LEE COUNTY, Fla. — On Tuesday, a Cape Coral teacher battling cancer said she no longer has a job because of what she calls, unfair state certification requirements.
“I studied as best I could and really hard, and still it, it wasn’t good enough,” said Victoria Woods, who said she was a Drama Teacher at Mariner Middle School.
Wood’s best efforts to earn her professional teaching certification could be seen scattered across her desk at home, piles of papers and months of work, mixed-in with doctor’s notes and chemotherapy appointments.
“I studied so hard wherever I could, it was after a chemo treatment which was very hard because there is chemo brain,” said Woods.
In the state of Florida, new teachers with Bachelor’s degrees have three years to earn their professional teaching certificate, in order to stay in the classroom.
Woods told me she was diagnosed with Lupus and Breast Cancer on May 18, after speaking with Samantha Zukowski.
Zukowski, is a teacher at South Fort Myers High School who several months ago started a petition demanding the state certify teachers based off their job performance and not test scores.
Gwynetta Gittens, a Lee County School District Board Member said she knows how strenuous earning a professional teaching certificate can be for full-time teachers.
“I’m a certified teacher, and when I first went through all of this, this test is no joke,” said Gittens.
A serious effort for Gittens, who helped make one of the district’s 2022 legislative priorities, to give teachers who perform well in the classroom, extra points towards their final certification score.
“I felt if there were teachers that during that 3-year time period, the proved that they know pedagogy, that they can teach, their students improved, there were learning gains then that proves that they do understand and know how to teach,” said Gittens.
The ability to teach is reflected by the awards Woods received over the past three years, including Teacher of The Year, but still led to Woods saying the district let her go last week.
“I had to clean out my classroom it was very hard for me and very sentimental, some tears shed,” said Woods.
The district has told Fox 4 in the past that it must follow the state’s rule, even as its own school board wants to change the requirements.
Gittens said lobbyists representing the district will pitch this incentive to those at the state level who could make change happen.
“People in the community, teachers, and possibly some of the legislatures will understand we’re between a rock and a hard place here trying to get teachers. You can help us; you can help our children,” said Gittens.