Superintendent Gord Stewart spoke to about 75 teacher candidates this week, as the district tries to recruit more teachers to fill needed roles. (Joanne Abshire/Langley School District)

District struggles to find enough specialty teachers for Langley schools

Resource teachers and ELL teachers are in high demand across B.C., and in Langley

Two years after a Supreme Court of Canada case forced B.C. to hire hundreds of new teachers, Langley is still having trouble finding specialty teachers.

While the district has filled its classrooms, it is still short on resource teachers, ELL teachers, learning assistance, and French Immersion teachers.

It isn’t just Langley, as every district is competing for new teachers, following the court ruling that determined teacher numbers were too low.

“The district is having a difficult time hiring resource teachers especially,” said Langley Teachers Association president Wendy Cook.

The LTA is waiting for an arbitration ruling, after it challenged the workload local resource teachers have been carrying.

A resource teacher is supposed to help up to 15 students with individual education plans (IEPs). The students usually have some form of learning disability or behavioural issue and get extra help from resource teachers.

However, a shortage means resource teachers are taking on more than 15 students at most schools.

“There’s some with 23, there’s some with 17,” Cook said.

One school in Langley saw a resource teacher leave, Cook said. The remaining teachers had 30 students each for a couple of months until a new teacher could be hired.

In addition, many have been asked to take on learning assistance work, as learning assistance teachers are also in short supply.

That’s why the union is pushing back through arbitration. If they win, more money will be freed up from the province to hire more learning assistance and resource teachers in Langley, most likely in the 2019/20 school year.

English Language Learning (ELL) teachers, former known as English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers, are in high demand as the district’s demographics have changed.

Enrolment in Langley has increased rapidly in the last few years, but the number of ELL students has increased even faster.

In 2015, the district had 18,500 students enrolled. This year enrolment was up to 22,461 students, a 21 per cent increase.

The number of ELL students went from 1,010 to 1,349, a 33.5 per cent jump over the same time frame.

The school district has been making efforts for some time to try to attract more specialty teachers, said Joanne Abshire, the Langley School District’s spokesperson.

That means reaching out in ways the district has never tried before.

“We do have staff that go to job fairs across the country,” said Abshire.

Staff are trying to recruit at every local university that graduates teachers, from UFV to UBC, as well as to teachers from outside of B.C.

They’ve been reaching out on social media as well, another first for the district.

On Wednesday, March 6, the district held a Teacher Candidate Information Session at the district office.

“The room was packed and we had more than expected,” Abshire said. “There’s definitely interest in coming to work in Langley.”

About 75 people came out on Wednesday for the session.

Abshire noted some recent successes, including attracting a new high school music teacher to the district, as music teachers are also in short supply.

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