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A Washington, DC, Public School Fired Back After Betsy DeVos Criticized Its Teachers

“We’re about to take her to school.”

Last updated on February 18, 2017, at 11:31 a.m. ET

Posted on February 18, 2017, at 11:08 a.m. ET

Mario Tama / Getty Images

Educators at Jefferson Academy — the public school protesters temporarily blocked Betsy DeVos from entering two days after her confirmation — fired back at the education secretary for saying its teachers "are waiting to be told what they have to do."

Devos visited Jefferson Academy on Feb. 1 and was met with a group of protesters. After a man threw himself in front of a staircase leading into the school, DeVos was forced to return to her car with a small number of protesters chasing after her. DeVos was eventually able to enter the school through another entrance.

“I respect peaceful protest, and I will not be deterred in executing the vital mission of the Department of Education,” Devos said in a statement after the incident. “No school door in America will be blocked from those seeking to help our nation’s schoolchildren.”

Less than a week after her visit at Jefferson, DeVos took aim at the school's teachers, saying that, while some were "genuine, sincere teachers," they seemed to be in "receive mode."

"But I can tell the attitude is more of a 'receive mode,'" Devos told Townhall. "They are waiting to be told what they have to do, and that's not going to bring success to an individual child. You have to have teachers who are empowered to facilitate great teaching."

During her confirmation process, DeVos faced intense criticism that she knew little about the public school system she had been appointed to oversee, having spent her career focused solely on charter and private schools.

Her opponents, including many teachers, deluged congressional phone lines to implore their senators to vote against her. Two Republicans said they could not support her, leading Vice President Mike Pence to break a tie on her nomination — marking the first time that a vice president has done so for a Cabinet nominee.

Jefferson Academy responded to DeVos's comments Friday night by firing off 11 tweets, stating that, "we’re about to take her to school.”

JA teachers are not in a "receive mode." Unless you mean we "receive" students at a 2nd grade level and move them to an 8th grade level.

The Friday night tweetstorm went on to list the names of Jefferson educators DeVos met with, who are not "waiting to be told what to do."

Then she saw Latisha Trent in action. Ms. Trent has been at Jefferson for 3 years, and each year her students grow MULTIPLE grade levels...

in Math. EVERY student realizes his or her maximum potential in Ms. Trent's room. She isn't waiting to be told what to do.

Then the Sec. met Band teacher Jessica Harris, who has built our Music program from the ground up. Ms. Harris pours her heart into her work.

Ms. Harris is patient, kind, relentless, and reflective. She is everything you want in a teacher. She isn't waiting to be told what to do.

The Department of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Chancellor Antwan Wilson — who accompanied DeVos on her visit to Jefferson Academy — told the Washington Post, "the teaching and learning at Jefferson will put our students on a path to college, successful careers, and beyond."

On Saturday morning, DeVos tweeted that she thinks Jefferson Academy's teachers "are awesome."

.@JATrojans Your teachers are awesome! They deserve MORE freedom to innovate and help students.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Department of Education's Twitter account shared the hashtag #LoveTeaching, praising educators and the work they do. Devos and her department both retweeted teachers who shared the hashtag.

Today our @usEDgov team is sharing why we #LoveTeaching. Proud to support great teachers!

That feeling when a student finds their confidence ❤️❤️ #LoveTeaching

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.