Careers: Would You Like to be a Teacher?

by Efim Cheinis

After immigration, many internationally educated teachers change their professions due to a common belief that it’s impossible to get a teacher’s license in Canada. Is this perception true? How difficult is it for an immigrant to receive a teacher’s license in the province of Ontario? What does one need to do to become licensed teacher?

The above questions were raised during a Newcomer Information Centre discussion session with Ms. Cathy Lofgreen, External Relations Officer of the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT).

“Receiving a teacher’s license in the province of Ontario is certainly possible but it may take some time,” said Ms. Lofgreen. “Look at our last annual report and you will see that about 3,000 immigrants received OCT certificates in the last two years.”

Despite the name, the Ontario College of Teachers is not an educational institution, but the official regulatory body for elementary and secondary teachers in Ontario. OCT’s responsibility is to make sure that OCT certified teachers are trained to provide excellent education for the students of publicly funded elementary and secondary schools (sometimes called high school).

Before starting the process of becoming licensed, internationally educated teachers must become familiar with terms of licensing for Ontario teachers.You will find necessary information on the Ontario College of Teachers website (www.oct.on.ca). The first step towards becoming licensed is gathering the necessary documents and sending them to OCT. What are the documents required to become licensed by OCT?

  • Registration (application) form – you can download this form from the College’s website.
  • Photocopies of proof of identity, employment authorization and teaching certificate documents.
  • Documentation that proves your legal status in Canada, Social Insurance card and original report of a Canadian criminal record check.

In addition, such documents as transcripts of academic and teacher education programs, proof of experience documents and statements of professional standing have to be sent directly to OCT by the organizations that issued these papers. It is best to arrange this before departing for Canada. If your teacher education studies were not completed in English or French, you will also need to pass a language proficiency test such as a TOEFL or IELTS exam.

After receiving your application with all the necessary documents and the payment, the college will verify that your documents conform to the corresponding education and experience requirements accepted in Ontario. You should have documents certifying a minimum of Canadian Grade 12 high school diploma, three year postsecondary full-time degree program diploma, and not less than one year teacher education program. That is a total of 16 years of study. There are certain differences for teachers specializing in academic subjects (such as language, math and science) or technological subjects (like computer skills, wood technology, metalwork, technical graphics) which you will find on the OCT website.

If your education is recognized as corresponding to the Ontario equivalent, you will receive a Certificate of Registration and Interim Certificate of Qualification. These documents give you the right to work as a teacher in a publicly funded elementary or secondary school in Ontario. After completing 194 days of teaching, you can receive a permanent Certificate of Qualification.

If OCT decides that your qualifications do not meet the Ontario requirements, you will receive a letter that you are not eligible for the certification. You have the right to appeal the refusal in Registration Appeals Committee.

What are some common reasons that immigrants are not eligible for certification as teachers in Ontario?

  • You do not have 16 years of study or you used distance education entirely.
  • Your knowledge of English (French) language is not acceptable.
  • The educational institution where you received your education degree is not recognized in Ontario, or their programs and quantity of hours of training do not match the minimal Ontario requirements.
  • Your education does not match the requirements of the Ontario school system.

Rejected applicants are always advised in writing on what they can do to meet the certification requirements and if they need to get additional training. For this purpose, various Teacher Education Programs are available. A list of Ontario’s Faculties of Teacher Education can be found at the following website: www.oct.ca/become_a_teacher/faculties.aspx?lang=en-CA. And the Teach in Ontario program (www.teachinontario.ca) exists especially to help internationally trained teachers become certified to teach in Ontario (see “Teach in Ontario” in Canadian Newcomer Magazine Issue 12).

The certification process may take some time, which may create financial difficulties for you and your family. Would it be possible to work as a teacher without OCT certification?

“There may be such opportunities,” answered Ms. Lofgreen. For example, you can work as a teacher without OCT certificate in daycare centres and nursery schools, private schools and adult continuing education centres (teaching non-credit courses), and in
Montessori private schools as well. Also, you can work as a tutor, private music teacher, even as a teacher in colleges or universities where you do not need OCT certification because they only require a Masters or PhD degree. By law, only publicly funded elementary and secondary schools in Ontario cannot hire you without a certificate, but there is one exception that will allow you to start working in publicly funded elementary and secondary schools: you can work as a teacher assistant, whose responsibilities you can find at National Occupational Classification, code NOC 6472.
Even though there are jobs listed where the Ontario College of Teachers certificate is not required by law, principals or owners of many organizations prefer to hire certified teachers because it guarantees a high level of qualification.

Another option for a teacher without OCT certificate is to work as an ESL teacher for a private institution. To work as such, it is enough to finish an ESL teacher program and receive TESL (Teacher of English as a Second Language) Certificate. Details can be found on the following website: www.teslontario.org.

CNM