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Newsday Calls 'Teach' 'Terrific,' Gives it an 'A'


'Teach' review: A classroom lesson in love

By VERNE GAY

THE SPECIAL "Teach"

WHEN|WHERE Friday night at 8 on CBS/2

WHAT IT'S ABOUT "The money is not great and sometimes it feels impossible ... so why do they do it?" asks Queen Latifah, host of this two-hour documentary on teachers. Or, specifically, four of them: Matt Johnson, a fourth-grade teacher at McGlone Elementary in Denver; Shelby Harris, a seventh-grade math teacher at Kuna Middle School in Kuna, Idaho; Joel Laguna, a 10th-grade AP world history teacher at Garfield High in Los Angeles, and Lindsay Chinn, a ninth-grade algebra teacher at MLK Early College in Denver. The special follows these four through their school year, as they wrestle with new curriculum aids, struggling students and their own sense of accomplishment -- or failure. Plus, it ends with an answer to why they do this difficult job.

MY SAY Do not be misled by the somewhat mundane title ("Teach," OK, sort of ho-hum) or make the assumption that CBS is burning off this two-hour summer documentary before the real fun begins next week. Neither mundane nor a burn-off, "Teach" is terrific -- a nicely produced and unexpectedly moving portrait of one of the most important professions known to humankind. To be sure, the producer and production company here are no slouches -- veteran director Davis Guggenheim ("An Inconvenient Truth," "Waiting for Superman"), and Participant Media, which is behind many big films, most recently "Lincoln" -- so a certain degree of proficiency should be expected. The surprise, however, is the degree of thought and emotion that went into this, too. Clearly, "Teach" gets it: the hassles, neglectful parents, newfangled teaching aids that need to be mastered on the fly, and that all-pervasive sense among teachers that they themselves are being graded as much as the kids. When the long day, and school year, is done, what's left is the distillate that makes this all worthwhile -- love, for the job and especially for the kids.

"Teach" may be loosely designed as a tribute to the profession, but if it converts just one viewer out there -- say, a kid wondering about what he or she wants to do with his or her life -- then it's a tribute to the power of TV, too.

BOTTOM LINE "Teach" is terrific.

GRADE A

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Participant MediaAbout Participant Media

Founded in 2004 by Jeff Skoll, Participant Media’s (www.participantmedia.com) content combines the power of a good story well told with opportunities for real world impact and awareness around the most pressing global issues of our time. As an industry content leader, Participant annually produces up to six narrative feature films, five documentary films, three episodic television series, and more than 40 hours of digital short form programming, through its digital subsidiary SoulPancake—all aimed at entertainment that inspires social awareness and engaging audiences to participate in positive social change. Participant’s content and social impact mandate speaks directly to the rise of today’s “conscious consumer,” representing over 2 billion consumers who are compelled to make impactful content a priority focus. Through its worldwide network of traditional and digital distribution, aligned with partnerships with key non-profit and NGO organizations, Participant is positioned uniquely within the industry to engage a rapidly growing audience while bringing global awareness and action to today’s most vital issues.

Participant’s more than 80 films, including Spotlight, Contagion, Lincoln, The Help, He Named Me Malala, The Look of Silence, CITIZENFOUR, Food, Inc. and An Inconvenient Truth, have collectively earned 56 Academy Award® nominations and 12 wins, including Best Picture for Spotlight and Best Foreign Language Film for A Fantastic Woman. Participant’s digital entertainment division, SoulPancake (www.soulpancake.com), is an award-winning provider of thought-provoking, joyful, and uplifting digital content including such widely popular series as Kid President and The Science of Happiness and reaches an audience of nearly 9 million fans. Follow Participant Media on Twitter and on Facebook and Instagram. Follow SoulPancake on Twitter and on Facebook and Instagram.