Whitehorse Daily Star

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Ted Hupé

Housing shortage depriving towns of teachers

Ted Hupé will tackle housing shortages for rural teachers and bolster mental health support in schools during his term as president of the Yukon Teachers’ Association (YTA).

By Gabrielle Plonka on June 29, 2020

Ted Hupé will tackle housing shortages for rural teachers and bolster mental health support in schools during his term as president of the Yukon Teachers’ Association (YTA).

“Every rural community has lost prospective teacher candidates because there’s no housing,” Hupé told the Star this morning.

“If we want to create stable schools throughout the territory, and if we want to create stable communities for our children, housing is a major component.”

Hupé was elected YTA president on May 20, defeating Ted Cook. He will serve a two-year term.

Outgoing president Sue Ross announced her retirement last January and did not run for re-election.

Hupé ran for the YTA presidency on a four-pillar platform promising to build community, open dialogue on the housing shortage, enhance mental health support and provide teachers with trauma-informed care training.

The housing shortage in rural communities has been a problem for teachers since the 1960s, Hupé explained.

“It’s not new, and it’s not looking like it’s going to go away,” Hupé said.

“What I’m trying to do is get more people involved in the discussion.”

That means engaging the First Nations, the Yukon government, the school councils association, administrators and teachers to find creative solutions to a pervasive problem.

That solution will be individual to each community.

Hupé said initial conversations with a school principal in Pelly Crossing explored entering a joint venture with the Selkirk First Nation.

Hupé said the First Nations will play a big role in finding the solution, particularly in communities where they control the housing stock.

There is a housing committee in the Department of Education that currently co-ordinates with the Yukon Housing Corp., Hupé said. The committee has to balance demand with other government agencies that house staff, particularly nurses.

“Often it puts agencies at odds, and then the teachers come in, and sometimes there’s no housing,” Hupé said.

There have been past situations where teachers were secured temporary housing that could be lost the next year or after a three-year term, making it difficult to put down roots.

“If we want long-term or longer-term placements for teachers in the rural communities, we’re going to have to somehow figure out this housing problem or housing issue,” Hupé said.

Hupé is also prioritizing mental health support and trauma-informed care in schools.

Hupé previously served as the long-time principal of Holy Family Elementary School in Porter Creek.

He said he observed the importance of mental health support while in that position, discovering that students’ discipline problems could often be traced back to mental health.

“Having had some trauma-informed instruction and training, I was starting to look at kids differently,” Hupé said.

“Kids don’t want to be difficult….They really want to do well, but sometimes they don’t have the tools.”

Mental health workers were hired at Holy Family to give teachers some tools and advice on how to better support students. Trauma-informed training has also been implemented at Takhini and Selkirk Elementary schools. 

Hupé wants mental health and trauma-informed training to expand to schools across the Yukon. He envisions a “wrap-around system” involving mental health experts and families.

He noted that the wellness hubs in the Yukon’s communities have had a positive impact on schools in Dawson City, Haines Junction and Pelly Crossing. Elementary schools in Whitehorse still have very few mental health resources.

“I want to bring the various departments together and I want to add that support,” Hupé said.

“That would be beneficial for all schools, for all teachers; it would allow us to deal with some of the issues we face in the classrooms differently and gives us the tools to do so.”

Hupé said he was impressed with how quickly Yukon teachers adapted to teaching remotely during the school closure this spring.

“We have made great strides, I was very proud of what teachers were able to do in a very short time,” Hupé said.

Before the pandemic, administrators were considering a system-wide swap to Google Classroom.

They believed it would take a year to implement the change, Hupé said. When the pandemic hit and forced the issue, the entire network of teachers switched to the new system in one week.

“It was something no one envisioned,” Hupé said.

“The whole system switched on a dime, because everyone needed to, and did a great job. That’s one example of a positive change.”

It was challenging to provide consistent programming through all the schools, particularly because every teacher’s comfort level with technology is different.

“We had some teachers who were struggling, but everyone found a way to provide programming to their kids,” Hupé said.

Many elementary students struggled with the remote learning, without the in-person guidance of a teacher to motivate and provide feedback, Hupé said. He noted his own daughter, who was in the fifth grade, missed learning from her teacher.

If another wave of COVID-19 forces a reclosure of schools, Hupé said, other avenues of face-to-face learning would be considered.

“We learned very quickly that having a teacher in front of them … was much more positive, much more conducive to learning,” Hupé said.

Hupé said he is confident that teachers are well-poised to take on virtual learning again, should it be necessary.

Hupé has been an educator in the Yukon since 1992, and is well-known for his contributions to the wrestling program.

He left his position as principal of Holy Family, which he’d held for 17 years, to take on the presidency.

Previous to that, he was the vice-principal of Christ the King Elementary School in Riverdale.

Comments (18)

Up 1 Down 2

Dawson on Jul 5, 2020 at 4:32 pm

As a 'community' resident, they are not all the same. In Dawson we have a functioning housing market and a quality of life to envy. There is no justificaton that the very same YHC unit given to a teacher on $100K pays $600 month while a working single parent making $48K pays $1,000 month for that same apartment.

The market rent policy enables the private sector to provide this housing. If government needs to pay a bigger salary differential for some remote communities then so be it but in places such as Dawson, having the government build and rent the housing to teachers is just inefficient and wasteful. Everybody knows it costs government tenders at least 50% extra to build the very same thing the private market does and way, way more to maintain it too.

Up 1 Down 0

Jennifer Smith on Jul 5, 2020 at 2:44 pm

@Jack
Teachers should be paid as much as they want, as well as childcare workers, nurses, senior care workers, and all other "essential workers" we've all recently become aware of during the pandemic. Pay them what they want, plus ten percent. Make their pensions platinum plated! Because it takes a certain kind of person to do this work, with special training. And if you have a problem with private sector jobs that have no security and no pension, maybe you should talk to your boss. It's a race to the bottom and you're only working to make your boss richer. P.S. I'm not a teacher, but I am a parent.

Up 5 Down 3

For Fox Creek on Jul 4, 2020 at 9:38 pm

Mr. Groucho - Sorry. No person in their right mind would risk financial ruin to work in the chaos of a community. The people who think otherwise are likely on the wrong side of the moron continuum.

The Liberals have made things worse in the communities with their stupidity of market priced rent. If one is going to jeopardize their mental and physical well-being by working in a community they deserve financial compensation. Especially since no person can afford groceries in a community and there is a very real lack of essential services in the communities requiring regular travel to Whitehorse.

Up 10 Down 1

Atom on Jul 4, 2020 at 11:55 am

This has been brought to MLAs for decades and not one has addressed it. I can think of a handful of them who have slipped away with their pension who basically only warmed the seat.

Up 12 Down 1

Dentist on Jul 3, 2020 at 6:25 pm

It seems that in many of the smaller communities like Carmacks, Teslin, Pelly Crossing, Old Crow, Burwash Landing, First Nations students make up a majority of the student body. Why aren't the First Nations governments dealing with the housing shortages?

Up 15 Down 3

woodcutter on Jul 3, 2020 at 2:40 pm

Why is it up to government to deal with housing in the remote communities? Would you invest $450,000 into a house in one of the communities outside of Whitehorse, with no possible means of selling it to someone for that amount? Do you think a bank would finance your purchase? Not a chance.

Why is the solution always a dumping of obligation by one government onto the another government?

Up 19 Down 10

Jack on Jul 3, 2020 at 3:59 am

Outrageous, Teachers are some of the highest paid in society not including vacation time, job security and gold plated pensions that people in the private sector (who pay their salaries) can only dream of.

Up 15 Down 3

Groucho d'North on Jul 2, 2020 at 9:46 pm

@ Woodcutter,
I am aware of the Yukon's housing situation and call me old fashioned but I see it as an opportunity to create some jobs building new residences. More jobs in managing the inventory so the teachers, doctors and nurses needed in the community will have some housing options. But why does it always have to be the territorial government who has to do these things? There are other orders of government that also benefit from having these professionals in the community. The municipal government and the local first nation governments could also claim some ownership and invest in local housing. It's called growth and development and I can't understand why it is so elusive in the rural communities.

Up 21 Down 18

mike s on Jul 2, 2020 at 4:19 pm

Must be pretty tough for teachers to find housing when they only make $150,000/year

Up 32 Down 6

Sergio on Jul 2, 2020 at 4:03 pm

And what about the teachers who have lived off free staff housing for years and years, who own a house in the community and have rented it out for many years, hence double dipping of the gov with no end in sight? How about establishing some rules and codes of ethics for them, not crying because there is no housing.

Up 17 Down 4

woodcutter on Jul 2, 2020 at 1:57 pm

@ groucho
You do realize, that in many communities there is no rental market, let alone a market to buy and sell houses? Your point was lost in your declaration of people should "have too". I have lived in worked in 4 of our remote communities and I can attest to the challenge of housing the professionals in those communities.

Let's face it, the short period of time spent by teachers in the remote communities, is in many cases a stepping stone to gain experience so to move onto better things.
From my experience, employers need to address accommodations for staff in the communities, to even have people consider working in the communities.

Up 24 Down 11

Groucho d'North on Jul 1, 2020 at 4:11 pm

@Woodcutter
You are aware that just about every other person who moves to a community in pursuit of employment is responsible to find and pay for their accommodation needs right? Some employers may help these new people out in some fashion and that is nice when it happens but it is not the norm.
Government is having a tough time recruiting in some communities due to the reputation some communities have earned for themselves.
We are still a free market economy and nobody is being forced to work or live where they do not want to.
My point is if the housing bonus helps to recruit new workers to the communities well and good, but it should not be a bonus that lives on in perpetuity. With all the chatter about equality lately I am looking at things through that filter more.

Up 31 Down 2

My Opinion on Jul 1, 2020 at 12:37 pm

Maybe the fact that people do not want to go to those communities has something to do with it. RCMP force their members to go. And they have great housing. The quality of the Community has a lot to do with attracting any people to work, money only goes so far.

Up 23 Down 6

Commieman on Jul 1, 2020 at 11:57 am

It's a sign of the community when they don't welcome new folks...it's the 'old' folks

Up 19 Down 19

Woodcutter on Jul 1, 2020 at 11:02 am

Force teachers to buy or rent in the community they work in?
In some cases there is nothing to rent, other then Yukon housing, and forcing people to purchase, well that stinks like an authoritarian regime. Perhaps those over simple solutions that come from overly simple minds are the trade mark of overly conservative political beliefs?

Up 35 Down 12

Groucho d'North on Jun 30, 2020 at 1:54 pm

Government should limit the housing benefit for teachers and similar professionals to two years, then they have to purchase or rent their own accomodations and become invested members of the community.

Up 23 Down 9

Ruth on Jun 30, 2020 at 7:40 am

We have houses for sale in Watson Lake. Come here!

Up 11 Down 18

Matthew on Jun 29, 2020 at 10:27 pm

Want teachers? House them! Humans are social by nature and for the most part, thrive in a community. Taking that away, especially in kids WILL severely damage them in the future, just wait and see... think kids are addicted to smart phones right now? You haven't seen nothing yet! The Orwelian nightmare is quickly approaching!

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