The Ministry of Education stands behind the removal of a Prince George teacher from a Strong Start Centre facilitator position.
Ministry staff told The Citizen that a policy was specifically enacted when the Strong Start program was launched that the leaders of those classes be holders of the Early Childhood Education certificate. The reason being, all kids who attend those sites are pre-schoolers coming on a drop-in basis with parents attending with them. They are housed in schools but the format is not school.
It was revealed this week that retired teacher Joan Nachbaur had, for five years, been running the Strong Start centre at Rob Brent elementary school but could no longer do so because she did not have the ECE diploma. This triggered a protest on the front lawn of School District 57's administration building and a wave of social media support for keeping her in her position.
Nachbaur is a qualified teacher (bachelor's degree specializing in early childhood learning) with a master's degree (in special education), with more than 30 years of Kindergarten experience.
It might appear similar on the surface, but there are a spectrum of differences, according to the Ministry of Education.
"ECE qualification is specifically for these youngest of children and it does differ from the profession of teacher," said ministry spokesman Scott Sutherland. "The regulatory body is different, the training is different, the requirements of employment are different. This is not a teaching position."
Nachbaur said she has decided against pursuing the ECE qualifications and will instead be content with retirement. That choice, said Sutherland, was critical to the decision to remove her from the position.
"There is an exemption to the rule about having the ECE qualifications," he said. "You can still work in a Strong Start facility if you are enrolled in courses leading towards those qualifications and you have a mentorship partner with someone who does have an ECE license in good standing. It is the ministry's understanding that [School District 57] offered to work with her to get this license. If a facilitator isn't willing to work towards an ECE certification (typically a 10-month course if done at once), a school district would have no choice but to find an alternate qualified candidate. The district's hands would be tied."
The ministry would not speculate on suggestions that the Strong Start rules be changed to include elementary school teachers or other certified professions that work with young children, or that post-secondary regimens be changed so all elementary teachers emerge from their training with ECE certification built into their credentials.