The Grade 9 English teacher would frequently use nicknames when addressing students, instead of their given names. (files)

B.C. teacher disciplined for classroom jokes

Nicknames and video game playing deemed inappropriate

  • May. 9, 2018 8:00 a.m.

A Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District teacher was suspended for three days last year for making jokes deemed inappropriate in class.

The B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation publicized a consent resolution agreement with educator Michael Sedlak and commissioner Howard Kushner, dated by the latter in April.

In May 2017, says the agreement, the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district made a report to the commissioner regarding Sedlak.

The agreement says, during the 2015-2016 school year, the Grade 9 English teacher would frequently use nicknames when addressing students, instead of their given names.

“As an example, Sedlak would often add ‘erator’ to the end of a student’s name so that the name ‘Bruce’ would become ‘Brucerator,’” says the agreement.

“After the class finished reading Farley Mowatt’s book Never Cry Wolf, Sedlak referred to male students in the class as ‘my moose’ and ‘my caribou’ and to female students as ‘my deer.’ Students reported feeling awkward and uncomfortable with Sedlak’s use of nicknames.”

When students asked to go to the washroom, Sedlak would ask them, “How much change do you have on you.”

“While Sedlak meant this as a joke and never took money from them, students described these comments as being ‘weird,’” says the agreement.

He would also play Clash of the Clans on his iPhone during silent reading time in full view of his students. He played for less than a minute on each occasion, says the agreement.

The school district issued Sedlak a letter of discipline and suspended him for three days without pay on May 24, 2017.

Three days later, the district made a report to the commissioner.

The district also required ongoing monitoring of the teacher, and that he work on a professional growth plan with school administrators.

The district had raised previous concerns about Sedlak, according to the agreement.

In February 2014, the district issued him a letter of expectation, indicating that it was incumbent upon him to interact with students in a manner that is not disrespectful, degrading, humiliating or embarrassing. He was directed to attend a workshop on maintaining professional boundries with students.

In May 2014, the district issued him a letter of warning and advised of the expectation to maintain professional boundaries.

In October 2015, he was suspended for a day and required to attend sessions on respecting boundaries and sensitivity training. The district also issued Sedlak a letter then, making it clear he needed to be more appropriate and professional when engaging with students.

Sedlak has agreed to a reprimand, will complete a course called “Reinforcing Respectful Professional Boundaries” through the Justice Institute.

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