Recently, I’ve been thinking about teachers and what a profound effect they can have on our lives. I have a special place in my heart for certain teachers I remember, whether it’s the first grade teacher we called “Mrs. Good Guy” because she’d let us have candy from her desk drawer, or the social studies teacher I had my senior year of high school who let me write a fictional account of Romany life as my one and only project because I was stuck in a 9th-grade level course due to transferring schools and making up credits.
I’ve also been inspired by stories about teachers, particularly in films like Stand and Deliver and To Sir, With Love. In that vein, I’m offering a film and book list that includes old favorites and new possibilities.
- Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea, and the School that Beat the Odds, by Joanne Jacobs: A journalist follows the story of a downtown San José charter school and the dedicated and determined teachers who work there.
- Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher’s First Year, by Esmé Raji Codell: Daily life as a new fifth-grade teacher at an inner-city Chicago elementary school.
- The Hobart Shakespeareans: A documentary about Rafe Esquith, winner of the American Teacher Award, and his fifth grade students’ production of Hamlet.
- Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness, by Anne Purdy, as told to Robert Specht: A young teacher faces prejudice and harsh conditions in the Alaskan frontier during the 1920s.
- Music of the Heart: Meryl Streep plays a violin teacher in a New York City public school who creates a music program that must go against the odds to survive.
- Freedom Writers: Based on actual student writing, this is the story of a young teacher who brings her students together through a journal project.
- The Great Debaters: A debate coach leads students at historically black Wiley College to a match up with Harvard during the 1930s.