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Catastrophe Award teacher: "My teaching days are done"

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Photo: Video by kgun9.com

Catastrophe Award teacher: "My teaching days are done"

CREATED Jul 2, 2012 - UPDATED: Jul 2, 2012

Reporter: Guy Atchley
Web Producer: Ina Ronquillo

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Until now we've known her simply as "Ms. Plowman."  That's the name that appeared on what was labeled as a "Catastrophe Award," an award that embarrassed a third grade student in front of her classmates.  The teacher who gave that award was GiGi Plowman. She spoke exclusively with Nine On Your Side.

Among the startling revelations Plowman says the school's claim that she resigned over the incident is not true.

Guy Atchley asked GiGi Plowman, "What was your reaction to all the national reaction?  Here's how she responded, "I was devastated.  I've had a sick feeling in my stomach for a month."

For the third-grade teacher GiGi Plowman, it was a good year at Desert Springs Academy, until those final few days, when during a year-end class party she handed out personality awards to all of her students.  

Ms. Plowman explains what happened. She says, "It was done in a relaxed low key way.  It was not done to shame anyone."

But this award, hit a nerve.  The Catastrophe Award given to 8-year-old Christina Valdez for repeatedly not turning in homework.  When her mother Cassandra Garcia saw it, she became incensed.

Cassandra Garcia said, "I think it's cruel and no child should be given an award like this."

Initially, there was no public reaction from Ms. Plowman.

She said, "The administration told me to keep quiet, it would blow over.  So I kept quiet almost a full month and lost a lot of sleep."  Guy Atchley asked, "What has this been like for you?"  Ms. Plowman says, "Pretty hellish."

But the story did not blow over.  In fact, KGUN 9's report went viral.  Rising to the top national story on Yahoo.com.  Now, Ms. Plowman comes forward to, in her words, set the record straight, that she tried to apologize.

Ms. Plowman says, "Ms. Valdez when she I had a break I called her.  She threw some verbal abuse at me and then hung up on me."

Guy Atchley asked, "If you had to to over again, would you?"  Ms. Plowman said, "For Cassandra, certainly not, hindsight is always 20/20 and that's why the minute I knew Ms. Valdez was upset about it, that's why I made a phone call and was rudely treated."

Guy Atchley asked, "If you could speak to Christina Valdez now what would you tell her?"

Ms. Plowman said, "I would tell her what I said earlier.  That I'm very sorry.  I would never thoughtfully ever do anything to harm, intentionally hurt, humiliate, that's not me."

Desert Springs Academy later announced  that Ms. Plowman had resigned. Only one problem, she says she hasn't.

Ms. Plowman told us, "If Desert Springs Academy has a signed document stating my resignation, I'd like to see it because I haven't seen or written anything.  I'd like to see that signed document."

There is one other thing Ms. Plowman would like to see, less of what she called political correctness.

Ms. Plowman said, "Our society is worried so much about being politically correct, that we are not molding the next generation.  Teachers are working from a base of fear.  And that's what really bothers me, and that's why I stepped out, it's not for myself."

Guy Atchley asked, "You have put yourself on the line.  If people do come up to you now and criticize you, how will you respond or will you?

Ms. Plowman said, "I don't think I will.  I'm not going to engage in any more negativity.  One of the reasons I wanted to do this is to stop it.  I"d like to be able to sleep at night and get on with my life and pick up the pieces."

GiGi Plowman hopes to stay in Tucson, if she can find some kind of work.  In the meantime, she's consulting an attorney regarding her position at the school.