Teacher training program re opens its doors

The Yukon Native Teacher Education Program at Yukon College will accept students this fall after a one-year hiatus. Intake was suspended last year in order to complete a program review.

The Yukon Native Teacher Education Program at Yukon College will accept students this fall after a one-year hiatus.

Intake was suspended last year in order to complete a program review.

The resulting report, released in June 2012, called for an overhaul of the program.

“Stated bluntly, we were surprised by both the volume of issues related to quality, as well as the harshness of the criticism,” the authors of the report wrote.

Thomas Fleming from the University of Victoria and Colin Chasteauneuf from the University of Northern British Columbia spent a year interviewing, meeting with and collecting surveys with people who were familiar with the program and its graduates.

The report found that the program was hastily installed in 1989 “as a stopgap measure” under political pressure to increase the dismal representation of First Nation educators in schools.

At the time, only one of the Yukon’s 435 elementary school teachers was of First Nation heritage. Now First Nation representation among elementary teachers hovers around 10 per cent.

The program has changed little since its creation, although expectations have grown dramatically, according to the report.

While the report recommended rebuilding the program from the ground up, that change will take time, said Deborah Bartlette, dean of applied arts at the college.

She was part of a 15-member review action committee charged with implementing the recommendations of the review.

“I think it’s really important to remember that the report said that our teacher education program was as good as any other in Canada,” said Bartlette. “But what it recommended is that Yukoners needed and deserved a made-in-the-Yukon teacher education program. Again, that doesn’t happen overnight, but that’s what we’re building towards.”

For this coming year, the program will look much as it has in the past, with a few tweaks, said Bartlette.

Two first-year courses will be replaced with newer courses from the University of Regina, which runs the program as a satellite to their own bachelor of education program, and ultimately awards the degrees to Yukon students.

The new courses will focus less on the technical aspects of teaching and more on teaching philosophies.

In addition, an elective course in fourth year will be replaced with a mandatory course on teaching students who struggle with reading.

“Reading problems are sadly not uncommon, not just in the Yukon but everywhere, and this is a course that gives teachers yet another skill set in helping K-12 students learn to read,” said Bartlette.

The review found that, as a result of the relationship with the University of Regina, the program was a bit of an orphan, not belonging entirely to either school.

Yukon College is working on a new, five-year agreement with the university that would see more of the governance of the program transferred to the college, said Bartlette.

The hope is, within those five years, to implement more significant changes to the structure of the program, she said.

That could include flexible entry dates, such as offering a two-year bachelor of education degree to individuals who have completed two years of postsecondary education in liberal arts, early childhood education, an educational assistant training program or related field.

Eventually, the college hopes to award its own degrees, rather than working as a satellite of the University of Regina, said Bartlette.

“We are envisioning that we would have a program of our own at some point in the future, but this is being considered within the whole future plan for the college and how that will evolve.”

In addition to implementing recommendations, the review action committee has looked at the essential elements that should be maintained. The biggest one is the First Nations cultural component, said Bartlette.

“What we seek to do is turn out teachers who are competent to teach in the Yukon context. And here that means having a solid understanding of First Nations culture.”

The next agreement with the University of Regina would see some of the strong elements of the Yukon’s program exported south for the first time.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at