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Blog: Thursday, May 17th, 2018

Why Abbotsford?

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

I have decided to go back to my Top 10 list in education for 2018, and this time share my thoughts on an issue that all BC districts are tackling— teacher recruitment and retention. Oh, how times have changed! In the course of my school visits nowadays, I invariably meet new teachers (Ravi and Carissa from Howe Middle pictured here), and I am compelled to ask them why they chose to come work for us. Many say that they live here or have family here, but others also remark about the interesting things going on in our schools. And of course, others mention that they want to live in the Fraser Valley, where real estate is (a little) more affordable than Metro.

As the dynamics of education in the province have changed almost overnight, I have come to reflect on its impact on teacher recruitment. If you are from my vintage, you will know that we had the opposite problem in the late eighties. Those of us who wanted to start teaching right away took jobs in the interior or the north, in the hopes of returning at a later date. Others began on the local TOC list and worked themselves into a continuing within a few years. Few of us got continuing positions right out of university. Now that the tables have turned, however, districts can no longer sit back as we have done for years, thinking that teachers will just come our way. The fact is that for the first time in years, teachers in BC have a choice. They can choose where they want to work, and do not have to settle for the first job that comes along. Districts now need to promote themselves to recruit new teachers, and to retain the ones they currently have.

Some of you are aware of our active recruitment efforts here in Abbotsford over the last few months. We have gone on the offensive, for instance, with student teachers in our local universities. Those of you who are familiar with these programs would also know that a number of the faculty advisors are former teachers and administrators from this district, giving us better points of contact point. We have had to tighten our connection with UFV and TWU, for instance, by encouraging more of our schools to host practicum students. Having students do their practicum here allows us to have a protracted job interview for them. What is particularly encouraging for me is to see students graduate from our high schools, attend our local university and secure employment sometimes in the very schools where they graduated. It builds community, but also gives us a unique opportunity to shape instructional practice. We have a diverse community, and it also makes sense that this diversity should be reflected in our teachers.

One of the other things we have created to support new teachers is to streamline the onboarding process. It starts with the Come Learn with Us approach utilized by our HR Department, which takes more a deliberate approach from the point of application all the way to the very structured Mentorship Program we have now developed. Again, it is a commitment to being more purposeful in the way we recruit and welcome new teachers to the district. New teachers tell us that they appreciate this level of support as they start with us. Good to know.

Of course, one of the interesting developments faced by all of us has been the relocation of many experienced teachers across the districts. In the same way that teachers have moved into Abbotsford from surrounding districts, so too have we lost teachers to our neighbours. I can appreciate that it is more desirable to teach in your own community, and avoid a lengthy commute, particularly if you have a young family. While this “resettling” is understandable, the competitive side of me wants to ensure that we keep as many of our staff as possible. Newly arrived teachers tell me that one of the attractive things about our district is the depth and range of professional learning opportunities we have in Abbotsford. It is with that in mind that we are providing support for teachers, for instance, who wish to get specialization in learning services. It stands to reason that an organization committed to student learning would also be invested in adult learning.

Our work is not over. We continue to explore value-added opportunities to make this district a great place to live, work and learn.


By Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

Kevin has been the Superintendent of Schools for the Abbotsford School District since July 2011, overseeing some 19,000 students and 2,500 employees. Kevin is committed to student success in all forms and envisions a school district that can nimbly respond to the ever changing needs and interests of its students.