Drum roll…Michelle Suchyj.
Who is that you may ask? She was the bravest teacher in the state this year. She did something so big and so huge it took a ton of guts.
Michelle spoke at a Christina Board of Education meeting this fall about a very serious issue, the mold at Pulaski Elementary School. It had been an ongoing problem at the school. Many teachers at Pulaski, as well as teachers from other Christina schools, tried to get the mold crisis handled by the district. Nothing happened. Teachers were ignored with no reply emails or no return calls. That is, until Pulaski teacher Michelle Suchyj said enough is enough and informed the Christina board what was going on at Pulaski. From there, the mold issue became a top priority for the district. All because one teacher stuck her neck VERY far out. Teachers were getting sick. Students with asthma were in danger. It was not a matter the district should have ignored.
It is very tough for teachers to publicly speak out about things. There is always the possibility of intimidation if they dare to speak out against a school or a district. It could lead to termination. While I am writing this and saluting Michelle Suchyj as the Exceptional Delaware Hero of the Year for 2016, the simple fact is it should have never come down to a sick teacher pleading with her local board to take action. The district should have done the right thing in the first place. I would hate to think what would have happened if Michelle did not speak out on the issue. I commend the board for taking the action they did once they found out about it.
When Pulaski was under mold remediation, I visited the school and spoke with Michelle. I saw the rooms with the air filters sucking the toxic air out of the rooms and into the Wilmington air. I had an opportunity to watch Michelle teach some students as well and found her to be a highly-skilled and competent teacher. But for doing a VERY brave thing, my hero of the year is Michelle. You inspire me and I hope others as well to speak out when something just isn’t right!