Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Contradiction In Terms?

A Rockville, Maryland teacher has been nominated as "teacher of the year" three times and yet her district is trying to fire her because she is said to be "underperforming:"
Soon-Ja Kim has been nominated as teacher of the year three times, but she said the Montgomery County School system is considering firing her before the upcoming school year.

Kim came to the U.S. from Korea in 1974 and learned English and has been teaching at the same elementary school for 20 years. She teaches third-graders at Lakewood Elementary School in Rockville, Md.

Her lawyer said that complaints have been made that her language skills are not good enough to continue teaching.News4's Chris Gordon reported that the Montgomery County School system said a peer review labeled her as "an underperformer."

"I love my student, and it seems like I just instill the love of learning to my students just naturally," Kim said.

Kim was nominated by the Washington Post and other organizations as teacher of the year. When Lakewood Elementary school was renovated, some parents said they bought commemorative bricks honoring her.

Kim could be fired after a former principal complained about her and a peer review board of teachers and administrators concluded that she is underperforming.

Brian Edwards, spokesman for Montgomery County Schools said that Kim's Korean accent would not have a bearing on the case.

"As the evidence of underperformance is the only matter the peer panel considers in making this determination," Edwards said.

Kim said she feels she is being forced out.

"When I retire, I would like to retire with honor -- not in shame or disgrace," Kim said.

Her lawyer is representing Kim for free. He said he has had two children in her class.

"It's age discrimination and it's race discrimination -- and it's ugly. The school system has systematically refused to listen to parents," said attorney Gary Tepper.

Some parents said they have written the school superintendent on behalf of Kim.

"Mrs. Kim found a way to touch my daughter and to get her to feel really interested in reading. She encouraged her. She motivated her," said parent Ralph Kahn.

"I just felt that she was Mrs. Frizzle in the 'Magic School Bus' -- if you have ever heard of that book. She took them on a trip every day to somewhere special," said parent Jodi Friedman.

Teachers will return to Lakewood Elementary School on Aug. 21. Kim expects a decision from the Montgomery County School superintendent next week.

She said that after 20 years of teaching, if she finds out she is no longer welcome, she will be very hurt.
I find it highly interesting that Mrs. Kim's attorney has two children in her class and is representing the teacher without charge. Now that's one satisfied lawyer parent!

Update:(PM) I just heard on the local newscast that South Carolina teacher Patrick Welsh has been named "Teacher of the Year," by Disney. Some 78,000 teachers had been nominated...
See today's edition of The Carnival of Education, hosted by This Week in Education, over there and our latest EduPosts right here.