Memorable Movies Featuring Teachers

Over the years Hollywood has made many films about teachers and students. The truly inspirational films have been dramas with settings either in the inner city or at a picturesque prep school campus. The usual plot involves a teacher up against the odds, facing a brazen student or group of students and convincing them that learning is worthwhile.

Teaching in real life is nothing like in the movies. But at least these films shed a positive light on the profession. So think about the films that have won the accolades of moviegoers and critics. Which titles come to mind?  Here are a few to consider…

Stand and Deliver (1988; starring Edward James Olmos)

The true story of teacher Jaime Escalante (played by Olmos) who inspired poor Latino students to aim higher in life. This film displays Escalante’s drive and inspiration as he encourages an entire class of east L.A. barrio-based students to care about math and ultimately pass an AP Calculus test. A truly inspiring story.

Lean on Me (1989; starring Morgan Freeman)

Another true story. Freeman stars as a teacher turned principal hired to turnaround a high school that is out of control. This tough principal rids the campus of students interfering with his cause. He also encourages and demands scholarship from the students. The film was partially based on the story of Joe Louis Clark, a real life high school principal in Paterson, New Jersey, who fought to improve student test scores in his district.

Dead Poets Society (1989; starring Robin Williams)

Set in a conservative prep school, Williams stars as an out-of-place English teacher whose charisma and love of poetry inspires several boy students to revive a secret underground society. Williams adds touches of his usual improvisational humor, which contrasts with the subplot of one student’s struggle with his father to pursue his love of theater (this leads to the film’s emotional climax). When compared to the first two films mentioned, Dead Poets Society shows that teachers and students can face struggles regardless of the location of the institution.

In today’s age when many teachers are making news for the wrong reasons, these memorable films remind us that great teachers defy the odds — making a difference in the classroom — one student at a time.

Granting a 4-Year-Old’s Wish

Just like any other 4-year-old, Chase from Grand Rapids, MI, enjoys playing in his room to escape his troubles. But Chase’s troubles are bigger than an average 4-year-old’s – he battles daily against leukemia. When he decided he wanted a play set for his room, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Michigan got on board and contacted us for help.

Thanks to the generosity of preschool manufacturer ECR4Kids, last week Make-A-Wish delivered a SoftZone Primary Corner Climber with Ball Pool to an excited Chase. According to Erica Hunt from Make-A-Wish Michigan, he loved the play set and was in the ball pool for more than an hour straight. “He refused to come out…I’m thinking it was a hit!” said Hunt. His little brother Nick even got some play time in, too! Now Chase, who also has Down syndrome, can enjoy playing and climbing any day he wants.

Thanks, ECR4Kids, for helping to make a little boy’s wish come true!

Chase and his brother, Nick, playing in the ball pool

Chase playing on the climber

Healthy Eating: A Key Ingredient to Education

Healthy eating is essential to a child’s proper growth and development. Good eating habits are hard to come by these days, as evidenced by the fact that one-third of school-age children in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Many children also struggle with the opposite problem, not having enough to eat, and their limited food choices are often unhealthy.

Passionate about the issues of childhood obesity and poor nutrition, Chef Marc Vetri and his business partner, Jeff Benjamin, established the Vetri Foundation for Children (VFFC) in 2008. Their vision: Children who have healthy bodies and healthy minds have the opportunity to create healthy lives for themselves.

The Foundation is known for its Eatiquette program, a method for school lunch that centers on an interactive, family style environment. The program uses round tables to promote conversation and real silverware to create a true dining experience. At the beginning of the meal, the chef announces the menu to everyone, including what ingredients he used and how the food was prepared. Table captains, who rotate weekly, are in charge of bringing family-style portions of food to their table, as well as clearing dirty dishes after the meal. Captains – dressed in a special chef’s coat – also encourage their friends to try new foods. All the children help with clean up. After being nourished both in mind and body, the students are ready for whatever challenges the rest of the day holds.

Watch this video to see Eatiquette in action:

To read more about the Foundation and to find out how to bring the Eatiquette program to your school, visit

Do you think the Eatiquette program would benefit your school? Why or why not?

Designing a 21st Century Classroom

by Blake Zalcberg, OFM, Inc.

When we talk about improving education we always look at things like class size or the curriculum to help students do better and learn more. But one thing that’s not talked about enough is the design of the classroom and the type of furniture used.

Education itself has changed drastically in the last hundred years, but a teacher from 1912 might not feel totally out of place in a classroom today.

Think about it. The basic classroom design has remained the same: A long chalkboard (or whiteboard, if you’re more up-to-date) in front of rows of chairs, almost always facing the same direction. While some teachers have a podium, they all spend most of the class time standing in front of the classroom.Today’s children use computers constantly and are connected on their cell phones, but their classrooms are designed to watch a single person speaking. They spend much of their work lives collaborating in small groups, but their chairs all face forward.

So how can we design a 21st century classroom? Furniture can play an important role. For starters, students should have larger desks designed to accommodate the technology that they are using regularly. The desks should also be laid out to allow them to interact with each other instead of passively listening.

To promote creativity, the desks should come in a variety of colors and styles, and they should be comfortable, environmentally sound and solidly built. In short, it should look like the kind of desk you would want to sit at, not just one you have to sit at.

The days of the single desk and chair are in the past. Children need up-to-date classrooms that promote collaboration and furniture that meets the times. This will help them get ahead.

Images courtesy of the Minneapolis Public Schools Online Historical Archive and Dr. Ashley Tan

Happy National Arts in Education Week!

Sometimes the arts are the first area to take a hit when schools are facing budget cuts. But, in 2010, the House of Representatives passed a resolution that recognized the importance of art education in our schools.  Part of the resolution read:  ”Art education, comprising a rich array of disciplines including dance, music, theatre, media arts, literature, design, and visual arts, is a core academic subject and an essential element of a complete and balanced education to all students.”ECR4Kids Adjustable Two-Station Art Easel

Is your school celebrating National Arts in Education Week? How will you incorporate arts appreciation into your lessons this week? The National Education Association offers several ideas on how to celebrate the arts, as does Americans For the Arts. We’d love to hear your ideas! Share them here or on our Facebook page.  

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.”
– John Steinbeck

Creative September Giveaway

School is back in session, and the SCHOOLSin Creative September Giveaway is underway! Sponsored by Shain Solutions, the grand prize is a Laminate Planning Table. This table is so versatile, you can find a use for it anywhere: the classroom, a business, or even in the home. In the art room, it provides plenty of space for drafted blueprints and painted masterpieces. Home economics students can use it for sewing and food preparation. Shain’s Planning Table is the perfect platform for 3-D models in architectural, landscaping and package design firms. Its potential is unlimited.

A sturdy surface is a must when working on important projects, and Shain’s Planning Table offers you just that. It has two tapered solid maple pedestal legs and two solid maple truss bars that keep it from wobbling and bowing.  The 1 1/4″ plastic laminate top resists scratching and staining. And it’s backed by Shain’s lifetime warranty, so you know it’s built to last. Available in standard (30″H) or elementary (26″H) height.

Now that you are psyched to get your hands on one, head over to our Facebook sweepstakes page and enter to win!

Introducing Marsh’s Integro Interactive Whiteboard

Do you have an interactive whiteboard in your classroom? If not, it’s likely that it’s at the top of your wish list. Teachers who are fortunate enough to have their own interactive whiteboards love the way they engage students and make classroom lessons easier to share. My husband is using an interactive whiteboard in his eighth-grade math classroom for the first time this year and is officially hooked.

One problem educators have with interactive whiteboards is that the board takes up valuable writing space at the front of the classroom. Sometimes when interactive whiteboards are installed, traditional dry erase boards are removed or covered, leaving teachers with fewer options for class participation. Marsh’s new Integro Interactive Whiteboard has a solution for the problem.Marsh Integro Interactive Whiteboard

The Marsh Integro Interactive Whiteboard features a high-quality enamel-on-steel surface that serves as a dry erase writing surface as well as an interactive whiteboard. There’s no need to plan around the installation of your new interactive whiteboard since the Integro board provides up to a 16′ long, seamless writing surface. Marsh partnered with technology leader, mimio® to develop this innovative board right here in the USA. The board is so durable that it comes backed by a life-of-the-building guarantee.

Since the Integro board is capable of recording your lessons, you’ll spend less time writing notes and more time helping students. The recording feature is also valuable in providing notes for absent students.

SCHOOLSin is one of the first dealers to offer Marsh’s Integro Interactive Whiteboard. Check out our site to read more about the Integro and consider how it can change your classroom for the better.

5 Ways to Spice Up Your Teaching

by Kevin Halloran, AmpliVox Sound Systems

With nearly 180 days of school during one school year, doing school the same way everyday can wear on both teachers and students alike.

Why not ditch the normal lesson plan format? Here are 5 ideas to spice up your teaching process:

1. Have students teach each other.

Dividing up the curriculum and assigning groups of students to teach their peers is a great way to encourage student interaction with class material. Giving students class time to plan their lesson means that the teacher is freed up to plan ahead, meet individually with students, or catch up on grading.

Another plus for this teaching idea is that it gives students experience teaching and speaking in front of their peers.

2. Throw in some technology.

Integrating technology into your lesson plans is a great way to vary the activities in your classroom and engage students. This can be done through just about any technology, including: iPads, listening centers and computers.

This could include combining #1 and #2 by having students make a short movie teaching their topic or lesson.

3. Games!

Using educational games can turn class time from “work” in the minds of the students to “fun!” Without realizing it, many students deeply engage their brains in complex problem solving when playing games.

Why not take advantage of that in an environment where you can guide their thinking and cause students to analyze their actions?

4. Story time. 

Stories have the power to grab attention and powerfully demonstrate principles in clear ways and are often more memorable than teaching straight facts.

A story can take the form of a movie or video clip, article, newspaper clipping or personal story. This also helps connect classroom material to “real life” — which is a concern of students. Schedule more time in your day to tell stories with teachable moments!

5. Try a flipped classroom.

A flipped classroom is where locations for homework and the lecture flip by having students watch teacher-created videos at home and do homework at school. This is a format that is growing in popularity and accessibility with more free and powerful tools available online.

This makes work done from home more engaging and homework (or assignments) done in class more helpful, because there is a teacher there to answer questions. If this interests you, experiment with a day or week at a time and get feedback from your students.


Photos courtesy of Microsoft Office and Flickr Creative Commons, thanks to: Raka_Abe, Academia IF, NASA Goddard Photo and Video, and UC Davis College of Engineering.
AmpliVox engineers, manufactures, and markets portable public address systems, reliable elegant lecterns and integrated wireless sound systems.


SCHOOLSin – Proud to be American

In honor of our nation’s Independence Day, we invite you to support our manufacturers who make the majority, if not all, of their products in the U.S.A. – Ghent, Flipside, Correll, WoodWare, Wood Designs, Artco-Bell, Joy Carpets and Midwest Folding, among many others. When you visit our website, look for the mini flag logo next to each product to indicate whether or not it’s “Made in the U.S.A.”

Thanks for supporting fellow Americans! Happy 4th!


Case Study: Using Room Dividers in the Classroom

by Tina Tomkins, Screenflex

What would be the best way to give education students an opportunity to teach in a real classroom right on their own campus?

Ann, a professor at Mayville State University in North Dakota, decided to set up four classrooms where her students could experience teaching 4th grade students. In order to run her program, Ann needed four classrooms but had only one large classroom.

This is what Ann was looking for:

  • Four portable classrooms within one space
  • Portable dividers or walls to create the spaces
  • Product that is easy to set up and easy to fold up
  • Minimal amount of space required to store dividers when not in use
  • A place to display on (surface to tack or staple on)
  • Ability to cut distractions and noise from the other mini classes

Screenflex’s FREEstanding portable partitions met all of the objectives required to run the mini classrooms, so Ann purchased four 6′H x 9′ 5″L partitions from SCHOOLSin.

Each day, the student teachers set up their classrooms. Four rooms are created using four portable dividers. The dividers work well to keep the four groups separate, which cuts down on distractions from the other groups. Student teachers love the flexibility of the dividers and can easily pull them open to create the rooms. They also find that displaying interactive bulletin boards is a cinch with their Screenflex portable walls.

On average, twenty-one 4th grade students participate in this field study program. Students come from Peter Poe’s Elementary School and are taught by student teachers for a two-week period. Each mini class accommodates three teachers. The primary 4th grade teacher selects the chapters they want the kids to learn from, and most of the teaching is very hands-on. Kids get to erupt volcanoes in science and play on real instruments in music. Both 4th graders and student teachers benefit from this program.

When I asked Ann what she and the student teachers liked most about the Screenflex dividers, she said, “The dividers are easy to move. Student teachers can easily put the dividers together, and they bend nicely and fit our needs. Kids are blocked off, which works well for distractions. Dividers are portable, and they are easy to store. We don’t have a storage closet for the dividers, however they fold up nicely and don’t take up much space. We store them right in the classroom.”

This is a perfect example of how Screenflex room dividers can be used for more than just dividing a classroom. Displaying art work, creating bulletin boards and creating a visual/sound barrier are just some of the ways to use room dividers.

Tina regularly writes about room dividers, utilizing space efficiently, and office fun at Screenflex Room Dividers. You can also find her on Screenflex’s Facebook page and Twitter.