A middle school teacher who left her class at the end of the year because she was tired and couldn’t attend classes was left shocked when she found out she couldn’t return to the same school she taught at the beginning of the school year.
Karen Crouch, 40, had already taken a year off from teaching after her son, Ryan, was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Down syndrome.
Ryan, who was born with the disorder, has cerebral palsy and has learning difficulties.
She had been hoping to teach his third grade class at Altona Middle School in Melbourne’s north-west, but when she returned to the school, she was told that she could not return because she could no longer attend her classes.
Ms Crouch said she felt really betrayed because she felt she had been part of the community and that she was doing something that she believed in.
“I thought I was going to be able to teach,” she said.
When she arrived at the school in December, she found the school was still in the red and there were no books or materials available for the kids to use.
Students had to use their phones and iPads to access the school library.
“[The staff] didn’t seem to know what they were doing and were not really understanding why I was leaving,” she told ABC News.
Despite the challenges, Ms Crouch had her heart set on teaching.
The former teacher said she was confident she could make the transition back to the classroom, but it was not to be.
A spokesperson for Altonan Middle School said the school “continues to offer all students, regardless of their disability, a fair opportunity to continue learning”.
“We are constantly looking for ways to make learning more accessible to all students,” they said.
“We are committed to ensuring that our students’ needs are being met and we are always open to working with schools and their staff to find ways to meet those needs.”
Altonan continues to work closely with its school partners to ensure that every student has access to the full range of services available to them and their families.
“”It was incredibly sad to hear about what had happened and it left me devastated,” she added.
However, she said it had been an experience she had learnt from.
I can go back and see him now,” she shared.
Last month, Ms Cunningham told News Corp she wanted to return to work.
But she said she had no idea if she could.
Altona Superintendent Michael Brown told ABC Radio Melbourne he was not aware of Ms Cunningham’s situation.
He said he was sorry she was left in a position where she could never go back, but said it was an issue he was looking into.
Mr Brown said it would be up to the district’s education department whether to extend Ms Cunningham an extension of her leave.
Topics:education,community-and-society,mental-health,mental,australiaContact Ashley TaylorMore stories from Victoria