Teacher discusses past as Stripper: “I never anticipated the backlash”

ex-StripperTeacher: Susan Brennan



(Dec. 22, 2010; Park Township, MI)

Suspended West Ottawa High School teacher Susan Brennan is not proud of her past stint as a stripper, but cautions others about casting aspersions on people in the skin-flashing industry.

“There are a lot of assumptions people make that are not true,” said the 20-year English teacher, in a fight to keep her job after school leaders announced they would seek a tenure hearing to oust her.

“If any good can come out of this, it would be that people understand why women work in those clubs.” Brennan claims West Ottawa administrators have been unhappy with her for four years after learning she worked during the summer of 2006 as an exotic dancer. But school leaders claim their actions are based in Brennan’s unsatisfactory performance in the classroom.

Brennan took the dancer job, working at clubs in Grand Rapids and Lansing, because she and her then-husband were in financial distress and in danger of losing their Grand Rapids home to bankruptcy.

“It was a way to earn money,” said the 42-year-old.

At the time, a friend told her she could make a lot of money dancing, and her husband urged her to take such a job, she said.

During her time in the trade, she learned some dancers were single mothers trying to make financial ends meet. A medical student, law student and two other teachers also danced.

She worked a few days a week during daytime hours and found that, in Lansing, many customers were lonely businessman who just wanted to talk.

Brennan said she never foresaw the potential trouble before another person reportedly told the district superintendent in the fall of 2006 about the temporary job.

“I never anticipated the backlash,” said Brennan, a mother of three children who attend the third and first grades and preschool. Today, she regrets ever working in a strip club and called it the most damaging mistake of her life.

She said school administrators confronted her about the job and she told the truth, but was later put on paid administrative leave for six months.

School board President Scott VanderStoep, citing privacy about personnel issues, could not confirm any previous paid leave or reasons behind the time off.

School administrators, in filing the tenure charges, alleged Brennan failed to use proper lesson plans and grading methods, did not grade some tests and failed to teach the prescribed curriculum. She denied all of the charges and said she received successful performance reviews throughout her career except for the latest last spring.

The tenure charges against Brennan, as outlined in a document before the school board Monday, made no mention of her past job as an exotic dancer. VanderStoep said the issue was about teaching.

Her latest leave from her job began in late October, Brennan said.

“The charges last night were based on her teaching competency and professionalism in the classroom,” he said.

But Brennan said earlier-drafted documents show the dancing was an issue. About two years ago at school, she learned that some students were talking about the job and some wrote disparaging comments about her on Facebook during the last school year.

Brennan said she wants to continue as a West Ottawa teacher, a job she loves, and does not believe her reputation is tainted beyond repair. She teaches mostly sophomores and juniors.

“Students appreciate honesty and I think they are a lot more compassionate than people give them credit for. I don’t worry too much about that,” she said.

She plans to fight for her job.

“This is my career. It’s what I love and the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do, so I’m not backing down,” she said.

author: John Tunison: jtunison@grpress.com
The Grand Rapids Press
article: http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2010/12/teacher_discusses_her_past_as.html

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