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One Shawnee Mission Teacher's Resignation Has Made A Big Statement In A Viral Way

Luke X. Martin
KCUR 89.3
Veteran teacher Amanda Coffman said her resignation was 'a chance to be a voice for those of her colleagues who couldn't just walk away from the job.'

With less than four months remaining in the school year, a teary-eyed Amanda Coffman explained why she would no longer be in the hallways to greet students at the morning bell.

The Indian Woods Middle School teacher stood before the Shawnee Mission School Board and announced her resignation – effective immediately.

Coffman expected to receive feedback from her community and her parents in Michigan, but said she didn’t expect the video of the event to go farther than her parents' house.

“I had no idea this would become a national story,” she said.  

Coffman’s resignation came after months of failed contract negotiations that resulted in the school board imposing a three-year unilateral contract, which the Kansas Labor Department has since overturned.

The viral video of Coffman’s emotional address likened the breakdown in communication between teachers and board members to a bad marriage. 

“I had no idea this would resonate with so many people,” she said.  

Media outlets across the country have shared Coffman’s speech.

Support for Coffman has come from across the globe. Several social media users applauded the veteran teacher’s decision to walk away from her job.  

“It’s everybody’s fantasy to be able to leave your job very publicly and say what you want to say on the way out,” the former Indian Woods teacher said.

Admiration and empathy were common sentiments in many reader comment sections, and several teachers talked about similar working environments. Some commenters encouraged Coffman to run for the school board, a move she said she isn’t ruling out.

Coffman said she had expected to move on by taking her kids to school the next morning and looking at job boards.

“Instead, I’ve taken on this career as a social media influencer,” she said.

Coffman described the amount of feedback as akin to running a social media empire.

And as with any viral video, the comments weren’t all positive.

The bold mid-school-year resignation didn't sit well with some Facebook users, who accused the former teacher of abandoning her students and focusing on pay.

Coffman said the state pays teachers poorly, but her resignation was about the lack of good-faith negotiations and about professionalism.

Coffman said that “if I could wear a neon sign that said ‘It’s not about the money,’”  she would have done so.

She added that she’s still an educator and ready to put aside the unexpected role of social media influencer so she can focus on what’s next for her career.

“I don’t know if the best way for me to pursue my career now is in the classroom with children or if there’s another path I will take,” she said.

“I feel like I can be a better advocate for the teachers as an outsider and as a community member than I ever could as a teacher,” Coffman said.  

Amanda Coffman spoke with Brian Ellison on a recent episode of KCUR's Up To Date. Listen to the entire conversation here.

Elizabeth Ruiz is a freelance producer for KCUR's Up To Date. Contact her at elizabeth@kcur.org or on twitter, @er_bentley_ruiz.