Fans of disciplined Pasco teacher lobby for him to keep job
Many of Michael Maynard's students were not offended by the insults that landed him in hot water with the Pasco County school district.
"What some students characterize as degrading, most of his students would characterize as challenging and intellectually argumentative," one former student, Crystal Puckett, wrote to superintendent Kurt Browning after news of Maynard's removal from River Ridge High School circulated. "Mr. Maynard challenges students to exit their comfort zones and to expose themselves to new ideas. He exposes flaws in students' arguments and makes arguments about his own views in the meantime."
Puckett joined dozens of others to urge Browning and the School Board to return Maynard to the classroom. One of those was Mary Ellen Leone, who said she at first was upset with Maynard's demeanor toward her daughter.
"After listening to Mr. Maynard and speaking with him, my husband and I found him to be just what we wanted in a teacher," Leone wrote to the superintendent. "Mr. Maynard may have spoken in a manner that might offend someone - amazing to think that considering the top individual running for president does that more than most but still has an amazing amount of voters backing him - but he cared. He cared about pushing his students, he cared about them achieving the highest grade possible. He cared... Plain and simple."
Students contacted the district and the Tampa Bay Times to celebrate Maynard and the major positive impact he had on their lives. They said he helped them think, learn and succeed.
"Mr. Maynard was the best teacher I have ever had," wrote Adam Brawer, Maynard's student in 2012-13. "To this day, no teacher has had an impact on me like he has. He completely changed the way I look at the world. He made me more open-minded and made me develop into an adult."
Leah Slane, who also took Maynard's class in 2013, acknowledged (as many others did) that the teacher could be "stubborn, tough, opinionated, and at times, offensive." But that didn't make him a bad teacher, she contended.
She and her classmates "learned to grow thicker skin (apparently not all of us, though) and take his insults because with those insults, he pushed us to succeed far beyond our own expectations," Slane wrote. "If students genuinely take his comments to heart, they are in for a huge unpleasant surprise when they get to college and are confronted with professors that couldn't care less about you and the inability to have Mommy and Daddy hold their hand and handle all of their problems for them."
School district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said the outpouring of support made clear that Maynard was considered a good teacher, something she said district officials knew. However, she added, the fact that he offended groups of students had to be considered seriously.
The district did get some praise for finally acting against Maynard's behavior. Because Maynard took a leave of absence, officials have made no final decision on his status.