This story has weighed on my mind since I read about it earlier this year:
On Thanksgiving, a grade-school gym teacher parked on the shoulder of Interstate 80/94 in northwest Indiana, got out of her Mercury SUV and walked in front of a moving semi truck.
The 32-year-old’s suicide shocked the tiny Ford Heights school district where she worked. In the days afterward, tension grew amid conversations by co-workers about what had happened and questions from the Army veteran’s parents. The turmoil peaked during a crowded meeting in December, when some teachers and school board members clashed.
The suicide note that Mary Thorson left centered on frustrations at the school, and her death spurred some of her co-workers to speak out at the public meeting.
Teachers described an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in the two-school district, where little things snowballed over time.
“We don’t feel like we can speak out because we have been intimidated,” teacher Rose Jimerson said at the meeting. “We have signs all over the building about anti-bullying. … Our staff gets bullied.”
Mary Thorson was, tragically, driven over the edge. It is an edge too many of us find ourselves in the age of teacher bashing.
The same thing happened to Rigoberto Ruelas.
Between these two tragedies we see the two biggest culprits in the war on teachers: administrators and the media.
It is no coincidence that the media has made an issue of student bullying, a problem that has been around for ages, at the exact same time that they have taken to bullying teachers.
Can anyone say subterfuge?
Teachers, those who are actually in it for the long haul like Mary Thorson and Rigoberto Ruelas, were dedicated to the profession to the point where being a teacher was part of their identity. It is a tough thing for people in other lines of work, who usually frequently change careers, to understand. Being a teacher is who you are. It defines you. When people attack and insult teachers with words or actions, it is an attack on who we are as people. It is an attack on our very identity as human beings.
Sadly, it is tough to see how there will not be more tragedies like this in the future.
There is an online petition in Mary Thorson’s memory started by her father to stop the bullying of teachers. It is worth your signature, if for no other reason than a show of solidarity.
My heart goes out to Mary Thorson’s and Rigoberto Ruelas’ families. There are people who understand what is happening to teachers and fighting against it.