BROOKSVILLE – Nine second-grade students at Pine Grove Elementary had similar adjectives to describe Teresa Wimmer’s class – uncomfortable.
“I’m a little scared when she walks past me,” one student said. “She screams at us.”
Principal Earl Deen opened an investigation in August after several students (and their parents) reported multiple alarming incidents to the school and, among others, the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Wimmer, who has been with the district 10 years, said the allegations were misunderstandings but when the investigation was complete, the district suspended her for 10 days without pay.
One student said she saw Wimmer walk into the restroom without knocking, then pull a student out who was nearly seated on the toilet, according to the investigation.
Several said she grabbed a student’s chair and “threw” or “slid” it across the room into a corner, “fast” and “loud,” the investigation found.
Wimmer picked another student up from a chair, students said, then dropped him, according to the investigation.
She instructed the student to remain seated on the floor the rest of class, they said.
Another student was yanked out of his chair by the arm, others said. That student started crying “really bad,” according to the investigation.
“Stupid baby,” one student recalled Wimmer saying to him. “Look at those alligator tears.”
“He had a red mark,” the student said. Several students said Wimmer grabbed a student’s head, and twisted it to face a screen, yelling for him to pay attention, according to the investigation. “My neck cracked,” he said, meaning he heard it.
One mother told district staff during the investigation that her daughter was playing with her hair one day because her braid kept falling in her face.
If she didn’t stop, the student said Wimmer told her, “she would cut her hair with scissors.”
Then she made a scissor-cutting gesture with her fingers, witnesses said: “Two snaps.”
Wimmer confiscated a bracelet from another girl, students said, “to make a collection of them.”
“One time we were in the computer lab,” another student told district officials. “I asked her how to spell ‘learn,’ and she told me.
“Then she hit me,” the student said. “On the head.”
It hurt a little, the student said, and he almost cried.
Students crying in class, being screamed at by their teacher with a microphone through speakers, and being grabbed by their chins were regular occurrences, according to the investigation.
One of Wimmer’s students was involved in a fireworks show at the fair, according to the investigation.
“Lame,” one student said Wimmer told him, adding that she wouldn’t be going.
Wimmer spotted another student with a textbook open to the wrong page. She hit the student on the leg and yelled at the student in front of the class, the investigation found.
Wimmer told investigators several of the students have behavioral issues.
She said she yells because she had ear problems in her youth.
Some of the comments were jokes, she said, and she denied ever grabbing or physically harming her students.
According to a letter Wimmer submitted Wednesday morning, and after the deadline established in the investigation, she wrote that she felt it was in her best interest to accept the last chance agreement offered to her by the school board in order to resume teaching as soon as possible.
“First and foremost, it is my belief that the allegations made by the student(s) were a result of lack of trust or bond between me and the students,” she wrote, noting a recent decision by school administrators that teachers not engage in back to school activities, where bonds between teachers and students could be better established.
“It is my opinion that this inability to bond with the students made it easier for students to act out and make false allegations against me in a poorly executed investigation,” she wrote. “In light of the age of students being questioned and the suggestive nature of the questions asked, it is not surprising that additional allegations surfaced.”
Wimmer is on probation for the remainder of the 2013-14 school year. She will have to attend and complete classroom management, diversity, ethics, and behavioral strategies classes by Dec. 15, and is not to engage in any similar behavior. Otherwise, the investigation concluded, termination of employment is a possibility.
Wimmer resumed teaching Nov. 14. She could not be reached for comment.