Teaching in the North During COVID-19
We have been in touch with First Nations partners to offer our support in whatever way they would deem most appropriate, as local leadership takes action. Teach For Canada teachers who have stayed in community have supported initiatives like food deliveries, virtual content for students, and offering help to those who need it.
First Nations will make their own decision on any required changes to their school year. Teach For Canada teachers are employed directly by First Nations and local leadership will communicate any changes to the school year to teachers directly. The Teach For Canada team will continue to provide support to teachers if they face any uncertainty in the school year because of COVID-19.
First Nations are taking different approaches to manage the risk of COVID-19 in their communities. At this time, some First Nations have opted to temporarily close access to their communities to non-members. However, many First Nations partners have hired teachers through Teach For Canada for this upcoming school year. Once hired, local leadership will communicate any policies that may impact teachers directly.
The impact of COVID-19 is in a current state of motion and differs in each First Nation we work with. In some communities, COVID-19 tests are mandatory before or upon arrival, and a predetermined isolation period is often required. As the beginning of a new school year approaches, these guidelines and policies may change. We encourage teacher applicants to visit the community websites shared through our Community Partners page or explore community Facebook groups to stay updated on current safety measures and requirements.
Teach For Canada teacher applicants will have the opportunity to learn more about the COVID-19 safety measures being taken in specific communities during the community matching process. At this time, they are encouraged to ask questions directly to First Nations partners to hear about the steps they will need to take upon arriving in the community.
Like much of Canada’s air travel, some flights to and from remote First Nations have been impacted due to COVID-19. In most cases, flights are available on a reduced schedule for necessary travel. We encourage teacher applicants to research airlines that serve Teach For Canada community partners to find out about specific travel options, or ask First Nations partners directly during the community matching process.
Many communities may choose to charter flights for teachers traveling at key times, like winter break or the beginning of the school year. A charter flight allows for an entire aircraft to be rented and used for travel. We encourage Teach For Canada teacher applicants to ask about travel to and from communities during the community matching process.
First Nations partners have been working to stop the spread of COVID-19 from reaching their communities and have been preparing in the event that it does. You can learn about some of the different approaches communities are taking by reading through the following resources:
- Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) COVID-19 Task Force – NAN represents 49 First Nations across Treaty 9 and Treaty 5 areas of Northern Ontario
- Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Memo: Education Update (May 7th 2020)
- Grand Council Treaty #3 (GCT#3) COVID-19 Information & Resources – GCT#3 represents 28 First Nations across Treaty 3 areas of Northern Ontario and Southeastern Manitoba
This year’s Summer Enrichment Program will take a hybrid approach, combining asynchronous online learning with one week of in-person learning. Teachers will have two weeks to complete approximately 15 hours of online learning modules before gathering in-person at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, from Sunday, July 16th to Saturday, July 23, 2023.
In many communities, the hiring process has continued as normal, with precautions being taken to observe social distancing protocols when needed. Teach For Canada has transitioned our Teacher Selection process to take place virtually. Once a teacher has successfully matched with a community to work in, all next steps, such as the signing of the employment contract, will happen online.
The impact of COVID-19 is in a current state of motion and differs in each First Nation we work with. In most communities, in-person learning is offered, however, lockdowns and remote learning occur when necessary. During community lockdowns, online learning and take-home learning packages are often used.
Teach For Canada teacher applicants will have the opportunity to learn more about the COVID-19 climate in specific communities during the community matching process. At this time, they are encouraged to ask questions directly to partners to hear about the steps First Nations are taking to keep their students and communities safe.
The impact of COVID-19 is in a current state of motion and differs in each First Nation we work with. Many First Nations communities are currently in the process of receiving vaccinations. For this reason, we encourage teacher applicants to conduct their own research about vaccine accessibility in the communities they are interested in working in. Questions related to vaccine accessibility in specific communities should be directed to community partners during the community matching process.
Many First Nations that Teach For Canada serves have direct access to hospitals and health care centres. To learn more about community-specific access and options available to folks who require treatment for COVID-19, we encourage teacher applicants to ask questions directly to partners during the community matching process.
General - Application and Matching Process
Yes. Since 2009, provincial Labour Mobility Acts have enabled certified teachers to transfer certifications to other jurisdictions in Canada under the terms of the revised Agreement on Internal Trade. However, it is the responsibility of the individual teacher to transfer their teacher certification to the new province before September of the year that they are hoping to teach. You may also be asked to submit a copy of your certification and a statement of professional standing to Teach For Canada if you are certified in a jurisdiction without a public teacher registry.
Teach For Canada is proud to recruit a diverse range of applicants, and we encourage all teachers to consider applying. However, at a minimum, successful teachers must be:
- Certified to teach in a Canadian province by July of the year that they are hoping to teach
- have legal working status in Canada for two years
- able to relocate to a remote First Nation in Northern Ontario or Manitoba
- available to attend the Summer Enrichment Program
If you fulfill these requirements, we would love to learn more about you. You can learn more about the application process here. Unfortunately, Teach For Canada is not able to sponsor work visas or teaching certification at this time.
No. One of our goals is to increase teacher retention in the north, and each Teach For Canada teacher makes a minimum two-year teaching commitment to a northern First Nations school. However, we hope that you will consider applying to Teach For Canada when you feel ready to commit to teach for at least two years in a northern community.
Most northern First Nations communities do not have local schools that go beyond grade 10, and many schools only go to grade 8. Students from these communities must travel to larger centres to complete their high school studies. Teach For Canada focuses on JK-10 teachers to serve as many remote and Indigenous communities as possible. The only exception is the Keewaytinook Internet High School (KiHS), a blended in-person/online school that operates in several of Teach For Canada’s community partners.
Every First Nation and teacher is unique, so our process works to allows teachers and communities to connect directly to establish their fit. Here’s how it works:
- We provide First Nation partners with an online database of selected teachers.
- Community leadership reviews teachers skills, education, interview videos, and preferences.
- First Nations reach out to teachers who they feel would fit well with their specific school and community.
- Teachers and community leaders then discuss the mutual fit. Sometimes a teacher receives offers from more than one community.
- Teachers accept an offer from a community.
Teach For Canada teachers will receive offers of employment from and will be hired directly by First Nations through our matching database. Teachers are not employed by Teach For Canada. We respect the autonomy of the educational leadership in each community partner, and as such:
- We cannot act as your employer
- We cannot advocate on your behalf to your employer, including contract negotiations
- We are not and cannot act as a union
- We cannot resolve interpersonal conflict in the workplace
Teach For Canada supports teachers to ensure their success in the classroom and the community through three pillars of support: Professional, Peer, and Personal. Learn more about teacher support.
You will teach in a First Nation in Northern Ontario or Manitoba. We currently work with 23 First Nations. During the interview and selection process, you will not know the First Nation in which you will teach. The matching process happens afterward. Partner First Nations identify their needs and reach out to the Teach For Canada teachers that have a specific fit with their school and community. Teachers then speak to the First Nation that has extended an offer to confirm that it will be a good mutual fit.
Yes. Recruiting Indigenous teachers is a priority for Teach For Canada and for many partner First Nations. It is important for students to see themselves in their educators. However, a large gap persists between the percentage of teachers and students who self-identify as having Indigenous ancestry. In recognition of this, we make every effort to prioritize the successful recruitment of Indigenous teachers by connecting with Indigenous education groups and organizations and by offering one-on-one support and flexibility to applicants throughout the process.
Summer Enrichment Program
Teach For Canada teachers join us in the summer before they begin teaching for an intensive, community-focused Summer Enrichment Program, co-designed and led by education experts, experienced teachers, school and community leaders, and Elders. Among other topics, Teach For Canada teachers have multiple opportunities to engage in the histories and cultures of the communities in which they will teach. This includes meeting community members and current and former teachers to discuss the finer points of living in the specific First Nation. The Program also includes several workshops to help teachers become familiar with Indigenous pedagogies and ways of knowing, as well as workshops relating to wellness and self-care strategies.
The 2023 Summer Enrichment Program will take a hybrid approach, and include 15 hours of asynchronous online learning, followed by one week of in-person programming at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay.
The in-person component of the Summer Enrichment Program will take place at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay from Sunday, July 16th to Saturday, July 23rd, 2023.
No. Teachers will not receive a salary during the Summer Enrichment Program.
Teaching and Life in the North
The curriculum in Teach For Canada’s community partners is the standard provincial curriculum used in public schools. However, Teach For Canada teachers receive training at the Summer Enrichment Program on how to adapt the curriculum to make it relevant for students in remote and Indigenous communities.
Each school and community is different. Resources that tend to be available in each school include:
- TA in the classroom with the teacher
- SmartBoards, laptops, and tablets in the classroom
- Office with a secretary and staff room
- Special Education Teacher (school-wide) for high needs students
- Guidance or Social Counselor
Take a tour of a school!
Yes. There is space on the teacher application to indicate whether you’d be liked to be matched with your partner, should they also be a teacher. If you both meet Teach For Canada’s selection criteria, and if you are both selected to become Teach For Canada teachers, then we will ensure you are matched with a community that requires two teachers with your qualifications.
Yes. Many Teach For Canada teachers have brought non-teaching partners with them to the North. Each community’s specific needs and opportunities will differ, and so we expect that your partner will keep an open mind on how his/her skills can be used in the community. Throughout the community matching process, you, your partner, and the community work together to find a great fit.
Hear directly from a couple who went North together:
Just like with any other teacher in the school, your salary will depend on your years of teaching experience, your university experience, and the salary grid in the community. Each First Nation decides internally how to compensate teachers based on their community’s individual priorities and needs.
Salary ranges from $40,000 to $100,000 for certified teachers. Some of the higher salaries may be offered to the more in-demand positions, such as special education teachers. For a brand-new teacher who has recently graduated with a Bachelor of Education degree and has 0 years of experience, the beginning salary in First Nations schools in Northern Ontario and Manitoba is typically between $40,000 and $60,000. Northern living allowances can be as high as $4,000, ranging with the location of the community. Fly-in communities typically provide 2 round-trip flights from a major airport to the community.
Though the funding gap between First Nations schools and non-First Nations schools puts limitations on salaries, a new funding approach for First Nations K-12 education effective spring 2019 may help address some of those issues. Many First Nations will be able to provide more competitive salaries and benefits.
In drive-in communities, teachers will typically drive to the nearby town or city to buy groceries every few weeks, and prices are comparable to major urban centres. In fly-in communities, most foods and produce are available but they are often higher-priced and can be more limited than in urban centres. Maintaining a vegetarian diet is possible, but it will require some planning ahead of time. More information on ordering foods or other items will be given during the Summer Enrichment Program.
Hear directly from teachers about what they eat in the North:
Sometimes. The school gym typically doubles as a school classroom and a fitness centre, because it is rare for a community to have a fitness centre with weights and equipment like treadmills. Teachers are typically able to engage in other types of fitness like jogging, hiking, canoeing, snowshoeing, playing hockey and other sports, and doing personal exercises at home. For entrepreneurial teachers who want to bring fitness equipment to the north for their students, grants are often available.
Hear directly from teachers about how they spend their spare time, including how they stay active:
In most cases, yes. We will send you a survey before the full interviews where you can tell us more about your personal preferences, including a pet. For teachers who are selected to be part of the Teach For Canada program, this information will be provided to communities during the community matching process. If you have a pet and you are selected to teach in a fly-in community, you should contact your air travel provider to better understand their regulations for travelling with pets. If you fly with a larger-sized dog on Wasaya Airlines, you must book at least 48 hours in advance of the scheduled departure. The airline might also need to know certain information, like your dog’s breed and weight, and require that an airline-approved kennel be used.
KiHS stands for Keewaytinook Internet High School, an online high school launched by the Chiefs in Council in 1999, that works with First Nations in Northwestern Ontario. KiHS allows students to stay in their home First Nation while taking high school courses accredited by the Ontario Ministry of Education. With KiHS, teachers act as a mentor, guiding students through online learning modules. They also grade and instruct students from several remote First Nations in specific subjects through online tutorials. Some of Teach For Canada’s community partners also partner with KiHS. If teachers receive an offer from KiHS, they can learn more about this unique model from the principal. For example, where teachers live and work varies based on the community, so teachers can ask the principal about these specific details. Learn more about KiHS in the overview, including the differences with other high school models. Read the experiences of Teach For Canada KiHS teachers here and here.
In most cases, you would live in dedicated housing provided by the community for teachers. The accommodation is often called a teacherage, and it can vary from a single housing unit for each teacher to shared teacher accommodation within the same building. Single teachers or teaching couples will have their own bedroom and will often share living space. Teachers with families will work with the communities to find a teacherage with space to accommodate their needs. Rent varies by community, but it is typically below $600 per month per teacher.
The winter season can start sooner and last longer than in the more southern parts of Canada and temperatures do generally dip lower. In winter, the average daily temperature in Teach For Canada community partners is around – 20 C, but can dip below – 40 C on particularly cold days. That being said, it is a dry cold, meaning that if you dress warmly you will be fine, compared to Southern Ontario where it can feel like the cold goes right through your clothes, even when it is only a few degrees below zero. Also, there are many more opportunities to take advantage of the winter weather through a range of activities (e.g. snowshoeing, cross country skiing, ice fishing, etc.) than there can be in urban settings. For more details, see what strategies Teach For Canada teachers use to stay warm in winter:
Most teachers choose to go home over the holiday season, though some choose to stay in the community to celebrate. Sometimes there can also be the opportunity to leave the community during a cultural week in the fall and/or for winter break.
Some communities cover the cost of two return flights during the school year, a flight to and from the community at the beginning and end of the school year, as well as a second trip out (usually for the holidays). Some communities cover the cost of a flight to the nearest hub (e.g. Thunder Bay or Winnipeg), while others will cover the entire trip.
Teachers talk about how they handle homesickness and their strategies for keeping in touch with loved ones:
Teach For Canada has an Additional Qualifications and Professional Development subsidy program that teachers can apply to if they need to offset some of the costs of taking AQ/PD courses. AQ courses are regulated by the Ontario College of Teachers and will be added to a teacher’s list of qualifications on their teaching certificate upon successful completion of the course. Teach For Canada also considers other teacher Professional Development courses on a case-by-case basis.
During the school year, Teach For Canada’s Teacher Development Managers will help teachers problem-solve professional and personal challenges. Teachers will also have access to counselling services.