A frenzy of support has collected around Joan Nachbaur.
The longtime School District 57 teacher has been leading one of the city's Strong Start Centres for the past five years. It was a retirement project. After she ended her 30-plus years in the elementary school system, she turned her attention to the preschool program offered at Ron Brent elementary school.
There she made many friends and admirers. When she was unexpectedly dismissed from her job just last week, an eruption of them voiced their opposition. A protest was held at the SD57 office this week and social media threads have started up on her behalf.
She was told the firing was due to her credentials. Her teaching degree (a five-year Bachelor's degree specializing in early childhood learning) was in good order, as was her Masters degree (specializing in special-needs learning). Other than a few years in the Grade 1 to 3 levels, her entire career was teaching Kindergarten students, the next level up from the preschool kids that Strong Start Centres are intended for.
But she did not have the 10-month Early Childhood Education (ECE) diploma, and provincial policy leaves no room for interpretation. To teach the Strong Start Centre programs, one must be ECE certified.
"The school district's hands were tied. They had no choice," said Nachbaur. "I was devastated."
The indication she received, said Nachbaur, was that the district knew fully that she was without the ECE piece of paper throughout her five-year tenure but had to cut her from the position when their funding for the position was threatened.
Nachbaur found extra irony in the fact she was one of the teachers who got to sign off on ECE students when they completed their practicums.
The school district was unable to speak about the situation due to Protection Of Privacy laws. Superintendent Brian Pepper said the language in the provincial protocols made no mention of special circumstances whereby someone with the ECE certificate could still stand at the head of the Strong Start class.
"Since this all happened I've heard so many stories that don't even involve the school district but injustice in the workplace," Nachbaur said. "It's going on and people are suffering and hidden away. God bless these parents because it needed to be said. My young moms, I am so proud of them. I am humbled and honoured to be part of their lives. They just took this on. I feel very valued by this little community of people."
She hopes the new person in the Ron Brent Strong Start position is given the same respect and appreciation that she was rewarded with over the years. She has no intention of obtaining the ECE papers herself.
"It's pricey and I'm 62, but that job is my respite," she said. "It was a gift from heaven when I got that position. I would hope for every child to go into their classroom to a teacher who loved to be there. I did. And my moms were just amazing."