The most important task of a daycare center worker is to keep the children safe. So when Michelle Hammack, (right) a teacher at the Little Temples Childcare facility in Arlington, Fla., smelled smoke and the children were napping, she rushed out of her classroom to investigate. (Arlington is a neighborhood of Jacksonville.)
Seeing that chicken nuggets were burning in an oven, she was able to put out the fire before even the fire trucks arrived on the scene, according to a report by WTEV-TV in Jacksonville. Her boss, however, wasn't impressed. On that same day, the owner of the childcare facility Olga Rozhaov fired Hammack.
Rozhakov defended her decision to the media. "I fired her only because she left her room," she told the TV station. "It's not acceptable, and if anybody else does the same thing, I will fire again. I will fire them. No question."
Hammack, for her part, is taking credit for keeping the kids safe. The fire "probably would have progressed had it not been put out before [the fire trucks arrived]," she told WTEV-TV. She was also able to march her students out of the building to safety. And so, she says, she's being mistreated. "I didn't start the fire. I put it out." She's protested her firing outside the school. Parents have yet to make a comment to the media about her story.
To the Daily Caller, the right-leaning Washington D.C.-based news site, the firing of Hammack was misguided. In fact, the website said the decision to terminate her is proof that "America is clearly wheezing its last ethical gasps."
In response to the WTEV report, the local Department of Children and Families has opened an investigation into the incident.
No matter how her case is resolved, Hammack works in an industry -- child care -- that offers low pay despite the high responsibilities that come with the work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, child-care workers make an average wage of $9.28 an hour. Daycare workers in a handful of states, however, have begun forming unions to bargain for higher reimbursements from state governments. And childcare remains a growing sector as dual-income couples and single-parent households look for help.
Correction: An earlier version of this post referred to Arlington as located outside of Jacksonville.
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