United Way screens ‘American Teacher’Written by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
About 75 Toledoans gathered Nov. 3 at the Maumee Valley Country Day School to view a documentary about the lives of teachers today and discuss the state of education.
The “American Teacher” movie screening and discussion was put on by the area’s Women’s Initiative of United Way. The nonpartisan Women’s Initiative “motivates women to become leaders and advocates” in their community, said Elaine Jansen, director of the Women’s Initiative. Jansen added that the turnout was more than anticipated.
One of the United Way’s major focuses this year is education. The Women’s Initiative is developing a creative-writing program, focusing on the last “R” of reading, arithmetic and writing, said Susan McHugh, who also delivered the opening speech.
“American Teacher” was co-produced by Nínive Calegari, the keynote speaker at the Women’s Initiative Spring Event, author and former teacher. The film profiled several teachers, including a Harvard-educated New Jersey teacher, a San Francisco instructor turned realtor, a Texan middle school educator and a pregnant first-grade teacher in Brooklyn, N.Y. The teachers struggled with issues like low salaries, little family time and a lack of respect for their profession. The film, narrated by Matt Damon, is part of The Teacher Salary Series, a campaign examining the education system in America.
After the film, Lissa Guyton of abc13 led the discussion of the film. Many in the audience were teachers or students studying education.
Some lamented that education isn’t valued enough. “If you’re getting an ‘A,’ it should be as valued as if you’re the start of football or basketball,” said Melissa Snively, a Bowling Green University student.
Dr. Richard Ruppert, another audience member, echoed her statement. “There are only two things that are important to the growth of a community: jobs and education,” he said.
Regina Carter, membership manager for the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, recalled that several of her friends were education majors who started out in the Toledo area. “I feel they were the best of the best,” she said. However, all have since left the area.
Many audience members also agreed that the way to improve the country’s future is through education. “We can create our own history in this community if we have the chutzpah to move forward in a collaborative way,” said Dr. Libby Ruppert.