Starting your career successfully

January 14, 2015 Kurt Moench

There are a huge number of issues to consider when just starting your teaching career, moving from another province or even just changing school boards.

Here are just a few items to keep in mind:

  • Legal framework
  • Certification
  • Teacher Qualifications Service Evaluation (TQSE) and previous teaching experience
  • Contract of employment
  • Collective agreement
  • Teaching Quality Standard (TQS) and teacher evaluation process
  • And yes of course there is your teaching assignment — mustn’t overlook that

Teachers will encounter problems if they overlook or do not fully attend to all of these issues before and just after starting a new teaching job.

Legal framework

One requirement of interim certification and TQS is that teachers have a basic understanding of the legal framework of their profession. Of course, this includes the School Act, the Teaching Profession Act, Alberta Education policies, and school district policies and regulations.

Problems arise when teachers ignore these legal expectations. If you are not sure about an issue and your employer has not provided clear information, call the Association.


If you do not have a valid teaching credential you cannot teach!

Occasionally, teachers will neglect to renew an interim teaching certificate or incorrectly assume that their teaching certificate from another province or country allows them to teach in Alberta.

If you do not have a valid certificate, you cannot teach, be a member of the ATA or even be paid as a teacher. Also, an application for an interim teaching certificate or letter of authority to teach takes weeks to process and the application itself is not sufficient to teach. You must have your teaching credential in your possession and share it with your employer.  

The teacher certification branch of Alberta Education is responsible for the evaluation of credentials and issuance of certification for teachers in Alberta.

An interim certificate is valid for up to three years with the possibility of extension if needed. To move to permanent certification, a teacher must have taught for a minimum of two school years (or equivalent) in the province’s school system and receive a written recommendation for permanent certification from the school district.

Due to the recent Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT), teachers from outside Alberta who hold valid Canadian certification can obtain certification (either an interim certificate or letter of authority) in Alberta without additional training and examination, but conditions may be attached to the certificate.

Teacher QualificationS Service Evaluation (TQSE) and previous teaching experience

Are you being paid properly? Have you checked your pay statement?

Problems can arise for teachers if they do not get all the information they need to their employer and if they do not check that they are being paid properly.

If teachers don’t inform their school boards of their education beyond three or four years of university (or of their previous teaching experience), then they will be paid at the lowest possible level. In the past this has cost some teachers thousands of dollars per year.

The Teacher Qualifications Service (TQS) is the agency in Alberta responsible for evaluating a teacher’s years of education for salary purposes. All public, separate and francophone school boards accept evaluations issued by TQS for the purpose of helping to determine a teacher’s placement on the salary grid.

Be sure your TQSE is complete and shared with your employer.

Collective agreements

What are your employment rights? Are you entitled to benefits, leaves, etc.?

The terms and conditions of employment and the salaries of teachers employed by school jurisdictions are established in collective agreements negotiated between the Alberta Teachers’ Association and each school board. Collective agreements for the 62 public and separate school jurisdiction bargaining units are in effect for Sept. 1, 2012, to Aug. 31, 2016.

Problems can arise for teachers if they are not familiar with the terms and conditions of their employment. For example, if you are not aware of your rights or do not book an appropriate leave, you may lose substantial benefits that you are entitled to. Any possible violation of the collective agreement may be appealed through the grievance process in the collective agreement.

Members seeking advice on the grievance procedures to be followed in the case of an alleged violation of a collective agreement or on any other matter arising from a collective agreement, the Labour Relations Code, the Employment Standards Code or the salary and sick leave provisions of the School Act should consult Teacher Welfare staff at

Kurt Moench is associate co-ordinator, Member Services — Southern Alberta Regional Office.

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