New Documentary Looks at Teachers in American Schools

Published on Fri, November 11, 2011

Last month Governor Tom Corbett outlined his agenda for education reform, raising questions about charter school quality and educator evaluations. Amid teacher layoffs and a climate of educational scrutiny, a new documentary, American Teacher, explores the education system through the lives of four teachers, as they reach different milestones in their careers and struggle to find their niche in their profession.

The Marywood University Education Department will host a screening of American Teacher on Sunday, November 13, at 7 p.m. in the Comerford Theater on the campus of Marywood University. Admission is free.

Listen to Meaghan Godwin discuss the film.

Discussing the film's relevance, Meaghan Godwin, a doctorate student, says American Teacher is the first documentary to focus on education's most important asset: the teachers.

"It's a ripe time to show something like this," said Godwin. "Until now, it seems like documentaries have been focused on education as a system, and not enough attention has been given to the teachers. This is the first film to focus on the teachers and how they fit in to the system."

Narrated by Matt Damon, the film paints a realistic portrait of the problems teachers face. One of those featured, Jonathan Dearman, was an influential teacher at San Francisco's first charter school, Leadership High. Dearman was beloved by his students, but he was forced after many years to leave the profession because of his inability to support his family on a teacher's salary.

Vanessa Roth, the film's director and producer, was inspired to create a documentary about teachers because school choice and the quality of her kids' education is a central issue in her family, she says. A mother of two, Roth wants her children's education to help them become engaged, curious lifelong learners.

Godwin, who is also a mother, connected the broader themes of the film to local events. She says Gov. Corbett's education reforms are "certainly different" from the previous administrations' views on education, and the demonization of teachers needs to stop.

"I want people to get a widened perspective of what is going on in educations," she said, explaining why people should see the film. "If all you're getting are the news reports, you're getting part of the picture. The more information we have, the better. It fills in a piece of the puzzle that we are missing."

This event is being sponsored by the Marywood University Education Club and the Philadelphia Delaware Valley Fulbright Alumni Association.

For more information about American Teacher, please email Meaghan Godwin at or call (570) 371-788178.