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Fort McMurray in need of substitute teachers

December 6, 2016 Laura Harris, ATA News Staff

Demand up as teachers deal with pressures stemming from wildfire disaster

They are more commonly known as substitute teachers. In Fort McMurray Public School District (FMPSD), they call them teachers on call — or TOCs. And TOCs are what top the Christmas list for Nancy Ball, who is both president of Fort McMurray ATA Local 48 and a teacher capacity leader with FMPSD.

“Fort McMurray is in need of teachers on call and much of that need is a direct result of the toll the fire and its ongoing aftermath have taken on some of our teachers,” Ball said.

The state of emergency in Fort McMurray ended Nov. 10, six months and nine days after the wildfires established their position as the costliest disaster in Canadian history. The cost of damages inflicted by “The Beast” (as the fire was named) has been estimated as $3.5 billion. Ball knows the real cost has been much greater.

“For seven solid months many of our teachers have faced complications and setbacks that would be difficult to deal with at any time, but now to be back at work teaching and trying to manage things like finances, contractors and insurance claim issues, while still dealing with the trauma of the evacuation and the devastation they returned to … it has been overwhelming for some — and understandably so.”

Ball didn’t have numbers for Fort McMurray Catholic Schools but said requests for TOCs within the public district are up 50 per cent over this time last year. In her role with the district, she joined forces with the chief deputy superintendent of human resources and administration, Phil Meagher, to host a recruiting fair specifically for TOCs in Edmonton on Nov. 19.

The initiative attracted a number of recent education faculty graduates, but Ball said the district will continue its recruitment efforts because getting more TOCs will relieve the pressure on those substitute teachers who are being stretched to meet the demand in both the public and Catholic systems.

“From cash to Christmas decorations, the people of Alberta and Canada have been so unbelievably generous to the people of Fort McMurray,” Ball said. “They’ve given us so much, it’s hard to ask for anything more, but if there are certificated teachers out there — new graduates or experienced ones — who are interested in being a TOC in Fort McMurray, I’d be interested in hearing from them.”

Ball can be reached by email at 

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