Deputy Registrar's Message

Chantal Bélisle, OCT

Reaching for a Higher Standard

Teachers, as professionals, grow through self-reflection and action. So, too, does the Ontario College of Teachers.

We conducted a strategic priority-setting exercise in late 2018, which resulted in a realignment of the College’s work. At Council’s direction we aligned our work to more clearly define how to:

  • strengthen transparency and accountability
  • manage risk more strategically, and
  • improve stakeholder engagement.

In the interest of transparency, we made it a priority to speak plainly — in our conversations, on our website, in our magazine and documents, and in dialogue with members of the profession and the public. For members, we updated our mobile app for easier access to membership information, new and improved library services and timely College news. In so doing, we discontinued our annual printed renewal package resulting in financial and environmental savings. On the public side, we saw interest and open rates soar for The Standard, our e-newsletter that goes to 30,000 public subscribers.

Transparency is also evidenced in the manner in which the College seeks opinions from members and the public and in the way we share proposed activities or initiatives. For example, we hosted focus groups in six Ontario communities during the summer to gather public and professional opinions on everything from governance and the College’s name to topics for future professional advisories. In 2019 we updated our professional advisory about Professional Misconduct of a Sexual Nature and created audio versions in English and French of all existing advisories. As well, we visited seven communities to share advice about Supporting Students’ Mental Health in addition to mailing copies to our 235,000 members. Next year, we’ll introduce advice to members about professional boundaries.

To help those aspiring to become teachers, we updated our Essential Advice to the Teaching Profession and produced two guides to explain the registration appeals process to College applicants. As well, we visited Ontario’s faculties of education to provide teacher candidates with information on the roles and responsibilities of the College, the privilege of self-regulation and how to register.

In keeping with our streamlined and accessible right-touch approach to accreditation, we translated all documents required for the reviews of French-language programs of professional education. We also developed a system to log and quantify our work with accreditation providers, which also helped to enrich the knowledge of College staff.

Accountability to the public is one of the foundations of professional regulation. With the provincial government’s introduction of a mathematics proficiency test as a condition of certification, member records will now include passing the test, which was developed by the Education Quality and Accountability Office and conducted at Ontario education faculties. The new requirement sits within our legislated mandate to set and administer procedures to certify Ontario teachers and to demonstrate to the public the high level of preparation of Ontario teachers. It affects those who apply for certification on or after March 31, 2020.

To help manage risk, the College undertook a comprehensive review of our governance structure to consider contemporary practices and changes to enhance the College’s governance. What we learned from the report we commissioned and which informs our way forward, we shared with members and other interested Ontario regulators.

Our investigations and hearings processes are also guided by the principles of risk mitigation and harm reduction. To support our disciplinary, corporate and registration processes, we conducted a detailed review of our legal needs and providers. To improve accountability, staff developed a method to track Discipline Committee orders that impose costs and fines on members following a disciplinary process, including escalation in the event of non-payment. We automated our system to track the issuance of Notices of Hearing of disciplinary hearings in a timely manner because we recognize that timely outcomes inspire public confidence and ensure administrative fairness to members.

Following an assessment of the reporting of incidents of professional misconduct/incompetence by provincial school boards and school authorities, we reached out to almost 20 Directors of Education to discuss the role they play in assisting the College in our mandate of protecting students. To further assist students, we have been working closely with the government to create a program to provide financial help to students who have been sexually abused or involved in child pornography while under supervision or responsibility of an Ontario Certified Teacher. As of January 1, 2020, the program will help to pay therapy and counselling costs. Always, we share what we know and have learned with others. For example, the College hosted other Ontario regulators in October to discuss best practices and challenges in receiving and managing concerns and complaints about members.

Collaboration with our members is one way in which the College has strengthened its stakeholder engagement. For example, with members’ help, we began to develop standards-based teacher education resources on everything from environmental stewardship and ecological literacy to fostering cultures of well-being within professional practice. In partnership with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the College reproduced the Ethical Standards for the Teaching Profession and the Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession in Braille in both English and French. Among our efforts to support Indigenous education, the College developed representations of the ethical standards with a Mohawk artist and linguist from Six Nations of the Grand River, and co-presented at the Canadian Network of Agencies for Regulation’s 2019 conference on Collaboration that Honours Truth and Reconciliation within a Regulatory Context.

Engagement goes beyond in-person engagement to include interactions in the digital realm. In October, we conducted a week-long social media campaign around World Teachers’ Day to leverage the deep, personal associations many people feel towards their most influential teachers. One and a half million people saw the digital ads. In the process, we received more than 37,000 clicks, likes, shares and comments, and increased our engagement by 183 per cent over the 2018 campaign. Social media platforms such as Facebook helped us to answer general inquiries and strengthened our efforts to educate and inform members and the public about our work. Our Client Services staff, meanwhile, fielded 40 or more inquiries every day.

Throughout the year, we met with staff from principal and teacher federations, hosted delegations from counties such as Australia, the Republic of Korea, the People’s Republic of China and the Netherlands and pre-service teacher education institutions from England, Scotland, Wales and the United States. We also spoke with dignitaries such as Quebec’s Minister of Education.

Transparency, risk mitigation, accountability and collegiality will continue to shape our work to keep Ontario students safe.

On behalf of our Council, our senior leadership team and staff, as well as our partners in education and self-regulation, I humbly submit evidence of this year’s achievements in the service of the public interest.

Chantal Bélisle, OCT
Deputy Registrar