The film counters the bad rap teachers and teachers' unions have been getting recently, with testimonials to teachers' dedication and energy in the face of daunting odds.
“There are about 40 desks in this small classroom,” says Denver middle school English teacher Amanda Lueck. “I’ve got students sitting on the counter.” She worries about limited resources and escalating needs. “If there were three of me,” she says, “I might be able to get it done.” Like other teachers interviewed in American Teacher, Lueck attests both to her dedication to teaching and the frustrations that come with it. The job is hard. “Almost nothing harder,” points out Brad Jupp, the US Department of Education’s senior program advisor, “because teachers are constant active decision makers, they make thousands of decisions a day, they do it about the life of a child in that moment.” In Texas, history teacher Erik Benner’s students love him, in part because, as he says, “I try to treat the kids like young adults,” even as he’s unable to support his family on his teacher’s salary at Trinity Springs Middle School (he also works as an athletic coach at the school and has a second job at Floor & Decor). And Rhena Jasey, in Maplewood NJ, remembers friends advising, “Anybody can teach: you went to Harvard, you should be a doctor or a lawyer, you should make money.” After six years teaching in public school, she took a position with the Equity Project Charter School (T.E.P.), in NYC’s Washington Heights, a change she