Emily Steffan, a teacher from New Orleans, is the daughter of Dr. Michael and Angela Steffan of Boca Grande. She is one of the four panel members that will discuss this country’s educational system in the next segment of the Friends of Boca Grande Community Center Film Forum series of movie viewings and panel discussions based upon the movies.
Next in the series, on Thursday, Jan. 19, will be a viewing of “American Teacher.” It tells the story from the point-of-view of four teachers at various points in their careers, their struggles, their successes, their hopes, and their fears.
The movie will be shown at 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m on January 19. The following day, Friday, Jan. 20, at 10 a.m., the movie “Waiting for Superman” will be viewed. The movie is told from the point-of-view of four families, struggling to get their children good educations, and the challenges they face in that struggle.
The panel discussion will run from 2 to 4 p.m. on January 20, and will include a brief introduction of each panel member, then a question-and-answer session. Each of the panel members will bring a different viewpoint and experience of the educational difficulties and victories in American schools. Steffan will be one of those panel members.
Steffan graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in history and global studies in 2008. That summer, she joined “Teach for America,” and was placed in the lowest performing school in New Orleans at the time, where she taught for two years. After that, she joined “Renew Schools,” whose mission is to take over underperforming schools and turn them into charter schools.
Steffan is now the dean of students for third to fifth grade students at Batiste Cultural Arts Academy, a K-8 “Renew” charter school in New Orleans. The school is partnered with the Batiste family, and provides afterschool activities centered on band, choir, and dance.
As a charter school, they have hired non-union teachers. In New Orleans, non-union is the norm. The union was never strong there, and was almost completely destroyed, along with so much else, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
What this means is that when a teacher is underperforming, it is much easier to replace them and takes much less time. It also gives them much more freedom in their staffing at the schools.
At this point in time, 80 percent of all schools in New Orleans are charter schools. With many districts closing or turning to the charter model, that percentage is expected to rise.
One point that Steffan made is that while students in this country rank 24 in math and 26 in literacy in international rankings, most American students think that we are at the top.
Steffan said, “This is the civil rights movement of our time. It is a huge make or break. We have to either start doing right by students, or we can expect our rankings to get worse.”
Steffan looks forward to the panel, to the diversity of opinions held by her fellow panelists, and most importantly, to answering your questions.
For tickets, contact the Friends office at 964-0827, or visit their Film Forum website, which can be linked to from the Friends’ main page: friendsofbocagrande.org. Just click “Adult Programs” at the left of the screen, then scroll down and click “Film Forum” on the bottom row.
While you are there, take a look at the other programs offered by the Friends this season. There is always something new to learn.
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