'The Teacher’ is the coming of adulthood story of Vance Stewart. Young, White and idealistic, Vance has always been successful in everything he has done. Now he faces his biggest challenge, teaching in a New York City public high school. Vance doesn’t want to be a traditional, “authoritarian” teacher who stands up in front of the classroom and lectures all day.
He wants to be a different kind of teacher – creative, original. He wants to give his students a voice, to hear their stories. His ideals are put to the test when his students challenge his every step and misstep. Despite his best intentions, his students see him as just another teacher and they interrupt, ignore, question, and resist his efforts.
Will Vance survive the year? And will he survive with his ideals intact?
WRITER/DIRECTOR STATEMENT - JEREMY ENGLE
I was a high school teacher for over 10 years and have worked with schools and teachers across the country as a professional developer. I have drawn upon these experiences to create an intimate story about the relationships between a teacher and his students. I hope to challenge some of the conventions of the high school film. There is no sex, drugs, gangs or teenage pregnancy in ‘The Teacher’. And there also won't be any heroes, white saviors, convenient villains, easy answers or false uplift that we often see in Hollywood films about high school.
I was initially reluctant to make a film about high school. But increasingly I have felt that Hollywood films and the current political discourse about urban highschools provide an incomplete and simplified picture. In telling the story of one teacher, Vance Stewart, I want to tell the story of a larger, almost hidden story in the crisis of public education – that schools are designed to fail teachers.
Today, while it is common to read headlines about student dropout rates, we have in many ways a more alarming teacher dropout crisis. 1/3 of New York City teachers are in their first 3 years in the profession – many just out of college -- and almost 60% leave the profession within 5 years. With the ‘The Teacher’ I want to explore the struggles, choices and compromises of these young teachers. Vance Stewart is one of the thousands of teachers who will join the profession this year, and with little support, are faced with the blunt choice of quitting or compromising their ideals.
The process of making ‘The Teacher’ is highly collaborative. The script serves more as a guide than a blueprint and has been developed in acting workshops for over 6 months with an ensemble cast of teenage actors. The rehearsals began as a series of improv workshops and slowly over time situations, scenes, characters and dialogue were introduced from the screenplay.
By the time we began production and filmed last summer, we had shaped and reshaped the script to fit the actors and to incorporate the work from our rehearsals. It was really important to us that we have real teenage actors in the student roles. And so we went on an intensive three-month casting search for young actors and over 400 teenagers auditioned.
We have selected our primary cast of 12 teenage actors, have begun production and are preparing for our final shoot this fall. Look out for our "Meet the Cast" videos introducing our young actors to the world!