Read the newspapers about schools today and you’ll feel like we’re being overrun with bad teachers. Grades are slipping, standards are falling and it’s all the teachers’ fault. Apparently. But that’s just media hype – teaching as a whole is neither better nor worse than it’s ever been before, they’re just struggling to keep up with the ever-changing standards demanded of them.
However, there is such a thing as a bad teacher. A really bad teacher. The kind of teacher you’d find cooking up crystal meth in “Breaking Bad” or teaching rebellion in “School of Rock”. And we’ve gathered together the ten worst examples of teachers that we could find. Some of them sound fun people to party with, but would you really want them teaching your kids? Find out more in our Top 10 Worst Behaved Teachers.
10. Lisa Terry
One of 35 teachers involved in a cheating scandal in Atlanta, Lisa Terry was the first one to plead guilty to obstruction (charges of theft and racketeering were dropped in exchange for the guilty plea). The case revolved around the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, where she hinted to students that they might want to go back and redo their answers in order to improve their scores. She was given 12 months’ probation and wrote an apology letter to her students, saying “I sincerely apologize for my actions and regret that I failed to uphold the ethics and standards of the teaching profession”. Not the first teacher ever to be caught cheating on tests but one of the more high-profile ones.
9. Tonya Flink
Now, sex scandals are surprisingly common among teachers and their students – in fact, this entire list could be filled with them. But there’s some unpleasant stuff that’s happened in schools and you really wouldn’t want to dwell on it, so here’s a sex scandal with a happy ending…kind of. Tonya Flink was a computer technology teacher at Haltom High School, Texas who had a penchant for “young, Hispanic kids”. So much so that she had relationships with at least four of them and married one of them. During her trial, her husband refused to co-operate with the prosecutors so it’s likely that they are quite happy together. Flink received 4 years’ probation and is no longer teaching.
8. Travis Lechien
Some of the sex scandals in schools revolve around teachers being inappropriate in what they share with the kids. None more so than Travis Lechien, who chose to take his class on a field trip to a strip club, possibly as part of their sex education. The scandal had a long build-up, with Lechien allowing his students to hang out at his house, drinking and smoking hookah, but it came to a head when he decided to celebrate a student’s birthday by taking him and some others to a strip club in Hammond. They were stopped on the way home by Lake County police and he was later charged with charged with three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Highly inappropriate behavior from an educator, but you can be sure that his students thought he was the coolest teacher ever…
7. Jo Shuter
We’re in the UK for this next one, and a headteacher who decided to replicate a good old fashioned British expenses scandal. The head was Jo Shuter, who had been awarded “Head of the Year” for her dynamic leadership skills but unfortunately she was also misappropriating school funds, spending £7,000 on her own birthday party, £10,000 on travel and £3,000 on flowers. She had only just recovered from that episode when she was hit by accusations of cronyism, giving jobs to her friends and family and allowing the BBC to make a film about how inspirational she was…that was directed by her own sister. She admitted there was a “blurring of my personal and professional worlds”, which accounted for her using school money to go to the cinema and pay her phone bills. Unsurprisingly, she offered her resignation soon afterwards.
6. Melissa Petro
Blurring professional and personal worlds is one thing – having a past profession, which is quite personal, is another. Teacher Melissa Petro taught art at a Bronx elementary school for three years before it emerged that she had previously worked as a prostitute. She had met men through Craigslist.com and offered “erotic services”. She effectively caused her own dismissal when she wrote an article for the Huffington Post about her experiences and berating Craigslist for no longer facilitating such encounters, a decision she defended by saying “It was my belief that the First Amendment protected my right to publish my experiences and opinions – however controversial.” She was “reassigned” after her revelations as the school authorities didn’t feel that an ex-prostitute was the best person to be interacting with students. How very narrow-minded of them!
5. Amanda Terrell
Now this is just plain cruel. Teachers presumably have some kind of training on how to handle kids with additional needs, so you’d think that someone who’d been teaching for two years would know that a student with Asperger’s Syndrome would sometimes need some delicate behavior management. Not Amanda Terrell, of Parkersburg High. She created a special “bad kid fort” out of a cardboard box and made the student sit in there when he misbehaved. She was suspended on charges of bullying, but later reinstated, much to the horror of the student’s mother, who had contacted the Department of Health and Child Protective Services about the incident. The school board defended its decision, saying that Terrell was a “good quality teacher” who deserves another chance. They might think that, but you wouldn’t leave your special-needs kids with her, would you?
4. Mohammed Sarwar
As if to prove that “Breaking Bad” isn’t entirely untrue, here’s a real-life teacher with a sideline in drug dealing. Mohammed Sarwar taught IT at Burnage Arts College in Manchester, England. He was admired for his community work but he had a dark side. Using the slightly unsubtle alias “The Teacher”, he was head of a drugs gang that supplied cocaine to dealers. His alternate career was discovered when police tailed him to a drugs deal on a retail park, which he’d taken one of his students along to. The police swooped and he was later sentenced to 21 years in jail, with his teaching record failing to help him. The head of the drugs squad said “by masterminding a drugs network he abused his position and set the worst sort of example possible” and the judge commented that he had thrown away his chances of a “decent life”. He probably shouldn’t have got his student involved…
3. Maria L. Caya
Teaching is a stressful occupation and many teachers probably wind down with a glass of wine at the end of the school day. But drinking while you’re in charge of the kids probably isn’t advisable. Pity no-one explained that to Maria L. Caya, who supervised a field trip to a bowling alley while intoxicated. The teacher from Washington Elementary School, Janesville had a blood alcohol level of 0.27 and became so ill that her husband had to come and collect her from the trip. As she was one of several chaperons on the trip, it seems that the children were never in any real danger from her drunkenness, but it certainly doesn’t seem like the best idea. Luckily, she had the summer to sober up.
2. Ryan Pleune
There’s a lot of contradictions in this next story. He was a qualified teacher, but working as the school bus driver. He was a passionate environmentalist…again, working as a bus driver (that most environmentally-friendly of jobs?) But one fact is clear – Ryan Pleune decided to take matters into his own hands and take students to see a protest instead of just driving them back to school like he was meant to. The students were from Salt Lake City, Utah and they had been on a field trip, driven by Pleune. But on the way back, he made an unscheduled stop at the courthouse so that he could show his students the glory of environmentalists protesting outside the trial of Tim DeChristopher, who was being tried for making fake bids at federal auctions. He thought the school would be “quietly happy” with his actions but they weren’t….and he was promptly fired. He defends himself in a guest post on PeacefulUprising.org and continues to fight his cause.
1. Unnamed Teacher, Washington D.C.
This last teacher has also been fired but their name has never been released. Which is a shame, cause there’s a certain style about this one. The teacher’s crime was to give out math puzzles to his third-graders which were a little unusual. One started “John, Jack and Jim lit up their pipes after dinner and began blowing smoke rings”. Another asked students to calculate how much blood a hungry vampire was consuming. Then there was the classic conundrum of John, who “swallowed 585 marbles and died” before his grieving father divided the remaining marbles among his friends. The resources were from Homeschooling-Paradise.com (pictured above) and sadly, some parents failed to see the joke and labelled the problems “morbid” and “violent”. The take-home message to all aspiring teachers? Never try to make math fun….