A Tennessee Teacher’s Resignation Letter

Taken from Susan Durfee’s page:

It is official! My contract has ended, so I wanted to share my resignation letter. It is my truth, my story, and I think it deserves to be told.

May 7, 2014

Ms. Nancy Maland
Executive Director of Elementary Education
Knox County Schools
P. O. Box 2188
Knoxville, TN 37901

Dear Ms. Maland:

It is with a strange mix of sadness and joy that I tender my resignation with Knox County Schools effective May 23, 2014.

This decision was reached over time and with great difficulty. I entered kindergarten at Adrian Burnett Elementary School the year the school opened, and soon after decided that I wanted to be a teacher. My dream was to return to “my school” and teach third grade. I have now given twenty years to the students and families of Adrian Burnett, nineteen of those in third grade. To some, this dream may seem small, but it was my dream, and it came true. I am ever so thankful for the opportunity to teach the grade I love, in a school I love, with teammates and staff members who have been as close as family. My calling, my mission in life, was to work with children; to teach not only academics, but also the importance of having good character, to show love and respect, to be kind and expect kindness in return. My class has always been called the Durfee Team because we found that working together is what makes us most successful. I have tried to instill in my students my belief that we must respect and take care of one another. I have aimed to be a positive role model in the lives of my students–smiling, laughing, encouraging, giving hugs, keeping my word, believing in them so they would learn to believe in themselves. Over the years, I have watched my students’ ballgames, frequented birthday parties, sat among families for baptisms. I have received countless high school and college graduation invitations, attended weddings, and for a few young friends, made the changeover from Mrs. Durfee to “Susan”. These are sweet memories that I will always treasure, and I have been changed for the better because of these relationships.

I am saddened beyond measure to leave this chosen work that I hold dear, to leave my precious Adrian Burnett family and friends. I cannot, however, remain in a profession where children are treated as data measurements rather than tiny humans with real needs, and where teachers are treated with blatant disregard and disrespect.

As a former Teacher of the Year, a respected school leader and colleague, it has been shocking to find myself in a position of having to fight for my professional life and reputation as a “Conference of Concern” teacher. More upsetting still is the lack of support offered in light of this situation. My confidence has been shaken as I wonder why I wasn’t worth saving, why promises were made and not kept. The constant threat of losing one’s job creates a wearisome work environment. The joy of teaching is gone. It has been replaced by discouragement, anxiety, and fear. There is little to no encouragement; this job can be thankless. I certainly did not enter this profession thinking it would be easy or filled with glory. Teaching receives little respect from the public in general, but more upsetting still, is the fact that teachers receive such a lack of respect from our very own educational leaders. Teachers are viewed as expendable rather than valuable, incompetent rather than intelligent, and scorned rather than honored.

While I am committed to the continuation of my desire to help children, especially those in need of extra support, encouragement, and love, it will not be as an employee of Knox County Schools. Even in light of all that is flawed within our system, I continue to believe in the high calling of teaching as a profession, and I wish those who remain true to their calling the very best.


Susan C. Durfee, Third Grade Teacher
Adrian Burnett Elementary School

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20 thoughts on “A Tennessee Teacher’s Resignation Letter

  1. Kudos to you. Sad to lose a teacher of your caliber. I, too, worked with Knox County Schools. So thankful I am out and it is sad that our educational system is in such a crumbling mess.


  2. Reblogged this on Will to Learn: On Education and commented:
    Unfortunate, and happening much too often. I went through a similar experience and almost let someone steal my joy of teaching. I had to regroup and learn that there are wolves among the sheep and those who are in it for the wrong reason. As it is often observed and stated within the church, those in education often (create and ) shoot their wounded. Sad indeed.


  3. AMEN! and as a faithful full time volunteer parent all of me was emptied 2 years ago. My administrator took all my love, joy, and need to help not only my child but all children grow. My dedicated passion in helping our children learn was burning for 16 years, then I came into contact with a power hungry principal that made entering the school stressful. she destroyed everything I had in me to give back. Last year my daughter attended a different school in the same district, I could not find any interest in assisting this new team. As they desperately needed help, I just could not assist. After special requests came from my daughter, I did proctor for state tests. Sadly no one really acknowledged that with a thank you. My spirits have faded and I am forced to focus on my child making sure I am available for her every need.


  4. Thank you, love your letter. As a teacher myself of 15 years. I now exactly how you feel. At one time I was happy and ready for the next 15 more. Now all I hear myself saying is I can’t do this the next 15 years. Your letter said it all about how teachers feel and are treated. Very well said.


  5. Sally,
    My loving husband handed me your letter as I sat near him compiling the past three years defense of the indefensible way that I’ve been treated by incompetent, unethical and just plain mean administrators and colleagues in what used to be a job that I considered more of a gift.
    We are merely a few of so very many who are no longer respected for any of the contributions that we have made, and are easily discarded through well planned and formulaic processes taught to our administrators along with their TEAM training.
    Yet, like you, I’m not willing to give up the needs of the children who deserve much more than the new system can provide.
    As I leave our system, I look forward to where the Lord will take me next; knowing that it will somehow include the advocacy of those children and parents who more than ever,
    are losing any voice they had to speak for themselves.
    If you have any free time for reading, check out:
    Tennessee is already in far deeper than most parents and educators realize.
    Good luck and God bless,


  6. Susan, as a teacher and human being, I feel your pain. We are constantly de-powered, unsupported, and maligned in front of students and parents, but the first victims of pointed fingers as reasons for children being out of control. What is a true educator to do? We hold on as long as we can to try to impact as many as we can. And when we can no longer be effective educators and when we can no longer ignore the drain on our own lives and the lives of our families, we gracefully and peacefully walk away from our “Durfee Teams” knowing that we gave our lives to enhance the lives of our future leaders. Enjoy your retirement as you continue your mission in this new season. You are appreciated.


  7. I enjoyed reading your letter. I can understand your frustration. I became an administrator to assist and support teachers like yourself. However, I wasn’t willing to play the “political” game with the other administrators. When I attempted to stand my ground and play by the rules, I lost my contract three months before my tenure. I am very fearful for our children and public schools. What even scares me most, is the new Core Content Curriculum !! Good luck with your retirement and future endeavors.


  8. Susan, I retired two years ago and had similar feelings. It was very hard leaving a job that I loved so much ,but over the past five or so years the joy was not there. I just pray for the young teachers that things will change.


  9. Susan, Thank you for sharing your passion, joy and disappointment. I am retiring after 30 years teaching in public schools only to go to a Charter School. I am following an awesome boss who also is leaving the public school district. I am one of the lucky ones who has always had supportive administrators. Maybe after some time off you will find a new school where you will be appreciated and cherished.


  10. My husband and I left the classroom last year for the same reasons mentioned above. I would never recommend a young person enter the profession we so loved and were dedicated to. The lack of respect from county administrators was appalling; teachers would have been fired if we had treated our students with such disrespect. Fear and intimidation are the motivators now. We are now involved in tutoring and privately funded programs, and love life once again. My heart especially goes out to those with young children of their own. The stress is so unhealthy.


  11. Susan, I retired on May 23, 2014, from my third grade teaching position in a Mississippi school district for exactly the same reason. My husband who is also an educator backed me up 100 percent because he was tired of seeing what the administration was doing to me by threatening to get rid of me if my student’s test scores did not improve. With only 25 years in the profession that I loved I walked away and felt the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders. God has blessed me already by leading me into women’s ministry and using my teaching ability to teach women more about Him! May God show you the path that He has for you. Just know you are not alone!


  12. The stress we are all under is incredible. I teach in Ohio, presently at a Christian school. I retired from public school with 30 years after a dear friend & colleague died unexpectedly. She had been retired for only 2 months, trying to hang in there so she could get to her 35 years for the extra money. After already having survived Stage 2 breast cancer, I suffered a heart attack in November 2013. I was 53 years old. The toll it is taking on us as professionals is appalling. Best of luck to you as you find your way on a new path! God bless!


  13. Sorry to see you go. There are some good stories out there about teachers being recognized and honored. I’ve created a website to focus on the good. It’s only been online since April, but I have some grand plans and ideas for the summer. If you get a chance, please visit http://www.ourgreatteachers.com.


  14. Thank you, Susan, for your heartfelt comments. I retired after 34 years teaching and had many of the same feelings. My fear and concern is now for my three grandchildren who are elementary students. I fear that their education has become a statistic. Test scores are all important, but teaching children is not. Kudos to you…


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