Alabama Teacher of the Year Resigns After Dept. of Ed. Deems Her Unqualified

Illustration for article titled Alabama Teacher of the Year Resigns After Dept. of Ed. Deems Her Unqualified

Ann Marie Corgill is, by all accounts, an excellent educator. She’s been teaching elementary school for the past 21 years and has been nominated for several Teacher of the Year awards, even winning that title in Alabama in 2014. But now, after joining a new school and being shifted from teaching second grade to fifth grade, the teacher’s resigning because she’s been deemed unqualified by Alabama’s Department of Education.

Newser reports that Corgill, who’s nationally certified to teach students between the ages of seven and 12, quit after being told by school officials that she wasn’t certified to teach anything above the third grade on the state level. That isn’t because she was out there giving kids the wrong information or making up lies about our presidents, though. It’s apparently due to bureaucratic reasons that relate to funding.

From Newser:

“When an inquiry was made, the department reported that her current [state] teaching certificate covers primary grades through Grade 3,” says the Alabama Department of Education in a statement; it says the national certification doesn’t trump the state requirements. As a Title I school, Oliver Elementary receives federal dollars because many of its students are from low-income families; so it requires that all teachers be “highly qualified,” a standard Corgill apparently didn’t meet, reports.


Corgill was understandably upset. And considering the fact that she was held in such high esteem by the state before she was deemed unqualified to teach a class she’d been shuffled into after another teacher quit, the news must have been a huge slap to the face. In a career in which many excellent educators already feel under-appreciated, being told she wasn’t fit to teach the grade she’d been assigned was the last straw.

In her letter of resignation, Corgill pointed out that she had taught fourth grade at her previous school with no problem and that she took over teaching the fifth grade at Oliver Elementary in Birmingham a month into the year (after being hired to instruct the second grade) in order to help the school “do what was best for the students.” In return, she was told she’d have to go through all the paperwork and exams the school district required to maintain her job. And this was all to be done at her own cost. In addition, Corgill writes, she hadn’t even been paid for teaching the first month of the school year until last week, something she says put her in trouble with creditors.

And there’s more: reports that the school she was at is unique and even recruited teachers without traditional qualifications.

Oliver Elementary is part of the Woodlawn Innovation Network, a collaborative initiative to introduce problem and problem-based learning in the four schools - Putnam, Avondale, Hayes and Oliver - that feed into Woodlawn High School. The network allows unique education standards, including the recruitment of teachers and leaders without traditional teaching certificates.


Corgill may be done at Oliver, but she’s not done being an educator. An author of one book on educating elementary-age students (with another one forthcoming), the instructor says that she’ll “continue giving her life to the profession.”

“Please know that I wanted to give my all and share my expertise with Birmingham City Schools. In order to attract and retain the best teachers, we must feel trusted, valued, and treated as professionals. It is my hope that my experience can inform new decisions, policies, and procedures to make Birmingham City Schools a place everyone wants to work and learn.”


According to The Washington Post, Corgill isn’t even close to being the first top-rated teacher to quit due to their frustration with bureaucracy. Stacie Starr, an Ohio teacher who was celebrated for her work on Live with Kelly and Michael after a nationwide search for excellent educators, quit teaching recently because the pressure to teach only to standardized tests was taking a toll on her ability to teach students in creative ways that were not focused on rote memorization.

Corgill’s full letter of resignation can be read here. She released the following statement on Monday:

“God gave me the gift to teach and learn from children, and if that’s in the master plan, I hope to be a classroom teacher again in the future. It’s my dream to gather a group of educators and start a teacher-run school here in Birmingham, a school where every person who enters the building knows, feels and sees our beliefs about children and learning in action: equality, joy, collaboration, growth, intellectual struggle and stimulation, connection to family, community and world, AND trust in children and teachers who are invested and engaged in learning for a lifetime.”


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Image via Twitter, courtesy of Ann Marie Corgill

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So this article is a little confusing. After reading the report, it sounds like they weren’t saying she wasn’t “qualified,” just that she wasn’t “certified” to teach 5th Grade. In this case, that’s apparently true, since her certification covered her through 3rd Grade. If Federal requirements for funding are such that every teacher needs to be certified for the grade to which they are assigned, then according to federal guidelines she shouldn’t be teaching that grade. The school should have checked this before assigning her to that class, so the error is definitely on their end in this case, but the school didn’t make the federal requirements. They should never have moved her to that grade without checking her certifications first, it just sounds like they realized their error after the fact and were trying to remedy it by having her re-certify.

Tl;dr: Nothing in the original article that I could see states that they didn’t think she was a great teacher, just that in order to stay in that position she would need to complete the appropriate certifications or else they may risk losing funding. Isn’t this standard procedure, or do school systems frequently assign teachers to grades that they aren’t certified to teach?