'I want to be heard': Saskatchewan teachers say focus remains on students amid dispute
Corrine Toews is pictured in her classroom at W. F Ready. (Brenna Engel / CTV News Regina)
REGINA -- Saskatchewan teachers are speaking up in an ongoing dispute with the Ministry of Education, calling for change in a system they say has burdened them with too many students and not enough resources to support them.
On Feb. 24, 90 per cent of Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (STF) members voted in favour of sanctions which led to job action such as rotating strikes and the withdrawal of voluntary services such as afterschool coaching.
While teachers traditionally help students with academics, their focus has shifted to helping kids with mental health issues and meeting families' needs, says one Regina teacher.
Corrine Toews has been teaching for 28 years. She is a Grade 7/8 teacher at W.F. Ready.
“I think my biggest challenge is being able to walk out the door every day and feel like everyone’s needs have been personally met,” she says.
Teacher Corrine Toews is pictured at her desk. (Brenna Engel / CTV News Regina)
One of the issues teachers are bringing up is class size. They say they're taking responsibility for an increasing number of students, and some of those students have special learning needs or do not speak English fluently.
In the past there were separate programs with specialized staff to help those kids, but now it is up to teachers who do not have that specific training to meet those kids’ needs.
Amy Empringham, a Grade 1/2 teacher at Arcola Community School, says class size changes the way she teaches as well as the quality of her teaching.
"A large class size is like a juggling act with knives," says Empringham, who teaches students with vision challenges and learning blocks in an already full classroom.
Teacher Amy Empringham is pictured. (Brenna Engel / CTV News Regina)
Both Toews and Empringham say it is getting harder for them to leave school at the end of the day knowing they couldn’t meet all of their students needs.
“I want to be heard. I want us to be listened to,” said Empringham. “I have to believe that everyone involved in this dialogue, whether you’re working at the government level, the teaching level or at the family level as a parent, we all want kids to be successful, we all want our province to be as strong as it can be and that means all students receiving the best education that they can. If I don’t believe that, we’re starting at a dead end."
In an interview with CTV Morning Live on March 12, Minster of Education Gordon Wyant said he wants to resume talks at the table with teachers to work out the dispute.
"We understand and I’ve been in many classrooms, we’ve never denied the fact that class complexity is a serious issue in our classrooms around this province," said Wyant. "But it’s also important to realize these aren’t things that are typically dealt with on a collective agreement.”
On Thursday, March 12 the STF implemented sanctions, which include no more extracurricular activities and teachers not coming to school early or staying late to work on classroom prep.
“Sanctions can be a difficult time for teachers but the focus is really on two things: creating positive learning experiences for students in the classroom and maintaining strong relationships with parents and families. The focus will continue to be the students and families,” said Toews.
An agreement between the government and STF has yet to be reached. Both sides are continually having conversations about what can be done to move forward.
“We are doing this because we are scared and fear is a tough place to be. We’re scared about the future of these students if they don’t receive the supports that they really should” said Empringham.