School With No Name: Beyond The Blackboard
Jun 2, 2011 (Updated Jun 3, 2011)
Review by Sheila Calabrese
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
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The Hallmark Hall of Fame original film Beyond The Blackboard, based the book Nobody Don't Love Nobody by Stacey Bess, is the true life story of her extremely challenging first teaching assignment in a school for homeless children in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is the inspirational story of Ms. Bess' bittersweet and often heartbreaking experience teaching in a dilapidated classroom in a homeless shelter, known as" the school with no name."
The film opens with flashbacks to Stacey's (Emily Van Camp) childhood love of school and dream of one day becoming a school teacher. Her plans were derailed when she was forced to quit school at age 16 prior to graduation due to pregnancy. However, Stacey eventually went on to get her GED, attend college, and complete her degree. After graduating in 1987, she accepted the only job available for an inexperience recent college graduate, teaching grades 1-6 in a newly formed program for homeless children.
Although initially very excited about her first teaching assignment, Stacey's enthusiasm is quickly dashed, on her first day, when she discovers that her assignment, in a run-down rat- infested, building in a dangerous section of town, involves teaching a roomful of disruptive, often disrespectful children, with no books or supplies, and apathetic parents. She receives virtually no support from the school board's HR representative (Timothy Busfield) who considers the assignment to be pretty much glorified baby-sitting, and an exercise in futility.
Despite these seemingly overwhelming challenges, Stacey, with the support of her husband, Greg, (Steve Talley) and an elderly resident of the homeless shelter with artistic talent, manages to transform the classroom into a receptive environment in which to teach the children some basic academic and survival skills. She is eventually able to convince district superintendant Dr. Warren, (Treat Williams) with some heartwarming stories of her student's attempts to overcome their circumstances, of the need to provide the children books, desks, and other basic supplies. Eventually, due to her advocacy and determination, many of Stacey's transient students learn to thrive in their school environment. Due to the success of her "school with no name" program, Stacey Bess was instrumental in helping to advocate for legislation ensuring that homeless children are offered an equal opportunity for education.
As is the case with most Hallmark presentations, the characters in this film seem to be a bit too squeaky clean and mild mannered, to be taken seriously as inner-city homeless children. There is a noticeable absence of foul language and violent behavior, which are generally found in children with as little discipline and support as the children portrayed in this film. Stacey's relationship with husband Greg, also seems a bit too ideal to be realistic, and although Emily Van Camp (Everwood/Brothers and Sisters) delivers a solid performance in the lead role, her character seems more like a candidate for sainthood than a gritty, streetwise, disciplinarian.
The child actors deliver some surprisingly good performances despite the limitations of the characters including Liam Mc Kanna as Danny, the class leader and Paola Andino as Maria, the scholar, two of Stacey's top students. Special features include a making of the film featurette, behind-the-scenes interviews, biographies, credits, and production story. The film moves along at a leisurely pace at 110 minutes in length.
While Beyond The Blackboard comes across as a bit too sanitized to be entirely realistic, on the strength of fine performances by a talented cast, it is an inspirational story of perseverance and dedication despite overwhelming odds. I recommend it for fans of the Hallmark Hall of Fame's predictable, values conscious, family friendly, made-for-television original presentations.
Many thanks to Sue for promptly adding this to the database
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for Groups
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older
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