqaluit District Education Authority on May 14. “Finding subs? There aren’t any,” he said, referring to a shortage of substitute teachers that sometimes forces schools to cancel classes. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

Iqaluit schools don’t have the substitute teachers they need, and the shortage sometimes forces schools to cancel classes, members of Iqaluit’s District Education Authority heard from school principals and vice principals at a meeting on Monday.

“We are in an extreme crunch for substitutes right now,” Jay Thomas, the principal of Inuksuk High School, said May 14 in a report to the DEA.

“It’s extremely tight,” he said.

At the high school, two regular substitutes are now filling in for teachers who are on long-term leave.

To fill that new gap in substitute teachers, a university student who is studying education is being flown in from the South to teach on-call for the spring.

And after he did a presentation to students in the Nunavut Teacher Education Program at Nunavut Arctic College, Thomas said only one second-year NTEP student is willing to substitute teach for the current school year.

“I think we’re covered, but it’s a real struggle,” he said. “I can’t emphasize what a challenge it is.”

Cody Prusky, the principal of Nakasuk Elementary School, emphasized the shortage when he said, “Finding subs? There aren’t any.”

The shortage of substitute teachers isn’t a new thing, Doug Workman, chair of the IDEA, told Nunatsiaq News.

This week, when two teachers called in sick on the same day, the elementary school’s physical education class and literacy program were cancelled so that staff running programs could cover other classes.

“Like other principals have mentioned, substitutes are a major challenge,” said Scott MacDonald, the vice principal of Joamie Elementary School.

But the hiring of new teachers is going well this year and two term positions are now filled at Joamie, MacDonald said, adding that two elders are working full days at the school to teach Inuit culture and language.

When school started last fall, 63 teaching jobs were unfilled in Nunavut schools throughout the territory.

In Iqaluit, only the French-language school, Ecole des Trois-Soleils, started the current school year with a full roster of teaching staff.

That school is run by its own francophone school commission and was not discussed at the meeting.

Eight jobs are filled at Aqsarniit Ilinniarvik Middle School, four internally and four with new staff who are transferring from other schools and communities in Nunavut.

At Inuksuk High School, competitions have just closed for chemistry and English teaching jobs and the school has a new physical education teacher.

But an open job for an Inuktut language teacher remains empty and there aren’t any prospective hires for that job.

“We had one round of competitions for that, and no applicants. Now it’s open until filled,” Thomas said.

Last fall, MLAs killed Bill 37, which would have amended the 2008 Education Act to delay full implementation of Inuktitut language instruction in Nunavut schools until the GN acquired the capacity to do it.

Meanwhile, “I am concerned about filling a vacant language specialist position,” Thomas said.

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(27) Comments:

#1. Posted by Past teacher on May 17, 2018

It has always been difficult to find subs, especially for Inuktitut classes. Once you get a substitute after they are done most do not want to go back, with no curriculum to follow, very little teaching materials, and most of all not a lot of support you can’t blame them.

After a while to pool of substitutes have shrunk and it’s even that much harder to ffind replacements.

This has been going on for years but for some reason it’s never addressed and improved.

#2. Posted by Observer on May 17, 2018

But there will be 100% fluent Inuktut government employment Real Soon Now!

#3. Posted by Gord on May 17, 2018

I agree with #2, the premier has his head up something. Bold moves…hardly. Ill thinking process.

#4. Posted by boris pasternak on May 17, 2018

don’t complain, this is nunavut’s own doing. for years, the complain has been on the table for years; snubbing inuit language and the teaching of it in schools. even by inuit themselves who can’t speak it properly nor talk it, poor souls, you think you would be accepted for snubbing it? gn and specially the schools (and don’t wanna be inuit specially for their children, ironic eh?) are not serious about this problem creating potatoes.

#5. Posted by Quality on May 17, 2018

And what are Sub Teachers teaching? Sitting in front of the class and advising students to keep on doing what they done in the previous class should not require a sub, just a baby sitter. Classes are getting cancelled all the time, the learning outcome, especially at the High School are a joke, but keep your noses up high and pretend you prepare the youth for their future life. The only thing you provide to the students is the preparation to fail. Maybe a better principal would change the direction and outcome. I’m surprised that the principal actually showed up for the DEA meeting, normally he is nowhere to be found, never mind answering phone calls or emails.

#6. Posted by iThink on May 17, 2018

#4 What’s a potato, Boris, someone with a white soul and brown coating?

What an idiotic comment.

#7. Posted by Pass student on May 17, 2018

I took French second language for most of my schooling. I decided in High School that I wanted to learn more Inuktitut. We weren’t taught anything all we did was Inuktitut word searches. We weren’t taught what the word meant that we were looking. Just given a word search sheet and told to look for the words. I was very disappointed.

Mind you I felt the same about Language arts class was just the same read a story that’s one page front and back and answer 10 questions and that was it for a 40min period and if you asked if you can work on something else while other student were still working on the story we were told no because we were going to be too ahead of the other students. so we would just sit there for the remainder of the class.

I think the whole system needs to be adjusted at not just the Inuktitut classes.

#8. Posted by Ken on May 17, 2018

No curriculum for Inuktitut, no standards, very little teaching materials and resources, it’s a huge problem for more than a decade, what is the GN doing about today?

Something has to be done now!

#9. Posted by boris pasternak on May 17, 2018

#6, probably you. playing ignorance is not the answer. so is putting down inuit language, if that’s your case; you would do well in alabama.

#10. Posted by Show up, work hard and expect results on May 17, 2018

There are materials for Inuktitut courses, there could be more but there are a significant amount.

I would argue the issue with finding substitutes is that there are plenty of employment opportunities available in Iqaluit that are less stressful than being a substitute. 

To #5 -  a qualified substitute is able to do more than just provide encouragement and babysit.

#11. Posted by iThink on May 17, 2018

#9 Who is putting down Inuktitut?

All I ever see from you is bitterness and anger looking for a place to spit itself out. Problem is, your aim is really bad.

#12. Posted by Ken on May 17, 2018

#10 When were these curriculum for Inuktitut finished? Why are students doing crosswords in class if there are so many significant amount of resources to choose from?

#13. Posted by Show up, work hard and expect results on May 17, 2018

To #12 - Well Ken, after a quick look through the document that I provided a link to, I discovered that many of these resources had been created over the last 16 years. 

To answer your second question I could only hazard an educated guess, but I would assume that the individual teachers are to blame for the ever present Inuktitut crosswords.  I would argue that the GN is doing a somewhat decent job in creating Inuktitut resources, but the available pool of candidates who are willing to enter NTEP is shallow.

#14. Posted by Reality on May 17, 2018

So, the GN has rolled out a beautiful literacy program, and lots of assessment tools and resources. It’s not that the resources aren’t coming…they are.  The problem is that the job is demanding…and what happens is that the gn is swooping up qualified Inuktitut speaking teachers for other positions in other departments that are eagerly accepted by new grads who are struggling with the demands of the job (and anyone who thinks it’s a walk in the park, should volunteer at their kids’ school…in the classroom)...  NTEP Students should be required to give minimum 5 years to the teaching profession before they can apply for other positions…this should be established in their contracts…especially if their schooling is funded through other organizations.

#15. Posted by iRoll on May 18, 2018

“NTEP Students should be required to give minimum 5 years to the teaching profession before they can apply for other positions…this should be established in their contracts…”

What an absurd proposition this is, totally ridiculous, untenable and probably illegal…

Change your name #14, ‘Reality’ is not something you have a grip on.

#16. Posted by Seems lazy on May 18, 2018

Shame on you two for not doing your job and taking the lazy way out. Sending students home is the lazy of doing things. Shame on you

#17. Posted by Ken on May 18, 2018

#13 there is still no working curriculum for Inuktitut, non to be found in the schools and it’s every school for themselves on what they will teach and use, for your resources not all schools have them in fact some of these resources that were worked on have disappeared and cannot be found.
For years the education department in Arviat worked on Inuktitut materials for teachers to use but it never came to be. When you go into a classroom for Inuktitut you will see there is not a lot of teaching materials and the teachers have to come up with materials on their own.

#18. Posted by Reality on May 18, 2018

The job is demanding especially when you do not have a curriculum and a standard to use unlike the English, math and science classes. It’s much more demanding to start and build your own teaching standards and materials, longer hours than the other teachers but you end up burning out and decide to use crosswords to teach that takes less time away from you.

On top of that you can work less hours and get paid more in a office job with the GN.

#19. Posted by Past teacher on May 18, 2018

We have never really had the resources to teach unlike the other classes. It’s why it’s that much more difficult to find teachers welling to spend more time than the other teachers.

#20. Posted by Student on May 18, 2018

I took the inuktituk Morphology class. It was very enlightening. I learned a lot. I just spoke without realizing that there are proper endings and when to use what ending to a work. How to refer to 1, 2 or many.
Now if the teachers that are teaching Inuktituk are required to take a course on learning the fundamentals of the language, nouns, pronouns and adjectives, then they can start teaching the language. Not read books, translate to romanothrography, colour or do work searches.
There are materials used for teaching, but the teacher has to understand what they are expected to teach.
What do the inukituk teachers learn during teacher development days/weeks.

#21. Posted by This is not new on May 18, 2018

This situation is far from new, it is a common occurrence (in all communities); the above comments regarding NTEP students moving to other jobs has been a common practice for decades; also there has been a great deal of Inuktitut materials developed in Arviat (and elsewhere), then never distributed; part of the problem remains given dialectic arguments- many Inuktitut speaking teachers didn’t want to use them ( in the Arviat dialect);

Bottom line: 1.create a standardized Inuit language; 2.then reinforce existing resources; 3.then find those rare individuals capable and willing to invest in a career (not a job) of teaching; it’s not easy….

Expect to see this same article next year, and the year after, and the year after…until those three things come to be.
Simple solution- not really - no matter what the politicos and critics want to say.

#22. Posted by pissed off on May 22, 2018

No curriculum????

What have all these people working at the TRIGRAM building done for the last 30 years???

I have seen loads of people working there over the years producing inuktitut material .

Where is it??

This has only created jobs and contracts for the printers and publishers???

The problem is not the lack of material. It is the lack of direction from the Dept of Education.

Just a revolving door of people and ideas.


#23. Posted by boris pasternak on May 22, 2018

don’t make inuktitut a white elephant in nunavut like the french language is outside of the city of iqaluit.

#24. Posted by Jack on May 23, 2018

It took the higher ups to finally make changes to the DM in this department, after more than a decade of not producing very much leadership, I just cannot understand why it took so long after so many reports and recommendations to make changes with this department.
Lots of cleaning up to do and hard work ahead of the new leadership in the department of education.

#25. Posted by newsie on May 23, 2018

What does a sub even earn in Iqaluit?

#26. Posted by Devolving on May 25, 2018

#24 And then, they placed a fellow with no experience in education whatsoever (maybe a little substitute teaching mind you) in the roll of Deputy Minister.

Funny, I’d say the mess is getting messier.

#27. Posted by Uninformed on May 25, 2018

#26 you seem to lack knowledge about the new DM who’s gone through the NTEP program and who has been a teacher in Nunavut. Also gone to University and has been through the education system in Nunavut.

With you not knowing a whole lot about this person your comment is hard to take seriously.

But I wish this new DM success in this difficult situation, I agree changes should of happened years ago with the past DM, it took a long time to get into this mess, it’s going to take a few years of hard work to get out of it and start moving ahead and improving our education for Nunavut.

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