Systemic advocacy for immigrant teachers: At the intersection of “isms”

From 2005-2011, I helped oversee a bridging program for internationally educated teachers (IETs) offered at the University of Manitoba. The program involved university coursework required to meet certification requirements, practicum placements, professional development and networking, and customized language support.  The program was premised on an equity mandate that promoted a more diverse teaching force and recognized the many attributes of internationally educated teachers.

One of my roles was to chair advisory committee meetings with key stakeholders, including school division liaisons (often superintendents), ministry representatives from education and immigration, NGO service providers, and teacher education colleagues from the Faculty of Education.

Discussions at the bi-monthly meetings were intense and often controversial. Committee members had different levels of investment in issues facing IETs—some were part of this committee because they were immigrant teachers themselves and spent years trying to move an equity agenda forward; others were new to issues facing internationally educated teachers and had been assigned to be part of this committee by their school divisions.  The issues presented below were raised by different stakeholders at advisory committee meetings over the duration of the program, though not all of the issues arose at the same meeting.

Key stakeholders raised questions and concerns such as:

  • “Why should we support an initiative to integrate immigrant teachers when we have other hiring priorities, such as employing more male teachers in elementary schools?”
  • “What is being done to ensure the IETs’ language is up to par?  Parents will complain if their accents are too strong.”
  • “Those of you [two female coordinators] promoting this program just won’t let up—you pursue your goals like pitbulls.”
  • “When given the choice between hiring a 50-year old immigrant teacher and a 23-year-old graduate from a Manitoba Faculty of Education, I would hire the 23-year old grad in every case.  Parents want young and energetic teachers.”
  • “I’m not sure why we have a Ukrainian teacher and a Filipino teacher placed in our school—we don’t have any students from those backgrounds.”


To learn more about this scenario, including the author’s own response, please attend the Intersections of Diverse Teachers and Diverse Learners at CSSE 2013, or stay tuned to the DiT website because we will be posting those details in the near future.

Until then, please leave a comment so that we can read your responses to this scenario. Here are some questions to consider interacting with each other and the author (Dr. Clea Shmidt, from the University of Manitoba) about:

  1. What assumptions are reflected in each comment?  
  2. What “isms” come across in the various viewpoints represented?  
  3. What challenges arise in doing advocacy work at the systemic level? 


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