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Leroy David Nunery II, center, acting CEO and superintendent for the School District of Philadelphia speaks during the screening of “American Teacher” in West Philadelphia. — PHOTO BY JARID A. BARRINGER

For 81 minutes, parents and teachers listened intently to stories shared in the feature-length documentary “American Teacher,” showcased during a screening held at the School of the Future in West Philadelphia last Thursday.

The documentary chronicled the stories of four teachers who live and work in disparate urban and rural areas of the country.

By following these teachers as they reach different milestones in their careers, the film told the deeper story of the education crisis in America.

The film presented the experience of these teachers as they recognize the importance of what they do and how much they love what they do, by questioning if they can afford to continue to teach.

LaSunia Cameron served as a parent volunteer for the evening. She was able to watch the majority of the film and was proud to share a personal story of triumph.

“My daughter has not attended the School of the Future for all four years like most students,” Cameron said. “Let’s just say she did not exhibit the best behavior nor did she have the best performance.”

Her daughter spent 10th grade at Greater Hope Christian Academy.

The first two years of high school made Cameron’s daughter realize many differences between the two schools.

Mostly, Cameron’s daughter missed what she took for granted — the many resources and staff who were committed to her academic success at the School of the Future.

To Cameron’s surprise, her daughter acknowledged all she had lost and worked diligently to be reinstated to the school.

“We experienced the love, support and never-ending passion that all students should receive from teachers, the principal or administrators,” she said.

“Today, when my daughter sees new students who are on the wrong path, she immediately connects with them, sharing her own lessons learned,” she said. “I suspect this is why she hopes to become a social worker.”

Eileen Kernick received an email about the screening several hours before it was scheduled to start.

“I am so glad I came out tonight,” she said. “This movie was terrific, and I really wish more teachers could it.”

“Teaching is my calling, it pulls at every cell of my body,” shared one teacher during the opening of the film. Kernick could relate.

“I knew teaching was right for me,” she said. “I have always enjoyed kids and felt something intangible inside of me, allowing my 30 years of teaching to be a reward for me and the students.

“I wanted to facilitate the learning experience for others and found a way to do that through teaching,” Kernick said. “I reached points in my career when I was not able to impact the students, and these periods were tough. Teacher–student relationships are supposed to be professional only, but they are often highly personal. Being able to witness the lasting impressions she made with her students — months or years later — has made Kernick’s career calling a true labor of love.

School of the Future Principal Rosalind Chivis contributed to the pre-screening meal and Skype setup. Academy Award-winning filmmaker Vanessa Roth, with infant in arm and butternut squash soup simmering, connected via Skype to introduce the film. Roth also shared tidbits on her four-year journey to complete the project.

“As educators, the students want to know how much we know, but more than anything, they want to know we care,” Chivis said.

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