Rolly: French diss? Teacher quits after official calls her clueless
When the French dual-immersion teacher at Morningside Elementary expressed her concerns about the program in an email to the State Office of Education's foreign-language official, she got this response:
"So nice to see that you're are completely clueless about the goals and objectives of immersion education? Why did you even take the job? You are not simply teaching French to elementary students. Please do your homework before you have the audacity to lecture me about the goals of the program."
The teacher, Marilyn Shaffer, a native of France, was then told in a followup exchange with the state education official, Gregg Roberts, that she was being "condescending and arrogant." He advised her to take her concerns to the dual-language-immersion supervisors in Granite School District instead of the state office.
That set off a firestorm in Morningside's PTA community, where Shaffer is said to be a popular teacher with students and parents.
Shaffer met with district officials about her concerns and when she came away dissatisfied with the responses, she quit.
Roberts later sent an email to Shaffer apologizing for the harsh nature of his initial response, but did not back down from his assertion that she doesn't fully understand the objectives of the program and took the criticisms too personally.
"I sent the email in a moment of passion," he told me. "I should have put it [the email response] on hold for a while."
Dual immersion is a program in which pupils spend half the school day in a classroom environment in which the foreign language is used exclusively to teach other disciplines such as math and science.
Shaffer worried that kids in the program were falling behind in the other subjects because they had not mastered the language and couldn't get the concepts of the other subjects being taught. She also had concerns about the types of reading materials being used and the lack of support for parents who can't help their children with their homework because they don't speak French.
Roberts said the program is designed to be rigorous and that dual-immersion students on average test better than monolingual students.
Roberts has the backing of his supervisors in the state office and Granite's dual-immersion officials, who agreed with him that Shaffer doesn't fully understand the objectives.
But Shaffer had support from about 50 parents who attended a special meeting Monday night at Morningside who argued district officials did not adequately address their concerns or the issues that the teacher raised in her email.
Utah's dual-immersion program is seen as one of the nation's best, the officials point out, and Morningside was one of 17 schools nationwide that received an award from the French government for its program.
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