Rafe Esquith, 1992 American Teacher of the Year and National Medal of Arts recipient, teaches 5th-grade children whose parents don't speak English at a school in a dangerous, poor, drug-infested 100% Latino/Asian neighborhood in Los Angeles.

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PBS documentary on Rafe Esquith, 1992 American Teacher of the Year and National Medal of Arts recipient plus several other teaching awards, including Oprah's Use Your Life Award, who teaches fifth-grade, and much more, in a dangerous, poor, drug-infested 100% Latino/Asian neighborhood in L.A. to kids whose parents do not speak English. Esquith lavishes care and attention on his students, takes them on international travel, and has then perform a complete Shakespeare play to live audiences at the end of the year. He ensures their future success by his careful and detailed mentorship and his limitless enthusiam and involvement with their lives. Written by angelofvic

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6 September 2005 (USA)  »

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Shakespeare für Migrantenkinder  »

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Brief but exquisite; one of the most amazing documentaries you'll ever see...
9 September 2005 | by (las vegas, nv) – See all my reviews

Theatrically-released documentaries today seek to inform and (most importantly) entertain and amuse us, and for the most part they do a very good job. But how about a documentary experience which is something so personal, so special, it has the viewer reexamining his formative years? This PBS valentine to education is quite like that: moving, emotionally and intellectually provocative, tender. There's not a grandstanding or shallow moment in the hour as Los Angeles teacher Rafe Esquith (his students address him simply and naturally as "Rafe") goes through his own personal rigors to teach a class of inner-city immigrant 5th graders all the standard elementary school topics as well as Shakespeare, and at the end of the year they perform "Hamlet" for their amazed families. I was amazed, too at how Mr. Esquith, a handsome, gentle, friendly man, manages to turn a classroom into a forum for ideas, truth, honesty and intellect. One ends up reconsidering his own years in grade school, and I know I was one of those kids who dreaded the thought of going to class in the morning. Esquith has his bad days (and amusingly admits there are times when he feels like packing it in), but he also knows that he'd be cheating many, many children by giving up, and cheating himself as well, and I don't believe he ever will. Ironically, a teacher like this, who is so effective at reaching his students, is actually resented by OTHER teachers at the same school (it's like a high school-pecking order mentality but amongst adults). And yet, Esquith proves to be heroic. This simply-shot, simply-produced hour (with wonderful appearances by Ian McKellen and Michael York) shows that lives ARE being changed, year in and year out, by one person who gives a damn. When the kids are gathered for one last goodbye backstage, it is a graduation of honors--they have been honored and they feel honor--and the tears are of hope, joy, pride, and maybe nervousness, for they have each grown to see their future become an open book in front of them with pages they soon will fill. It sounds corny to say "I laughed, I cried", but this recorded document of learning (and the love of learning) should touch a lot of people--I did laugh, and I did cry.


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