Education

Film about Raleigh teacher and activist gets national attention

Documentary examines busy life of Leesville Road teacher

“Teacher of the Year” follows Angie Scioli during the 2013-14 school year as she juggles being a social studies teacher at Leesville Road High School in Raleigh, leader of the Red4EdNC group, a Moral Monday protester, a wife and mother.
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“Teacher of the Year” follows Angie Scioli during the 2013-14 school year as she juggles being a social studies teacher at Leesville Road High School in Raleigh, leader of the Red4EdNC group, a Moral Monday protester, a wife and mother.

A documentary highlighting the year in the life of a Raleigh high school teacher and education activist is getting national attention for the story it’s telling about the state of public education in America.

Teacher of the Year” follows Angie Scioli as she juggles being a social studies teacher at Leesville Road High School in North Raleigh, leader of the Red4EdNC teacher advocacy group, a Moral Monday protestor, a wife and mother.

The documentary has been playing at North Carolina film festivals since it debuted in March. It’s now being streamed online by the National Humanities Center, which will host a webinar at 7 p.m. Wednesday featuring education panelists from around the nation.

“While there is a North Carolina skin to the story, the heart of the narrative is a universal one for teachers,” said Andy Mink, vice president of education programs for the National Humanities Center, a nonprofit group based in Research Triangle Park. “Some of the themes we’re pulling out are how to support teachers at the community level and at the school level.”

Teachers who watch the documentary online and participate in Wednesday’s webinar can receive continuing education credits. Mink said the webinar is timely since teachers are preparing for the start of the new school year in August.

The documentary will play in September at the Rendezvous Film Festival in Amelia Island, Fla.; the Louisville International Festival of Film in Louisville, Ky.; and the Asheville Film Festival.

“We’re starting to make that reach outside of North Carolina, which is really exciting,” said Rob Phillips, the film’s co-director and an English teacher at Leesville High. “We’re starting to get requests from libraries, universities and teaching colleges that want to incorporate the documentary in their studies.”

Phillips and Jay Korreck, who used to teach at Leesville, were out to create a film that challenged how Hollywood portrays veteran teachers as hacks and good teachers as outsiders.

The co-directors focused on Scioli, a teacher since 1993 whose awards include being a Teacher of the Year at Leesville. Soon after filming, Scioli became an activist to speak out against some state legislative changes, such as awarding vouchers for students to attend private schools, removing job protections for new teachers and ending extra pay for new teachers who receive master’s degrees.

The film follows Scioli during the 2013-14 school year and shows her grading papers while on a family trip and being shocked when learning that student test scores used to evaluate her performance were so poor. Yet a year later, she said, her scores sharply improved even though she made no changes.

Scioli has remained active in education matters. She recently wrote an op-ed about teachers not having enough resources to support their students.

The documentary has been helped by the coverage it’s gotten in national media outlets, including the Atlantic Monthly and the Huffington Post.

“We already feel awesome that the first film we made by raising money basically through grassroots has gotten any attention at all,” Phillips said. “At first we thought we’d just put it on YouTube. Now we’re promoting a film that’s in the festivals.”

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui

Documentary screening and webinar

Learn how to watch “Teacher of the Year” online and to participate in Wednesday’s webinar at http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/teacher-of-the-year-screening-discussion/

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