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Sask. education students question their futures amid teacher labour unrest

Anna Woodward, left, and Keziah Corrigan are in their first years at the University of Regina studying to become French immersion teachers. (Jessie Anton/CBC - image credit)
Anna Woodward, left, and Keziah Corrigan are in their first years at the University of Regina studying to become French immersion teachers. (Jessie Anton/CBC - image credit)

Anna Woodward was moved to tears when she saw teachers on the picket lines in Regina last week.

As someone who's studying to be a French math teacher, Woodward said the labour unrest has her weighing the pros and cons of her future profession.

"In a way, I'm like, 'I can make a change.' But I'm also feeling defeated," she said in an interview with CBC News.

"I've had a lot of back-and-forths, thinking, 'Do I really want to do this?' Because I'm diving headfirst into the problem."

Negotiations between the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (STF) and the provincial government remain at an impasse.

WATCH | What's on the minds of future teachers:

The STF says class sizes and resources for kids with complex needs must be part of teachers' latest bargaining contract.

The government has maintained those issues are not best dealt with at the provincial level, noting that it's already put money toward classroom supports through a pilot program. However, critics have argued that, because it's only rolling out in select schools, it doesn't address the wider need.

Woodward and her first-year classmate, Keziah Corrigan, who's also studying to become a French immersion teacher, say at this point they're not feeling equipped for what's ahead.

"We have to act as the school psychologist, we have to regulate lots of behavioural issues and we're not being prepared for that," Corrigan said, noting they're hoping to learn more teaching tools later on in their studies.

"It's really disheartening to feel that and to know that you won't be able to serve your kids as best as you can."

James Nahachewsky, the dean of the faculty of education at the University of Regina, said enrolment has remained steady over the past five years.
James Nahachewsky, the dean of the faculty of education at the University of Regina, said enrolment has remained steady over the past five years.

James Nahachewsky, the dean of the faculty of education at the University of Regina, said enrolment has remained steady over the past five years. (Jessie Anton/CBC)

Despite the added pressures in the classroom, enrolment in the University of Regina's faculty of education has remained steady around 2,000 students over the last five falls — something the dean attributes to an affinity for the job.

"There are ups and downs, but there's a particular individual and interest and passion, so — for a lack of a better term — they're called to the career," James Nahachewsky said.

It's for that reason Woodward and Corrigan remain steadfast in their majors.

"It's something I've known I wanted to do for a really long time, so I can't see myself doing anything else," Woodward said.

Corrigan agreed, noting she comes from at least two generations of teachers and it's imperative for her to continue the family tradition.

"There wouldn't be lawyers, there wouldn't be doctors without someone teaching them first. I want to help this next generation of kids. I want, as a teacher, to help them reach their full potential," Corrigan said.

"That's what keeps me going."

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