Teacher Inspires Students–Suspended!

The book wars continue unabated in the United States of America when once again a teacher who inspired her students, and go them reading, was suspended because students were reading materials that related to their lives instead of being spoon-fed books that had no relevancy to contemporary existence. Connie Heermann, who has taught for 27 years, had her students read the Freedom Writers Diary, which depicts how an inner city teacher turned her students on to reading and writing and was subsequently made into a film with Hillary Swank.

Ms. Heermann, obtained consent forms from about 150 parents and found her students were excited about the book which they found connected to their own lives. After, she handed out the book, the school board sent her an email ordering her not to have students read the material. “That was the pivotal moment of m y life when I saw how my students were taken with the book, how they loved it, and then I am told not to let them read it? I said no.”

I have been in education for over 50 years and personally encountered a similar situation and know of dozens of wonderful teachers who faced suspension or firing because they turned their students on to thinking and reading. Fortunately, the school board provided students with a wonderful lesson in freedom of speech and reading.

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  • Tom Heermann

    Dear Fred:

    Thank you for your coverage of my wife’s 18 month suspension…

    Connie and I have been in a struggle with the Perry Township School Board since January of this year (she was removed from the classroom last November, however).

    When we began this struggle, we had no idea how it would resonate with the public. Media coverage began with an “above the fold” front page story on January 22, in the Indianapolis Star. Then all the local TV stations covered her removal from the classroom.

    But through all this we have felt we have touched a nerve with the public — not only locally — but internationally. Connie’s harsh suspension has been covered by CNN, Newsweek (Anna Quindlen), The Huffington Post, The L.A. Times, The Guardian (U.K. and The Telegraph (U.K.), to name a few. But what is most exciting, is the coverage that caring bloggers like yourself have done. I google “Connie Heermann” several times a day. I see blogs in different languages discussing Connie’s plight. News doesn’t die today like it did not so long ago: it lives on and gets redistributed by bloggers, etc., via the internet. It is a great mechanism for grassroots movements. It’s hard to cover up things anymore, isn’t that marvelous?

    When all this insanity began my sister said: “something better will become of this.” I consider that ironic. Those exact words were spoken by Erin Gruwell in Connie’s hearing.

    Thanks again. I would enjoy corresponding with you more.

    P.S. – Recently Connie was covered by local WISH TV as she was going to California to receive more training from Erin Gruwell. The reporter also inteviews the new board president. Instead of commenting on Connie’s continued dedication to teaching by attending the workshop, the board president just complains about bad media coverage. I urge you to see it.

    http://www.wishtv.com/global/video/popup/pop_player.asp?ClipID1=2708996&h1=Suspended%20teacher%20making%20international%20headlines&vt1=v&at1=News&d1=150233&LaunchPageAdTag=

    Tom Heermann
    Better known now as “Connie’s Husband”
    10:24 PM

  • http://www.theimpudentobserver.com Fred Stopsky

    Tom & Connie:
    I was placed on a black list in the 1950s because I engaged my students at Petaluma High School in California in critical thinking. We explored the strength and weaknesses of communism, we confronted prejudice against Negroes(none were allowed to live in Petaluma). I was invited by the class of 1960 to attend their class reunion, fifty years later. Ironically, the School Board has radicalized the students. I know it doesn’t alleviate the pain Connie feels. It is a cliche, but I experienced all of her pain– how would you like to be turned down for twenty straight teaching jobs? I left California and taught elsewhere. Connie is right, “something better will come of this.” Her students will never be the same.