A West High School Spanish teacher who was moved after repeatedly seeking accommodations to teach online amid the COVID-19 pandemic will return to her former students after they protested her removal from their classroom.
Students on Wednesday protested what they saw as the school district’s mishandling of the repeated requests by their teacher to teach online, after she was shifted to the district’s pilot online school, Madison Promise Academy, one month into the new school year.
Tamara Packard, the attorney representing the teacher, announced Friday that the district agreed to return Deana Zorko to teach Spanish language and literature classes at West High School using an online platform. Zorko will return to her classes on Monday.
“I am so proud of my students using their voice to speak up for their education,” Zorko said in a statement. “I feel humbled by their support and the support of members of the community who have advocated for this outcome. I love teaching at West, I love my students and can’t wait to see everyone in class on Monday. Let’s get back to la clase de español!”
Zorko, who is immunocompromised after a double organ transplant eight years ago, was moved to the district’s pilot online school a month after she’d already started the school year at West, despite having asked to teach at the online school months earlier.
The move frustrated West High School students disappointed to lose Zorko to the Madison Promise Academy. They called out district administrators for their lack of “student-centered decision making” in a petition that had more than 1,100 signatures by early Friday afternoon, according to Packard, of the Pines Bach law firm.
“While the situation of Ms. Zorko teaching online was not ideal for neither her nor her classes, many students preferred this teaching style to the one imposed after her departure,” the student-led petition read. “She has gone above and beyond to come up with creative solutions to make teaching virtually work for her students.”
The Madison teachers union, Madison Teachers Inc., threw its support behind Zorko and the student protest.
For the first month of the school year, Zorko had been working online from home through Zoom with the help of a retired substitute teacher who facilitated in-person learning with students in the classroom.
Packard said the development is only a temporary solution as the district has not yet agreed to allow Zorko to remain teaching online at West for the second semester.