AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL 2011
By Caitlyn Collins | October 17, 2011
Directors: Vanessa Roth, Brian McGinn
Narrator: Matt Damon
We all have at least one teacher we can think back to as being a highly important person, not just as an educator but as someone that truly made a difference. American Teacher, a documentary directed by Vanessa Roth, looks at the status and treatment of teachers in this country. By interviewing current and former educators around the United States, Roth is able to present a well-balanced look into the lives of American teachers.
The statistics presented with regard to public education is astounding. Money can be a highly motivating factor for entering one profession over another. And sadly, education in the United States is increasing annually. With degrees from Harvard and Princeton, Rhena Jasey, a former teacher of Seth Boyden Elementary School in Maplewood, New Jersey was making $40,900. Teaching is an incredibly underpaid profession considering the long hours teachers must put in both in and out of the classroom. Erik Brenner, a history teacher at Trinity Springs Middle School in Keller, Texas not only teaches but is also an athletics coach. He’s still forced to work part-time in order to make ends meet. And not only are they educators, but for many children teachers act as counselors, parents, friends and social workers.
Roth also looks at teaching and politics, including race, class and gender issues. Obama has stated that the key to excellent education is having outstanding teachers, but how can you be excellent with little financial, emotional or professional help?
While the documentary runs a bit long, the information presented is eye-opening and disheartening.