Nunavut teaching jobs all filled as kids go back to school

Staff housing shortage hampers recruitment


Kids throughout Nunavut are back in school this week – and the good news is that they all have teachers.

That’s because applications for vacant teaching positions in Nunavut were up in all three regions of the territory – after several years of declining interest.

But the cost and availability of housing for teachers still remains a problem.

“If you can get it, it’s $1,000 [per month]. More and more, government appears to be getting out of housing, and it’s very noticeable with education,” said Ian Critchley, manager of human resources for Kitikmeot School Operations in Kugluktuk.

The chronic lack of housing means some teachers have to double up and share quarters. Others decide to buy their own homes, when these are available.

Rental housing reserved for teachers in Arctic Bay is inadequate, in “bad condition and very old,” according to Morty Alooloo, the co-principal of Inuujaq School.

Alooloo said the poor housing situation also means families who might be interested in relocating to Arctic Bay can’t come. As a result, the school attracts mainly teachers from the South who are young, single and at the beginning of their careers.

“Housing is one of the biggest problems we have,” Alooloo said. “I’m sure we would have more experienced teachers apply if we had better facilities.”

But despite the challenge of finding housing for teachers, there was no lack of applications from teachers eager to come to Nunavut.

“We had more this year than we had last year – perhaps 600. We did extremely well this year,” Critchley said.

Critchley said one Kitikmeot community, Kugaaruk, has a new principal and six new teachers this school year, but overall, staff turnover in the region was low.

More local graduates of the Nunavut Teachers Education Program were also hired on as permanent, full-fledged teachers.

The Kitikmeot recruits teachers in western Canada, so many of its new teachers are graduates from education schools in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

In the Qikiqtani region, the response was also “overwhelming” to advertisements and recruitment efforts, which netted around 700 applications.

“We had such a big pool of qualified applicants,” said Heather Fanjoy, who works in human resources at the Qikiqtani School Operations.

Typical newcomers to Baffin classrooms include many from the Maritimes, who are either straight out of university or at the end of a long career as teachers or administrators.

Hughie Butt, the new principal at Quluaq School in Clyde River, logged nearly 30 years as a teacher and principal in western Newfoundland communities before deciding to come to Nunavut.

“In Newfoundland, I could be retired. It’s an opportunity at the end of your career to do something else,” Butt said.

The Kivalliq’s new executive director of school operations, Bonnie Spence-Vinge, is also an experienced school administrator who relocated to Baker Lake in July.

“It’s an opportunity to have a different life experience,” Spence-Vinge said, echoing the words of Clyde River’s new principal.

She said schools throughout the Kivalliq region are also “good to go,” with all positions filled.

Internships from teacher training programs in the South that bring student teachers into the region’s schools during the year are another method the Kivalliq region uses to replenish its pool of potential teachers.

The relatively high pay for teachers in Nunavut is a big draw in every region. Salaries for beginning teachers in Nunavut are about $20,000 higher on average than in the South – even before northern allowances are counted.

However, most of this higher pay is eaten up by the higher cost of living in Nunavut.

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