Yukon substitute teachers are undervalued yet in high demand, says head of teachers' association

·2 min read
Ted Hupe, pictured in February, is the president of the Yukon Teachers' Association. (Laura Howells/CBC - image credit)
Ted Hupe, pictured in February, is the president of the Yukon Teachers' Association. (Laura Howells/CBC - image credit)

Schools across the Yukon are struggling to find substitute teachers due to a nation-wide teacher shortage, and the pandemic is only making the problem worse.

Pre-pandemic, when people signed up to be a substitute or teacher on-call in the territory, they would work two to three shifts a week.

Now, however, what's supposed to be a part-time job, has become a full-time gig for many, especially in Whitehorse.

Brandon applied to be a substitute in January and since then, he has worked full-time hours, he said, "even though it's technically part-time."

CBC has agreed to withhold his last name because he's concerned about losing work opportunities.

Subs need earlier info on COVID-19 in schools

According to Yukon's Department of Education, there are a total of 23 teaching vacancies in the territory — 12 for full-time teachers, seven educational assistants, and four Yukon First Nations language postings.

Meaning substitutes like Brandon have a lot of jobs to fill in the next few months.

"I know there's a few elementary schools I've been at where they've been having a hard time getting subs because there's not a lot on the list available right now," said Brandon, who is fully booked until January 2022.

His biggest grievance about the job so far, he said, is not being notified when there's a COVID-19 outbreak at a school.

"I know if there's an outbreak in an elementary school everyone on the staff lists gets notified; but all the subs who were scheduled to come in, none of us know until we get there," said Brandon.

So far, the territory has had multiple COVID-19 outbreaks in schools as reported by the Yukon Communicable Disease Control (YCDC).

'They are taken advantage of'

Although substitute teachers are in high demand in the territory, they are still undervalued by the school system, said Ted Hupe, president of the Yukon Teachers' Association (YTA).

"Substitute teachers, teachers on call, are not valued in our system," says Hupe. "In fact, they don't get any benefits and in our mind, they are taken advantage of."

Hupe also adds substitutes in the Yukon are among the lowest paid in the country.

They are paid on a daily rate — not by the hour — if they work a full day.

The rates range from $135.93 to $218.43 per day based on the substitute teacher's level of education and qualifications.

According to various salary comparison sites such as Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, and PayScale, teachers on call in the territory can make approximately $10 per hour less than their counterparts in provinces such as Manitoba and Alberta.

Hupe says the YTA is negotiating a new agreement for substitutes.

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