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The Bureaucracy of Credential Evaluation

In May of 2016, I started the process of trying to recertify myself for teaching. I graduated from the University of Western Ontario Bachelor of Education program in 2003. I taught on call for a year before taking a full time job as an Academic Advisor; the bills had to be paid, and the on call experience was unreliable income. 13 years later, I thought it would be great to try my hand at teaching again.

I found myself on the Teacher Regulation Branch: BC Ministry of Education website learning what steps I would need to take to become certified to teach in BC.

May.

I needed to submit an application, plus a $245 application fee. Ouch. I contacted the Teacher Regulation Branch to see if they could advise, without me paying the fee, if my application *could* be successful. They said that I would need to apply and then they would advise. They would not give an answer until I paid the $245.

I created an online profile. Then downloaded the application and paid the required fee.

June.

I receive an email from the Teacher Regulation branch of further materials required to complete my application.

  1. Official transcripts mailed directly from every post-secondary institution I’ve attended.
  2. A notarized photocopy of my birth certificate.
  3. A notarized photocopy of my marriage certificate, divorce certificate, Canadian permanent resident card, Canadian citizenship card/certificate, or legal change of name document.
  4. A copy of a teaching report or letter of recommendation from your last principal, vice-principal, or supervising official.
  5. Two confidential character reference forms are required for your application. Forms must be sent directly by my referees.
  6. Verification of my teaching experience for each year of the last twenty years.
  7. Reinstatement of my Ontario Teaching Certificate

Wow. Where do I begin?

  1. Transcripts – $60
  2. Good thing I have a sister who is a lawyer – free
  3. Same as point # 2.
  4. This is a story.

I haven’t taught in 13 years. I was on call. While I remembered the name of the supervising principle, he did not remember me. I tried to jig his memory, but couldn’t. I contacted the Teacher Regulation Branch and asked what I should do. I was informed that I could instead use my Practicum Reports from my Education degree program. From 13 years ago. I then asked what would happen if I didn’t have the Practicum Reports and was informed “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.” I asked for the worst-case scenario. She would not answer me. She informed me that I would most definitely have held on to my Practicum Reports and to go look.

I hung up the phone a bit deflated.

I then emailed the principal once more. Very carefully outlined each assignment that I did for his school, and added photos of myself. I felt like a creep, but he did remember me and wrote me the required recommendation.

Later, I also found the Practicum Reports.

  1. I asked two of my co-workers to submit these for me, as I didn’t have anyone who could vouch for my experience otherwise.
  2. I contacted the payroll department of the last school district I worked for and had them send in the required documentation.
  3. I found that to reactivate my membership, I had to pay

$150 to reactivate my membership with Ontario College of Teachers
$135 annual fee to Ontario College of Teachers

July.

An email:

“The documents will be added to your file for review. Please note that we are experiencing high volumes. For updates, please check your status online in the applicants’ area where you submitted your application. The status will be updated as documents are added to your file.”

I continue to check my online status and see that some documents have not been acknowledged. I email them to check.

End of July. Another email:

“I have added these documents to your file, which is now in queue for evaluation.”

August 22.

I receive an email indicating that I failed to send one transcript. I send the transcript.

October 13

An email.

“To issue your teaching certificate, we require payment of the annual fee.  Payment of this fee is required each year to maintain your certificate and is separate from the fee paid when you applied.  You may pay the fee by logging into the Applicant’s Area where you submitted your application.

Once your certificate is issued, we will forward a copy to the Teacher Qualification Service (TQS). If you intend to teach in BC public schools, you should apply to TQS who will set your pay category. For information related to salary and the TQS application process, please visit the TQS website at www.tqs.bc.ca.”

What does this mean? Can I teach?! I email to ask.

Their reply:

“Once your annual fee is paid, a certificate will be issued. It is the final step in the certification process.”

I still have no idea.

October 26

I receive a letter. Finally.

I have been issued a ‘Basic Certificate of Qualification.’

If I am to upgrade to a ‘Professional Certificate,’ I am required to complete 12 more credits of education methodology, as well as:

  1. a) complete a practicum teaching at the elementary level supervised by the Faculty of Education at a British Columbia University or
  2. b) gain acceptable teaching experience of 75 days in one school year, or 100 days in two years.

Okay. I can do this.

November

I contact the school district to ask if I can apply with my basic certificate as an on-call teacher while taking the courses. I was informed that my application would not be recognized, as I have not been in a classroom since 2004.

December

I speak with the Heart Program at SFU. If I want to teach, I am required to take 3 Education courses and a practicum (one full semester – full time). In order to get into the Heart Program, I am required to have experience in the classroom. I need to have a quality volunteer experience, which means I will need to take time off work to volunteer to meet the admission requirements of the program. The application deadline is February 15th for the September program.

What I’ve learned from this:

  1. Start volunteering in the classroom while your credentials are being evaluated.
  2. The application fee is misleading. It was $245 to apply, but the additional costs added to a $590 total price tag.
  3. The amount of time required for this process was astounding.
  4. The road is a lot longer and more challenging than I anticipated.
  5. I have a whole new appreciation for the frustrations of newcomers to Canada. I am sure that my experience is a pale comparison to what newcomers have to do to be certified in their given profession here.

I’ll keep you posted as I progress. Fingers’ crossed; I’ll be in the classroom next September.