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USC Rossier panel ponders the impact of teachers

Educators attend screening of documentary

by Barbara Goen
TEACH documentary
TEACH, which follows four instructors throughout a school year, was screened for a USC audience. (Photo/courtesy of TakePart)

The impact a gifted teacher can have on a student’s life became the ongoing theme among educators at a screening of TEACH, a film by noted documentarian Davis Guggenheim.

The film follows a single school year in the life of four American teachers — two in Colorado, one in Idaho and another closer to home — Joel Laguna of Southern California’s Garfield High School.

After the screening, Laguna joined the panelists, including USC Rossier School of Education faculty Eugenia Mora-Flores and Margo Pensavalle.

“Students may forget what you taught them,” Laguna said, “but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.”

The best teachers, according to the panel, are those who truly connect with students, those who push them to get better, and who, according to Pensavalle, provide “the safety net and never give up” on students.

An audience member, who identified herself as a former Garfield High student, grew emotional as she thanked the panelists for the jobs they do as teachers.

The panelists also agreed that help and collaboration are critical tools to being successful in the classroom.

“We need to invest in new teachers,” Pensavalle said, “and give them support from colleagues, principals, administrators and mentors.”

The new Common Core curriculum was also a topic of conversation. A teacher in the audience was highly critical of the new standards, which she said stifle a teacher’s creativity, while panel members were uniformly enthusiastic about its potential.

Mora-Flores, Pensavalle and student Kelly Russell, who also took part in the conversation, underscored how USC Rossier’s teacher preparation program prepares new instructors to serve diverse students who possess varied abilities.

TEACH was released in 2013 by Participant Media. The company has requested community feedback about the profession, conducting surveys around the country.

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