Teresa Furuya’s eyes dart from a textbook to the school work of her students. Sitting at the edge of Willowbrook Shopping Centre’s food court is an unlikely setting for marking tests and homework, but Furuya is here to make a very public point on behalf of Langley teachers: our work days are not your typical nine to five schedules.
Furuya was one of dozens of teachers in Langley and Surrey who took their school work to a shopping centre for two hours on Monday afternoon, giving the public a chance to meet a classroom teacher and find out what is happening in schools.
“Teachers have been waiting nearly 10 years for a resolution to the illegal contract stripping that removed class size composition and specialist teacher ratios from collective agreements,” said Gail Chaddock-Costello, president of the Langley Teachers’ Association.
“Now we have been waiting almost 11 months for a negotiated settlement. Teachers and students shouldn’t have to wait any longer.”
The B.C. Teachers Federation is negotiating a new contract with the the B.C. Public Sector Employers’ Association which the teachers’ union has accused of coming to the bargaining table empty-handed while demanding concessions.
Furuya, who teaches Grade 4 and 5 students at Noel Booth Elementary, spends an average of two hours every evening marking her students’ work. On top of that, there are report cards to compile, special projects to devise, and lessons to be planned.
Also outside her regular school day hours, Furuya has to research materials that are appropriate to her students’ learning ability: No mean feat as the 29 students in her class do not all read at the same level. In fact, their reading ability ranges from Grade 2 to Grade 8.
And, Furuya pointed out, like so many other teachers all over B.C., she must devote additional time to students who have learning disabilities.
Full time teachers in B.C. have an average annual salary of $70,741. By comparison, non-union educators such as principals, vice-principals and directors of instruction, make an average of $102,038 a year.
Among the contract demands made by the BCTF are a 15 per cent pay increase over three years, and 10 weeks of bereavement leave, regardless of the relationship with the deceased, and 26 weeks of paid compassionate leave to care for someone, regardless of the relationship (i.e. family member or friend).
The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which includes education assistants who help teachers in the classroom, settled a contract in December which gives no pay increase but guarantees improved working conditions.
Salaries in the education field are based on a curtailed year — schools are typically closed for two weeks over Christmas and eight to 10 weeks for the summer holidays.
Figures supplied by the Langley Teachers Association show that the starting salary of a newly qualified teacher is $45,900 for a minimum of five years training.
After 10 years, a teacher can expect $74,350 a year.
The salary for a teacher with Master’s degree ranges from $49,300 to $79,600, while those with a full or double Master’s or a doctorate ranges from $50,500 to $ 81,500.
Typical hours for an elementary school teacher such as Furuya would run for 6.5 hours a day, including a half-hour break for lunch.
Teachers must be at school 15 minutes before lessons start and 15 minutes at the end, although most arrive long before and stay long after, said Chaddock-Costello.