by Phil Ambroziak

What a difference a week makes.

After recently being given until April 19 to locate a qualified French immersion teacher for Carpenter High School in Meadow Lake, the Northwest School Division has already signed, sealed and – by next fall – will deliver on that promise.

“We are excited to announce a French immersion teacher for the 2018-2019 school year has verbally accepted an offer to join NWSD,” noted a recent post on the school division’s website. “The board of education is pleased to be able to move the program forward at Carpenter High School.”

While details about what the high school program will look like moving forward are not yet in place, school division officials say they look forward to continuing to offer French immersion to its cohort of hard working students.

“What’s exciting is the students will now have face-to-face access to a qualified, French immersion teacher,” stated Davin Hildebrand, the NWSD’s superintendent of human resources.

Hildebrand said students at Jonas Samson Junior High will also benefit, as another French immersion teacher has been hired for that school as well.

“This means there will be no more triple-grading for the program at that school,” he added.

The April 19 hiring deadline was issued at the NWSD’s regular board meeting Jan. 11, and – although he would not share the new teachers’ names just yet – Hildebrand did confirm they have been signed and described the ability to hire two teachers so quickly as being a turn of good fortune.

“Recruiting qualified French immersion teachers is a challenge all across Canada,” he said. “It’s not easy to find them, especially at the high school level when they need to have the language background, as well as specific subject background.”

Because of this difficulty, as well as the fact only six students are enrolled in the program at CHS this year, current French immersion students in Grade 10 at Carpenter have been completing their respective courses online. In some cases, however, this has proven difficult without the aid of a classroom teacher to provide the necessary guidance.

“I am so excited to hear about the school board hiring a teacher for Carpenter,” remarked Grade 10 French immersion student Tori Wood. “It’s not just beneficial to us students, but it’s also such a beneficial program to the town and, without it continuing to Grade 12, it would lose interest. I cannot wait to meet our new teacher next year.”

Prior to the recent announcement, Wood was concerned the continued lack of a teacher would mean the program itself would not continue. In September, however, an additional 11 French immersion students are expected to transition from Jonas Samson Junior High to CHS. One such individual is Grade 9 student Jillian Russell.

“It’s super important to have this program continue because it will open so many doors for us in the future when we’re trying to get a job,” Russell said. “I’m definitely happy to know a new teacher has been hired.”

Her classmate, Victoria Bell, agreed.

“We’re very lucky they were able to hire another teacher because it will make life so much easier for us when we reach high school,” she stated. “By having an education in French immersion, we will have a chance at getting better, higher paying jobs. It will be great to graduate with French immersion on our diplomas. I would also like to encourage parents to enrol their kids in French immersion because it’s such a great program.”