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Why This National Board Certified Teacher Quit Her Job In Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ micromanagement “makes it untenable for some of the most passionate, talented, and dedicated teachers to continue.”

Florida teachers are quitting in light of Gov. DiSantis' new curriculum. Here is a rear view of kids...

After 16 years in education, Janet Allen, a 41-year-old National Board Certified high school English teacher, decided to resign this year. A Florida educator with a Master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Allen was rated “highly effective” by administrators year after year as her Advanced Placement students earned the best exam scores in Sarasota County.

But once politicians started micromanaging teachers and eschewing their knowledge and experience, Allen was out.

The new laws on education instituted by conservative Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in July — including the controversial Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law, and the Stop WOKE Act — have alienated and angered many teachers and students alike. Allen tells Scary Mommy that these laws “seek to satisfy politicians’ voting base’s culture war battle cries” and seized teachers’ autonomy in their classrooms — and she’s fed up.

“For years, teachers were able to meet their students’ needs, help them achieve skill mastery required by high-stakes testing, and maintain the county’s A-level status by custom designing lessons for the students in front of us. But with these new laws and policies, teachers will be too fearful to meet the needs of their students with their creative expertise. You may as well have teacher bots instead,” Allen tells us.

DeSantis’ legislation bans certain instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom and prohibits teaching critical race theory (CRT) in schools or workplace training. He also told school districts to ignore new guidance from the federal government intended to protect transgender students from discrimination.

“I see this as purely a move to empower bigots,” Allen, who founded and sponsored Venice High School’s first Gender and Sexualities Alliance amid Donald Trump’s divisive presidency, tells us.

The new laws also give parents greater oversight over what students learn about and discuss in school, allowing guardians to push back on their children’s curriculum and constantly monitor their private conversations with school staff. LGBTQIA+ advocates, like The Trevor Project, worry this could lead to students being outed to family members without their knowledge or consent, according to CNN.

Opponents of the legislation also believe that allowing parents to bring civil suits against a school district for potential violations of its rules would open educators up to a pile of litigation — something Allen already had a taste of before leaving the field.

“Last year, I was supposed to take books off the shelf in my classroom library by Black authors that were perennial student favorites, like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I was warned by other teachers on my team to avoid teaching Martin Luther King’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ to my 10th graders because it could be interpreted as CRT, but it was the first unit in our new textbook and I taught it anyway. I was also warned not to teach Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston to my AP English students for the same reason,” Allen says, adding that Hurston’s work ended up being on the AP Exam in 2022, so she was glad she taught it.

Allen says administrators received many calls from parents about the novels, but she didn’t “break any rules” because she made them aware of what their children were reading on her syllabus.

“I was made to feel like I was doing something wrong and making my administrators’ jobs harder, which is taboo in any school community and causes tension,” she says. “[Partisan politics] divides school communities, causes unfounded distrust of teachers, takes focus, attention, and funding away from real tools and resources that foster student achievement, and ultimately makes one of the most challenging jobs even more difficult and stressful.”

Some Florida teachers were trained on DeSantis’ education agenda over the summer, which includes observing Nov. 7 as “Victims of Communism Day,” during which high schoolers will be taught anti-communism lessons. (“Ridiculous fear-mongering and propaganda,” Allen insists.) Presentations reportedly also included slides titled “Qualities of an Upright and Desirable Citizen.”

Allen and others question how students are supposed to be “desirable citizens” if they’re shielded from the experiences of people of color and the LGBTQIA+ community in this country.

“Simplifying the American experience by erasing and watering down the complicated truth of the nation’s founding and founders is much easier than reckoning with the history and continuance of systemic racism baked into our system of government,” she says.I don’t know how you can become a ‘desirable citizen’ later in life if you’ve only experienced life in a bubble.”

And in addition to how it affects children’s overall view of racial equity, in practical terms, Allen says it will result in Florida students being unable to compete on a national stage when it comes to college acceptance due to an inadequate curriculum.

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Teachers across the U.S. are leaving their positions in droves due to everything from lack of support, low pay, poor treatment and the distrust of school communities. But particularly in Florida, this new curriculum is making it difficult for educators to tough it out any longer as highly partisan government leaders are in charge of day-to-day learning.

DeSantis isn’t worried, apparently: he’s been recruiting retired police officers, emergency medical technicians, paramedics and firefighters who have Bachelor’s degrees to take on the job — bribing them with bonuses and waiving fees for the state certification exam. He’ also encourages veterans and their spouses, without college degrees, to apply for temporary teaching certificates to fill the void.

“They don’t want an electorate with critical thinking skills who understand that the American experience is complicated, uncomfortable, and far from perfect,” Allen concluded.

Currently, she’s keeping busy volunteering as a committee chair at her local library and a room parent for her daughter’s first grade class, crafting with the kids and hoping to join in for storytime, book fairs and field trips. She also writes short non-fiction work and quilts, and is almost finished constructing a commissioned piece. Allen is making up for lost time with her family and friends, plans to take classes that pique her interest and dreams of opening an Etsy shop.

As for teaching, she’d be happy to be a substitute, tutor or be a part-time employee, but craves some distance from her beloved profession at the moment.

“When a politician without any classroom teaching experience micromanages teachers and eschews the expertise, knowledge, and experience of professional educators who love their students and their content, he demonstrates distrust of the workforce — many of whom actually support him — sows division in school communities, which ultimately distracts from teaching and learning to a toxic degree and makes it untenable for some of the most passionate, talented, and dedicated teachers to continue.”