Surrey teacher who belittled kindergarten kids found guilty of misconduct

Teacher argued the high student need and lack of support in her class were partly to blame.

A Surrey teacher has been found guilty of professional misconduct by the B.C. Teacher Regulation Branch (BCTRB) for yelling so loudly at her kindergarten students it could be heard outside the classroom, and for criticizing kids’ work, sometimes crumpling it and throwing it away.

Cheryl Ann Gosse was a teacher at Hjorth Road Elementary during the 2011-2012 school year – the period during which it was alleged she engaged in professional misconduct and/or conduct unbecoming a teacher on several occasions.

Though many of the allegations were unsubstantiated, a three-person BCTRB panel found after a hearing last fall that Gosse also inappropriately reprimanded a child for urinating in the playground and made belittling and disrespectful comments to children.

The decision was issued in late May but was just posted on the teacher regulation website last week.

Gosse denied she ever made belittling or disrespectful comments to her students, and though her principal and some colleagues testified they heard her yell, she called the allegations “generalized and impressionistic.”

She admitted she was a strict teacher with high expectations, but, according to the BCTRB decision, “expressed adamantly” that she would never crumple and throw a student’s work in the trash. She recalled disciplining the child about urinating on the playground, but didn’t recall whether other students overheard and denied the student cried.

During the hearing, Gosse said she regretted some of her conduct during the 2011-2012 year, but argued the panel should have considered the challenging composition of her class that year. She said 11 of the 18-20 kids in her class were English language learners, while two were designated special needs and one or two were undesignated but she suspected had special needs.

“A teacher struggling to contain frustration in a classroom in an inner-city school in an under-supported class with students with severe learning and/or behavioural disabilities is significantly less blameworthy than the same behaviour of a teacher in a 10-student kindergarten class on the Westside of Vancouver with no students with special needs and adequate support,” Gosse said.

The BCTRB commissioner said to accept that argument would be to accept that children in challenging classrooms are not entitled to the protection of professional conduct standards.

The regulation branch decision noted teaching conditions can vary dramatically due to a host of factors, including class size and composition, students’ age, teacher experience and learning resources available to the teacher (such as education assistants).

“No two classes are alike,” the May 28 decision reads. “The Standards are drafted with that diversity in mind and those contextual factors are taken into account when applying them in particular classes.

“Here, the composition of the Respondent’s class was challenging, but she was an experienced teacher who had a number of resources available to her.”

According to the Ministry of Education, lawyers for both sides made written submissions regarding possible penalties, but the BCTRB has yet to determine what, if any, discipline Gosse will face.

 

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