Only a Teacher | 2000
An exploration of the diverse faces and many roles of the American teacher from the 1820s to the present. The program features a dialogue between past and present, as contemporary teachers reflect on many of the same issues that have confronted their predecessors over the past 180 years.
The first part, "A Teacher Affects Eternity," begins during the Common School Era (1830s - 1880s), as free public schooling spreads across the expanding nation and more and more women become teachers. The program focuses on the importance of teachers in the lives of their students, emphasizing their influence as role models and upholders of society's norms.
"Those Who Can... Teach" considers teachers in their profession, tracing the early development of school bureaucracies and the attendant rise of teachers' unions. This part also looks at teacher training, salaries and working conditions, and exposes America's ambivalence towards a profession practiced mostly by women.
"Educating to End Inequity" delves into teachers' efforts to level the educational -- and social -- playing field for their students. The program features a profile of Elaine Goodale, a young Massachusetts teacher who became inspector of Indian schools for the Dakota Territories at the time of the Wounded Knee Massacre. Native American teachers in New Mexico talk about their hopes and fears for their students, and black and white teachers in Charlotte, North Carolina, recall their work in the era of desegregation.