Letter puts Minister in sticky situation

A letter written by Education Minister Don McRae when he was a teacher lamenting classroom overcrowding has come back to haunt him

A letter written by Education Minister Don McRae when he was a Comox Valley teacher lamenting classroom overcrowding has come back to haunt him.

The president of the Campbell River District Teachers’ Association Elaine Thompson said she hopes McRae’s concerns as a teacher will follow him into his new portfolio. McRae was shifted from Agriculture to Education in Premier Christy Clark’s recent cabinet shuffle.

“When he was a teacher he wrote a very powerful letter about the difficulties of teaching large classes with numerous students that had special needs,” said Thompson, referring to a letter McRae wrote to North Island NDP MLA Claire Trevena towards the end of his 14-year career as a high school teacher.McRae wrote: “This semester I have 128 students and 18 IEPs (Individualized Education Program special needs students) in total. My concern is that I do not know just how effective I will be as an educator this year. With large classes, management becomes a bigger issue, and more time is spent trying to get students on task. If I continue to teach classes of this size and composition, I do not see how the system will get 18 more years of service from me. I would eventually break or stop caring, and then it would be time for me to move on.”

Thompson said: “Unfortunately, since McRae decided to move on…we have not heard him speak out about the issues surrounding large classes with so many special needs students.

We have only heard him defend the government’s education bills. And as an MLA, he told colleagues in a school staff room that he worked harder as a teacher than he does as an MLA. So we know that he understands how difficult a job it is to be a teacher.”