Waiting for “Superman”, a documentary examining the American public education system, captured national attention upon its release in 2010, as one of many documentaries on education. Jason Korreck and Rob Phillips, two teachers at Leesville, believe their documentary, Teacher of the Year, will demonstrate the gray area in teacher effectiveness.
Korreck, who teaches Digital Media at Leesville, and Phillips, who teaches English, seek to pull back the curtain on the nuance of teacher performance in their documentary. The documentary will follow Angie Scioli, a social studies teacher at Leesville, throughout the 2013-2014 school year.
“We’re trying to make sure people understand what teachers really do,” said Phillips.
Korreck and Phillips believe most, if not all of the movies and documentaries about teachers, fail to represent real teachers. The movies are not made about the teacher trying her best for twenty years; the teachers are either heroes or villains.
“We feel the truth is somewhere in between,” said Korreck.
Korreck and Phillips initially planned to follow other teachers as well as Scioli but chose to stick with Scioli because, as Phillips said, the camera likes her.
“Not to downplay what other teachers did when we filmed them by any stretch of the imagination, but we really felt like [Scioli] was an emblematic teacher and represented a lot of what teachers do or aspire to do,” said Phillips.
After finishing the website and trailer, Korreck says they are back in the place where they can think about the whole film.
“It’s tough to get your message into a small, short segment, and now we get to play and expand the idea,” Korreck said.
A significant part of the road ahead for the film is collecting footage of Scioli, but Korreck and Phillips are also trying to fly in experts in education who look at teacher performance from a sociological and to some degree a business perspective, like those at the National Board. The film aims to deconstruct myths, like teachers as either villains or heroes, established from Hollywood films and even other documentaries through these experts’ discussion.
“We really want to be a part of the dialogue surrounding how teachers are evaluated,” said Phillips. “We don’t think we’re necessarily going to change dramatically how teachers are evaluated, but maybe we can get people to look at the evaluation of teachers through a slightly different lense.”
Teacher evaluation is constantly debated and usually based on student achievement, like student test scores, which most teachers do not believe is an accurate form of evaluation. This evaluation can dictate teacher pay — a system that has created controversy in many.
The filmmakers hope students watching the film will consider what their teachers do — who their teachers are as people.
“Education affects everybody… [You can] look at the news on any given day and see many, many stories devoted to education,” said Korreck.
There is a long road of raising money, collecting footage and editing ahead, but Teacher of the Year is on its way to documenting a new way to look at authentic teacher portrayal and teacher evaluation.