Released by CBS:
Beyond the Blackboard, a "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentation starring Emily VanCamp ("Brothers & Sisters," "Everwood"), will broadcast on the CBS Television Network.
Inspired by a true story, this movie is about a 24-year-old first-time teacher who overcomes her initial fears and prejudices and makes a difference in the lives of the homeless children she teaches in a shelter's makeshift classroom.
Stacey Bess (Emily VanCamp), a young wife and mother of two in Salt Lake City who long dreamed of becoming a teacher, sets out to obtain her first teaching position after graduating from college at the end of 1987. With the school year already underway and her teaching options limited, she soon finds herself accepting a job at "a school with no name," where she is expected to teach homeless children from grades one through six in the same classroom. Despite concerns about the challenges of teaching students of various grade levels at the same time, Stacey is excited by the opportunity and earnestly prepares for her first day; however, her dream morphs into a nightmare when Stacey arrives at the shelter and finds that the "classroom" is a filthy shed with a few tattered books, one desk, several old mismatched chairs and a resident rat. The undernourished, unkempt and unruly children and their struggling, disillusioned and occasionally disrespectful parents are also worlds away from her teaching dreams.
Stacey fights off her tears and discomfort and, with her husband's support, decides to become an advocate as well as a teacher. She starts by cleaning, painting and decorating the "classroom" with the help of an eager student, Maria, and Nelson, a kind and artistic 65-year-old homeless man from the shelter whom Stacey enlists as a teacher's aid and art teacher. She also finds an ally in the school district's empathetic superintendent, who helps her get the desks and books that her students need and even donates his own family's piano. In their refurbished classroom, Stacey encourages the students to share personal stories, which is often a healing experience for them. Reacting to Stacey's obvious interest and care for them, the students start to blossom, demonstrating a thirst to learn and the ability to thrive in the classroom. Their parents react with appreciation and pride at their children's newfound knowledge and skills; however, setbacks and emotionally taxing moments are always around the corner, such as when children who are progressing so impressively are suddenly pulled from the school after their parents choose, or are forced, to leave the shelter. Stacey begins to realize that her time with these transient children is as important to her as it is to them and soon she can't picture herself teaching anywhere else.
Beyond the Blackboard is a Hallmark Hall of Fame production. Brent Shields ("The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler") and Gerald R. Molen ("Schindler's List") are executive producers; Jeff Bleckner ("Loving Leah") is the director. Camille Thomasson ("When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story") wrote the script based on the book Nobody Don't Love Nobody by Stacey Bess.
In the beginning we are introduced to a little girl, whose name is Stacey Bess. She loves school because it is a safe place. At home, her parents fight all the time. Stacey has to leave high school at the age of 16, due to her expecting a baby. She marries and has two children – a boy and girl, during this time she earns her GED and a College Degree and pursues her dream of teaching.... which leads her to teaching a large group of homeless children, who range in all sorts of various ages.
The Children in the movie are the best part of the story- it is precious to see how Stacey’s teaching and care of the children makes them thrive and yearn to learn. There are problems and troublemakers in the beginning, of course, but as they all adapt – they all learn to trust and love one another. Stacey’s children at school are just as cute and adorable as her own children... a young girl and boy. It seems throughout the story that Stacey gets home very late after dark and her husband is always there caring for the children, their home, cooking, washing dishes, etc... He also seems to be very sweet, patient, and understanding. Unless I missed it, it is never explained if he works or if he is a stay-at-home Father. My only qualm with the movie - I thought they made it look, at times, that Stacey was taking better care and more interested in the children at school, then her own. (Although, later on... after Stacey has her baby – she returns to work and decides to take the new baby with her.)
After the regular school period is over, Stacey and her husband, decide to do a Summer School Camp, without any pay, with the homeless children. Even though Stacey is expecting, she keeps on teaching the children who dearly love her. Her husband joins her with the camp and teaches the children sports and their own children come with them, too... and play with the other children.
Stacey does all she can do – to paint and clean up their school room, which is a complete mess. She buys all the painting supplies, plus school supplies, and snacks for the very hungry little children. When one of the homeless children’s father is thrown out of the homeless shelter, due to his drinking, Stacey asks the Father if she can take the young girl in, until he gets back on his feet.
It is truly a beautiful story about serving others. I was touched by the lives of these homeless children, who had nothing, but gave their love and little gifts to their teacher, in return for her teaching and loving them.