Film shows what it means to be 'American Teacher'

Oct. 20, 2013 @ 07:23 PM

The realities of being a teacher in America were given names and faces during Sunday’s screening of “American Teacher”.
Sponsored by Crayons2Calculators in Rogers-Herr Middle School, the screening highlighted the day-to-day struggle many teachers face in the classroom and how it sometimes trickles over into their personal lives.
“It doesn’t matter how long or how little you’ve been in school, people can name a teacher that changed their life,” said Steven Unruhe, a teacher at Riverside High School. “That’s why we teach.”
“American Teacher” follows four teachers from across the United States and their time as educators. Interwoven with expert opinions, other education professionals and statistics, the film was an eye-opener for some on the audience and an echo for others.
Among those in attendance was Durham Public Schools board of education members Natalie Beyer and Nancy Cox. When Unruhe asked if people in the audience were surprised by what they saw, both nodded their heads no.
“It’s important to be aware of what a challenging job teaching is and it’s important for us to consider how we can value that profession and lift up those professionals who are working hard everyday,” Beyer said.
She added that keeping lawmakers in on the conversation about education and posing the difficult questions are critical.
“That is our biggest challenge. We want our General Assembly members to ask themselves why would anyone go into teaching with the long hours, low pay and lack of respect.”
According to the film, in 2011 there were 3.2 million teachers in the United States, 1.8 million of which will retire in 10 years. Of those teachers, only 16 percent were men compared to 1970 when men accounted for 34 percent of the nation’s teachers.
Teacher salaries were also highlighted in the film as it explained that many teachers work two jobs because their teaching salary is not enough to support their households. The teachers followed in the film admitted that teacher pay was one of the many obstacles to the profession.
According to the Durham Public Schools website, the 2,300 teachers across the district earn between $29,750 and $65,440 annually.
State Sen. Mike Woodard, D-22nd District, said that “American Teacher” revealed some of the ugly truths about education in America.
“It was incredibly sobering to take a real view of the challenges our teachers face both professionally and personally,” he said.
When asked what he would do to fix education in the United States, Woodard said he would start by paying teachers more.
“It’s real clear to me that it’s a incredible financial burden to teachers to teach and be a good teacher,” Woodard explained. “It takes a lot of time which means time away from their families and time away from other things, and yet we demand more of them but we don’t pay them enough to do all that we’re asking of them.”
There are two upcoming events that aim to give people the opportunity to show support for teachers. A pep rally for public schools will be held at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 1 at CCB Plaza and a Walk-In for Education will be held on Nov. 4 when teachers, parents and other supporters are encouraged to wear red and walk in to schools together instead of walking out.