Less than two years after being named Alabama’s Teacher of the Year, Ann Marie Corgill resigned her post this week, citing her frustration with bureaucracy. After Corgill was moved from teaching second grade to fifth, she was told she wasn’t qualified to teach fifth-graders.
In January, Corgill was named one of four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year award. She is a 21-year teaching veteran whose story — and candid resignation letter — has made waves in the education community and beyond.
After running into a “wall of bureaucracy,” Corgill said in a statement to AL.com, “When the news came that I was not considered highly qualified, my frustration boiled over.”
Update at 2:58 p.m. ET: ‘It’s Time To Bring Joy’ Back
Responding to a request for comment on the reaction to her resignation, Corgill sent a message saying:
“It’s time to bring joy, professionalism, and pride back to the profession. It’s time we speak up so that all schools can attract and retain the most highly qualified teachers. If I can be that voice for thousands of colleagues and children, I will certainly and always be that voice and that teacher.”
Our original post continues:
When she was named Alabama’s elementary school Teacher of the Year in the spring of 2014, Corgill taught fourth graders at Cherokee Bend Elementary, in Mountain Brook. In August, she was hired to teach second grade at Birmingham’s Oliver Elementary, which Alabama Public Radio describes as “a low-income, federally funded school.”
But after the school year started, Corgill was shifted to fifth grade — and that’s when things started to unravel.
Saying that she had been “excited and confident” about helping her students, Corgill wrote in her resignation letter (which was acquired by AL.com) that she had “worked long hours to give these fifth graders my best teaching, my support, and my love.” She said that after just five weeks, the results had made her proud.
But then Corgill cited the views of both Birmingham and Alabama administrators — that she’s not qualified to teach above third grade, and that to do so, she would need to acquire an additional state certification.
Corgill wrote that she holds certificates in early childhood education, both of them with “highly qualified” status. She added that despite her National Board Certification as a middle childhood educator — which certifies her to teach children up to the age of 12 — the administrators had determined that she must apply for a new Alabama certificate.
“After 21 years of teaching in grades 1-6 I have no answers as to why this is a problem now,” Corgill wrote, “so instead of paying more fees, taking more tests, and proving once again that I am qualified to teach, I am resigning.”
Corgill’s last day was Friday. Responding to her resignation, Alabama State Superintendent Thomas Bice told AL.com that the Birmingham school’s designation as a federal Title I facility puts teachers under different requirements than those of Corgill’s previous school. That means she can’t teach above third grade at the Birmingham school, he said.
In addition to the certification questions, Corgill also cited an accounting error, saying that she wasn’t paid for her first month of work until last Friday. In her letter to the Birmingham Board of Education, she said that she’s still waiting for an explanatory letter to help her deal with her creditors and credit agencies.
Coping with that situation while teaching, she said, was “stressful at best.”
“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.”
An Alabama native, Corgill has taught at several schools in the state, along with the Manhattan New School in New York City. She also wrote a book about education and writing, called Of Primary Importance.
As The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss writes, “Corgill isn’t the first high-achieving teacher to resign this year. Stacie Starr, a ninth-grade intervention specialist in Elyria City Schools in Ohio, who was selected as ‘Top Teacher’ last year in a national search by the popular television show Live with Kelly and Michael, said earlier this year she was quitting.”
Starr, a 15-year veteran, said that months of standardized state testing had taken over her classroom and was hurting her students.
In Alabama, Corgill says that despite her frustration, she isn’t done with teaching. She told AL.com Friday that she “will continue to give my life to the profession.”