Faculty hosts National Forum on Bridging Programs for Internationally Educated Teachers

Inaugural event affirms importance of programs for teacher recertification

Randy Wimmer and Danielle Gardiner Milln - 15 May 2023

Group of people looking down at cameraApril 21 marked an inaugural National Forum for Internationally Educated Teacher (IET) Programs, bringing together program professionals and researchers working with IETs seeking Canadian teacher certification. Among many things, we learned that our Faculty’s program is perhaps the only remaining program of its kind in Canada.

In September 2013, our Faculty launched a pilot cohort of the IET Bridging Program, attempting to systematically address the needs of IETs who immigrate to Canada as experienced teachers and seek Albertan teacher certification. As a companion goal, we hoped to improve our overall student services processes for working with IETs. Now, 10 years later, our program continues to provide a solid university-based teacher education program towards recertification. Through ongoing research, the breadth of complex challenges for newcomer teachers to Canada is well understood academically and in practice. We also know that there are social, cultural, and economic benefits to having Canadian professions increase the diversity of their membership as soon as possible in order to better reflect Canadian society.

Over the past two years we have attempted to connect with as many programs, institutions, and researchers as possible across Canada; these efforts were more challenging than initially anticipated. Early in this work, it became apparent to us that information is universally difficult to locate, including for us as experienced researchers and teacher educators, let alone for teachers who are new to Canada. In many cases, attempts to connect to IET programs using publicly available websites or email addresses resulted in dead ends. In other cases, our attempts to contact researchers whose publications we had used responded that they no longer were doing research in this area and at many other times, we received no response. As we continued to develop the program, we made site visits to two well-established IET programs and in organizing for the Forum we learned that neither program currently operates.

In the end, we successfully brought together researchers and administrators from Ontario to British Columbia who enthusiastically participated in the Forum. We began the day with a powerful story from a current IET who had just completed their student teaching followed by a panel presentation by four teams of researchers or student service professionals from Simon Fraser University, University of Alberta, University of Saskatchewan, and University of Manitoba.

The U of A program was exceptionally represented through the exemplary work of Lucy De Fabrizio, Catherine Smythe, Roberta Baril, Dr. Anna Kirova, and Dr. Farha Shariff. A round-table discussion followed where we gained intriguing insight into programmatic practices and innovations across Canada; due to the ephemeral nature of institutional commitment to programs oriented towards IETs, a core challenge that was universally reported is sustainability. We ended our time together discussing possible next steps, research collaborations, and opportunities to further develop a cohesive group of researchers and practitioners throughout Canada to robustly support IETs in multiple provincial contexts. Forum participants were grateful for the opportunity to come together and proud of the collective dedication to this integral area of teacher education. Despite our program’s clear leadership in this space, a renewal of essential funding by the Government of Alberta is uncertain and thus the future of our IET Bridging Program is similarly unknown. We are most grateful for the SAS grant received last spring from the Faculty to support this research. Finally, the IETs’ powerful stories told at the last Education Faculty Council reminds us of why we created the program and why it needs to continue and flourish.

Randy Wimmer (Education Professor) and Danielle Gardiner Milln (PhD student and Graduate Research Assistant) organized and facilitated the National Forum for IET Programs.