Michelle Delk is a former thief and drug addict who has been crime-free for nearly 10 years. California law bans her from teaching other inmates how she did it, but she is fighting to change that, reports the Sacramento Bee. A legislative committee yesterday approved a measure that would allow ex-convicts like Delk a teaching credential usable only in prisons or county jails. “This is my calling,” Delk, 47, said of teaching self-esteem and substance-abuse classes to inmates. “It’s what I was destined to do.”
State law prohibits issuance of an adult education teaching credential to people guilty of a “serious felony” unless a judge has deemed them rehabilitated and the governor has pardoned them. Delk, of San Jose, has obtained the required court-sanctioned “certificate of rehabilitation” for her criminal record. Getting a pardon from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is something beyond her control – and no decision is expected for about a year. “We should be looking for ways to get more people like Michelle to teach in our correctional facilities,” said Assemblywoman Rebecca Cohn. The California Teachers Association said the bill would set a bad precedent by carving out a credential specifically for use in prisons or jails. Terry Tanner, principal of an education correction program where Delk taught until her credential application was disqualified last year, praised her. “Some of the best possible teachers are former addicts – they know the road,” he said.