Amanda Coffman, after 21 years of teaching gifted students, resigned during a livestream for a school board meeting last week and went viral for her powerful words.
Amanda revealed to BuzzFeed how the Shawnee Mission teachers in Kansas had been working without contracts since June of last year.
“On January 30th, the school board passed a three-year unilateral contract. Teachers had until February 14th to either accept the contract, reject it and work under the terms of the previous contract, or resign,” revealed Amanda.
“The teachers had agreed to change their workload from teaching five classes per day to six classes per day. This year, the Kansas legislature was able to restore some of the funding to schools and the teachers wanted a commitment that the money would be used to hire teachers to reduce workload and class size. The district did not feel that they had sufficient funds to make that sustainable.”
She felt their voice was growing weaker as a whole.
“Teachers felt strongly that the district was attempting to silence them by issuing the three-year contract.”
“Effectively, they would not have to negotiate with teachers over anything until the Spring of 2022. I have felt increasingly like my voice is not valued in the district over the last few years, and this public campaign to silence us all was the last straw for me.”
She decided to make the choice after lots of deliberation.
“This isn’t the kind of decision you make impulsively. I had been pretty open with my friends and colleagues that if this was the way that the contract went, I was probably going to resign. I’m not sure how many believed that I really would, though! I called my parents the day before and sent them the link to watch the livestream.”
She continued, sharing:
“This was a difficult decision to make. As a teacher, it is not even in your realm of possibility that you could leave in the middle of the school year. Several teachers in the district, in fact, have chosen to resign, but at the end of this year. I recognize that I am in a privileged position, in that my husband makes a very good salary, and we could afford to do without mine for a few months.”
“I thought it would make a bigger statement on behalf of the teachers — and draw attention to how important teachers are to the students — if I quit in the way that I did. There was also a sense that I was calling the district’s bluff. They didn’t think any teachers would leave.”
But Amanda decided she would follow through to her word.
“That Friday, I packed up my classroom, went home, and cried. Every time I would start to lose my resolve, the district would purchase an ad in the local paper or their spokesperson would be on TV telling everyone what a great deal this contract is for teachers and how happy everyone was with the outcome. That made it more important that I tell our story rather than letting the administration tell it for us,” she shared.
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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