But she also was sarcastic, condescending and profane with students, Seminole County school administrators say. Records show she has a nearly 30-year history of disciplinary problems, including a one-year suspension.
During class in August, the veteran teacher displayed a crude wooden carving of a penis and testicles. That action seems likely to cost Michaud her job. The Seminole County School Board is to vote on her firing at its meeting Tuesday. The board suspended her without pay last month.
The carving was one of several similar sculptures left on the Longwood campus as a senior prank in 2009. Michaud, 56, told a school district investigator she thought the prank was “humorous” and out of “pure stupidity on my part” took one and kept it stashed in a classroom cabinet.
Michaud’s abrupt departure from Lyman has upset some students and parents, who described her as a top-notch teacher who pushed even very bright students to achieve more.
“She was completely vested in trying to get these kids … prepared for what they’re going to face in college,” said Brian Clarke, whose son Sean had Michaud for Algebra 2 last year.
But district administrators viewed Michaud’s decision to take out the vulgar object as an “egregious act” from a teacher with a long history of discipline problems. Since 1986, Michaud had been warned repeatedly about cursing and making sarcastic and demeaning comments to students, among other problems, district records show.
“At some point, the performance of a teacher doesn’t really weigh in any more,” said John Reichert, the district’s director of human resources.
The most recent case against Michaud started when a parent called Lyman to complain that Michaud had insulted and embarrassed her child. That student then told administrators that her math teacher had also taken out a wooden “dildo” in class, district records show.
Clarke said he and his wife initially found Michaud “glib” and her language “rough.” But she won them over with how dedicated she was.
“I learned to appreciate her,” Kathy Clarke added. “And I allowed her to rattle my child sometimes … and hold his feet to the fire.”
Michaud was hired by Seminole schools in 1982. Her discipline track record dates back to 1986, with documents showing administrators’ frustrations with “unprofessional” conduct but also their acknowledgment that she could be an “excellent teacher.”
Her file includes nine letters of reprimand, caution or directive. In those, principals noted that parents had complained Michaud had called their children “moron,” “retarded,” or “rude heifer” and that she had cursed, even using the F-word, in class.
•In 1991, when she was working at Oviedo High, she was suspended for a year without pay and lost her teaching certificate because of accusations she purchased and served alcohol to underage students and used sexually explicit language with students, according to a settlement agreement with the state. Michaud denied those allegations but chose not to fight them.
•She also was suspended for a day in 2002 for insubordination and unprofessional conduct.
•In 2004, she was fired from a summer school job at Winter Springs High for “unprofessional” comments, including “telling a male student who asked to use the restroom to ‘tie it in a knot,’” records show.
•In 2009, the state reprimanded and fined her $1,000 for unprofessional conduct in prior years.
Michaud’s home telephone number was not working and neither she nor her attorney responded to a message left for them with the Seminole Education Association, the teachers union.
Michaud also has taught under the names of Danelle Jeanne Michaud and Jeanne Gibson.
Debbie Le Grand, who has two children at Lyman, said Michaud was a “phenomenal teacher” who helped her older son come to view Algebra 2 as not only doable but fun.
Le Grand said she heard there was sometimes inappropriate language in class but focused more on the change in her son’s attitude about math.
“She was always one of those teachers who went above and beyond to be available to her students,” she said. “I’d still put my kids back in her class in a heartbeat.”
Added Brian Clarke, “If there’s indefensible conduct that she’s been warned about repeatedly, I would grieve with her for the loss of her job. Jeanne, dear God, why wouldn’t you save yourself from yourself?”