A drama teacher at a Catholic school who refused to remove the word “bejesus” from a play is fighting to keep his registration to continue teaching.

He is accused of serious misconduct and appeared before a three-member panel in a formal hearing at the Victorian Institute of Teaching this week.

The panel heard the teacher’s former colleagues described his behaviour as belligerent, unreasonable and narcissistic. But the teacher insists he was the victim of unfair treatment at the school in regional Victoria.

On Monday the panel was told the teacher engaged in a heated email exchange with a parent who expressed concerns about the word “bejesus” in the play.

If the teacher is found guilty of misconduct the panel can make a range of punishments from issuing a caution to cancelling the teacher’s registration.

One school staff member, who appeared as a witness, said he was not offended by the word in the play but the teacher’s emails to the parent were unnecessary and “argumentative”.

He told the panel staff also felt bullied and harassed by the teacher.

The panel heard the drama teacher described the staff member as an “evil human being” in an email and told him to “go to hell”.

But the staff member acknowledged he was “quite delighted” with some of the work the teacher had done at the school.

The teacher was suspended in 2012 after working less than one term. The teacher cannot be named for legal reasons.

He was no longer working at the school when the drama production was staged. The staff member said there was a sense of relief when the teacher was no longer working there. “We didn’t have to avoid going to the staffroom,” he said.

The teacher’s former colleagues were allegedly “in fear” while he worked at the school. “They were the ones who felt like they were being bullied.”

However, he said he had asked staff to apologise on some occasions when the teacher felt he had been mistreated. “It was about trying to keep an even keel and trying to work with somebody rather than in conflict with someone.”

The teacher has rejected the allegations against him and is representing himself at the hearing. He took “great offence” when a classroom aide asked when he would stop making changes to the school play script, which was then just weeks away from its scheduled performance.

The panel heard the teacher was “pleasant and accommodating” during the first few weeks of employment.

The hearing was to continue at the institute on Tuesday.