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St. Michael-Albertville Chinese teacher among possibly hundreds to lose jobs over licensing changes

May 20, 2019 06:38 PM

A Chinese teacher in the St. Michael-Albertville (STMA) school district will no longer be able to teach next year because of some changes made by Minnesota lawmakers.

Hundreds of teachers could be impacted by the changes.

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Students at St. Michael Albertville High School aren't shy to share what they love about their Chinese teacher, Sonny Wang.

"She is so passionate about the program and about what she wants to share with us, and she wants us to succeed so bad, it's so evident," said Jack, a senior and fourth-year Chinese student.

"She is one of the kindest and sweetest persons I have ever met," added Max, a sophomore.

In 11 years at the high school, the program has grown from about 30 students to more than 150.

"One of my majors is going to be Chinese and that is because of her, she influenced that heavily," said another fourth-year student, Gianna.

"She feels more like a friend or another figure in my life than just a teacher," shared Rylee, a junior.

But next year, the beloved high school teacher won't be in the classroom.

"She is just amazing, I don't know what I would do without her, I wouldn't want to take that calss if she wasn't our teacher," said Kat, a junior.

Minnesota lawmakers made changes to teacher licensure in 2017, which went into effect last July, mandating non-licensed comunity experts, like Wang, have a bachelor's degree.

"Native language speakers who speak Hmong, Somali, and Chinese that don’t have their bachelor's degree, but have been brought into those schools as experts, will not be able to teach next year," said Alex Liuzzi, Executive Director of the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board.

Liuzzi said this change could impact 400 teachers, and he's heard from many districts.

"Any change of this magnitude needs some fine-tuning," he said.

The superintendent of STMA said Wang was licensed this year, but added: "At this time, and despite the district's best efforts, the teacher in question will not be eligible for a license at the start of the 2019-2020 school year."

Liuzzi said the Senate did hear a bill a few months ago that would address the issue, but it did not make it into the omnibus bill, and Monday is the final day of the 2019 legislative session.

The school district said Wang didn't want to talk with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS about the issue.

Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota, issued the following statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS about the issue on Monday:

"The members of Education Minnesota have been talking about the need to adjust the new teacher licensing process almost from the day it was signed into law in 2017 because the unintended consequences were immediately clear to us. We have proposed and endorsed several small changes both in 2018 and during the current session. For example, we would change the law to give Tier 1 teachers the freedom to join the same union as other teachers so all the teachers in a school would have the same compensation, professional development opportunities and rights to due process under the contract. Unfortunately, there are now only a few hours left in the 2019 session. We had hoped to have this settled by now."

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Jessica Miles

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