So that whole situation got me pretty fired up. As soon as I finished writing that post I went to the PA Dept. of Ed. site and found out who I needed to write about my problem. I promptly wrote (with the editing assistance of BF) a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Education. It's odd how just writing something like this is empowering; so I figured that for all of you out there who are suffering with a chronic illness or disability or hey maybe you don't but somebody's keeping you down; reading it might be somehow empowering; maybe you'll write a letter of your own; maybe it won't take you as long to fight back as it took me. So here it is, well the body of it anyway...Tada!
July 10, 2008
Reference: Pennsylvania Teacher Certification
Dear Dr. X,
I am writing to ask for your help with what I feel is a very serious matter for myself and all of the other people in this state with disabilities and chronic illnesses.
I recently graduated from Temple University with a Bachelors Degree in Secondary Education. I battled through six years of school while coping with such debilitating chronic illnesses as systemic lupus, migraine headaches, fibromyalgia, and pulmonary hypertension. I managed to always keep an A or A- average and I was well liked by both my peers and my instructors. Unfortunately, I was unable to complete the teacher certification program at Temple as proscribed by the Pennsylvania State Board of Education – due to my illnesses, I missed too many days of student teaching to be able to complete the full three-month program. The lessons that I was able to give and the classes that I taught were well appreciated by my supervisor, the teacher that was supervising me in the classroom, and the students. One of the students even got in touch with me after I left to compliment me on how well I had done and how much I’d brought up the students test scores for the chapter that I taught.
It broke my heart and disappointed me terribly, but when my illnesses finally won out over my resolve and my body stopped being able to keep up with the long hours on my feet and the stress of the whole situation, I was forced to drop out of the certification program. I have since received my degree, but as I search and interview for online and other alternative teaching positions that will accommodate my disability and still allow me to teach, I am finding that the vast majority of employers require state certification.
My future employment options are severely limited without a state certification. I feel that the lack of an alternate avenue for disabled and chronically ill individuals is discriminatory. Not all people have the physical constitution to keep up with the rigors of the student teaching experience, but that does not mean that they should not be able to teach in new, non-traditional teaching settings that don’t require the physical stamina and wellness that a traditional teaching job does.
I hope that you and your colleagues can offer me some alternative way to prove to the state that I will be a competent teacher that is not beyond my capabilities given my conditions. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to teach, but without your seal of approval and certification, I seem unable to attain that goal.
I look forward to hearing from you regarding this matter, which I consider to be of very great importance. You can reach me at the above address for normal mail, or at ------- on my cell phone, or at --------@gmail.com via email.
It goes out tomorrow. Certified Mail and all of that. I was thinking about copying the Governor; it couldn't hurt. I'm also going to go and talk to an Americans with Disabilities Act lawyer and see what kind of ground I's be standing on if they don't do anything to help me. This feels like discrimination..really really does. And I'm pretty sure it is, but having a legal opinion would be nice. But don't get me wrong, I don't want to go to court, I want to be able to teach. I worked to hard and too long and I've got too much debt to not be able to use my degree...which is what this is looking like it's turning out to be.