New film fights negative perception of teachers

'American Teacher' shows how hard teaching really is.

Think of it as kryptonite for ‘Superman’: As lawmakers work to strip teachers of their collective bargaining rights and school reformers place much of the blame for the problems plaguing public education at their feet, a new film from former teacher Ninive Calegari strives to tell the story of what it’s really like for American school teachers from their own perspective.

“I was a classroom teacher for many years, and I had this feeling that people outside of education didn’t appreciate how sophisticated my job was,” said Calegari, who taught for nearly ten years. “People need to have a better understanding of how complex being a teacher is.”

Calegari co-wrote the 2005 book Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America’s Teachers, which charted on the New York Times Best Seller List. However, she became frustrated when people would tell her they bought the book for their friend or relative in the teaching profession.

I’d be happy that they bought the book, but I would be disappointed because teachers weren’t the [intended] audience for the book,” she said. “We were hoping to penetrate a much larger mainstream audience, because teachers already know the stories that are reflected in the book and in the film.”

The documentary, called American Teacher, opens Sept. 30. The film follows five teachers in different stages of their teaching careers, highlighting their daily lives and routines.

Rhena Jasey is a Harvard graduate with a master’s degree from Columbia, struggling with the lack of respect she receives as a teacher.

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