Teaching at CEGEPs: How to apply and what to expect

For those who are completing a master’s degree, a PhD, or a Post doc, and are passionate about teaching, working at a CEGEP might be a viable career strategy.

Going to CEGEP is a rite of passage for Quebec students hoping to go to universities in Quebec before the age of 21. Established in 1969, these institutions were designed to make post-secondary education more accessible, and to prepare Quebec students for university.  But as someone who experienced it first hand, I can tell you that completing a DEC at a CEGEP means more than the equivalent of your last year of high school and your first year of university.

Students are usually 17 when they come in and 19 when they come out.  As teenagers, they’re still figuring themselves out, experimenting, (most likely) partying hard, and making mistakes. They’re also given, for the first time, autonomy and independence in scholastic pursuit, as well as opportunities to expand their minds and skill sets to prepare them for university learning.

In CEGEP, students write their first 15-page essay, design their first poster presentation, and write their first Integrative Thesis to summarize their learning. But they’re also forced to take gym class. It’s a confusing place like that, but somehow extremely exciting. Why?

Because these students have the impressionable, fresh minds of high school seniors with the added maturity of being able to drive to school, buy their own alcohol, and start to make intentional and independent life decisions regarding their futures, careers, and learning.

I can only image how exciting this environment must be for teachers. For those of you who think the same, McGill’s CAPS just hosted several professionals from local CEGEPs for their Cegep Panel 2013. Asked how how graduate students at McGill can become CEGEP teachers, here is what they had to say:

How to get hired as a CEGEP teacher

Chance are, you will have to start by getting hired to teach nighttime Continuing Education classes at a CEGEP and build up your “priority standing” or seniority for future positions. Most job postings go up around now, so November-December, as well as in May-June, and sometimes last-minute in August.

Most CEGEPs have online application systems, so make sure to send in your application, complete with CV and cover letter, every time a post opens up that you would like to fill.

In your cover letter, demonstrate your language skills and personality. Show your passion for teaching, and emphasize any teaching experience you might have had (e.g. as a Teaching Assistant, a Mentor, a Coach, etc.).

Do as much research on the school, its courses, and values as you can, and demonstrate this knowledge in your cover letter.

Consider sending your application directly to the department that is hiring for a position.

What to do if you get offered an interview?

Your interview for a teaching job will be with the Dean of the department, a Human Resources representative, and one to two teachers. Be prepared to discuss your teaching philosophy and your teaching style.

You might be asked how you would handle certain scenarios (e.g. what do you do if a student is texting in class? Hint: there is no right answer). You might also be required to prepare a 15-minute lecture, or answer 1-2 questions in a written component.

Bottom line: the college wants to hire the best teacher that they can. Be dynamic, engaging, and passionate.

Once you get a teaching job, what should you expect?

A full time class requires 32 hours per week. Sixteen of those hours will be spent in the classroom (i.e. eight 2-hour classes), while the rest will be spent hosting office hours, preparing classes, and managing assignments and evaluations.

Expected “competencies” or lesson objectives are set by the Ministry, but there is some lee-way in designing curriculums and programs for the courses you will teach. You will be working closely with the Dean of your department to make sure your teaching style is periodically evaluated, and that course objectives are being met.

Lastly, being a CEGEP teacher is also about more than teaching: you can get involved in extra-curricular student activities, do research, take “release-time” to take courses for bettering your teaching skills or expanding your portfolio. Most importantly it is your task to work closely with your students to help them achieve the best possible learning outcomes.

For a list of the English colleges in Montreal, click here. And don’t forget about the great career planning resources offered by CAPS as discussed in Emilio’s great post!

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