Teachers, the movie

Teachers featuring Nick Nolte and JoBeth Williams (Movieline)

After the death of famed calculus teacher Jaime Escalante, who was depicted in the inspirational movie  Stand and Deliver, USA Today reporter Greg Toppo took  a look at education movies more generally. Greg talked to James Trier, a University of North Carolina professor who studies movies and television shows about teachers. Going all the way back to Blackboard Jungle, teachers have been presented as saviors who — with some humor, tough love or other means — change the lives of their most troubled students. CNN showed no skepticism and assembled a list of 10 such cliched films in this piece.

Neither piece mentioned my favorite: Teachers, a 1984 film starring Nick Nolte, as a once-idealistic teacher who has been beaten down by booze and the inanity of the system. He’s reinspired by his students as well as JoBethWilliams, a former student-turned civil rights lawyer, who shows up to sue the district because of the poor quality of education it is delivering.

Teachers riffs on other teacher movies and includes a classic staff lunchroom scene (a humorously ironic re-creation of a similar scene in Blackboard Jungle). But what I mostly like about Teachers is the writing.

The hapless principal who, as in many other school movies hides out in his office, says: “We’re not here to worry about one kid, we’re trying to get as many through with what we’ve got.”  Lots of other great quotes can be found here, on ImDb.

— Richard Lee Colvin