French teacher shortage common

Teacher shortages were just one of the concerns local Canadian Parents for French reps discussed with their counterparts at a national conference last week.
The president of the local chapter said Tuesday that they remain supportive of both school boards in their efforts to keep the French Immersion program alive here.
“Our position is to be supportive. We realize that the teacher shortage is experienced across Canada and not just in Fort Frances,” said Nina Sokoliuk.
Sokoliuk and Caryn Legg attended a conference celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Canadian Parents for French in Ottawa on Oct. 18-21.
More than 200 delegates from across the country gathered for the conference, which featured guest speakers such as John Raulston Saul, Stephane Dion, and Keith Spicer.
A number of delegates discussed the difficulty in finding staff qualified to teach French as a second language, which is being experienced nationally.
The local CPF also has been keeping an eye on enrolment in the French Immersion program here. This year, nine students in Grade 9, 10 in Grade 10, 11 in Grade 11, and eight in Grade 12 are working to complete their diploma requirements.
Currently, the Northwest Catholic District School Board and Fort Frances High School are working together on a review of the French Immersion program.
Fort High principal Ian Simpson reiterated last Thursday that the school remains committed to keeping the French Immersion program despite enrolment concerns.
“We are doing a review of the program to see where and how we can improve it and improve the numbers,” he noted. “We have no intentions of dropping the program.”
Sokoliuk said it is difficult to predict how many students will stay with the program from those who start it.
“To start our program, we have a board policy that we need a minimum of 20 students to start at the SK level,” she said.
Sokoliuk added they always have met the requirement and that there was a gradual decline of students through the grades, but that it was a parental decision whether to keep children in the program.
“We’re pleased with the way school boards are handling things and we are there to support them,” Sokoliuk stressed. “The teachers are doing a wonderful job.”
While she doesn’t speak French herself, Sokoliuk has a daughter in Grade 6 taking French Immersion. She said the program offers children such as her daughter a broader education in much the same way as a student taking piano lessons.
She pointed to information compiled by Canadian Parents for French which stated that students fluent in two languages get higher scores in reading, language, and mathematics, and that learning French strengthens first language skills in reading, vocabulary, grammar, and communications.
“It is an extra she has that she will be able to use later in life and it may help her to pick up another language in the future,” Sokoliuk reasoned.