Film 3 – The Marva Collins Story

Movies that Will Inspire You:
Learning to See the Child Who is Not Yet There

My third choice of films that inspire shows another true life teacher who has been able to see and hold the vision of what a child can be and do. Originally a made-for television film, it has finally made its way onto Netflix and Public libraries often have a good selection of films as well.  A brief video segment is included below.

Marva Collins, played by Cicely Tyson, was in her hey-day in the 1980s. A Chicago public school teacher, she became disillusioned with a system that refused to allow her the freedom to teach as she saw fit. Her classrooms were broken into and trashed, and at one point she realized that she could do her best work in her own school.

With the help of her loving and supportive husband, played by Morgan Freeman, she founded her own private school, Westside Preparatory Academy, in the heart of Chicago. This film shows the challenges their entire family faced as Marva pursued her dream. It also tells the story of several specific children who came to Marva’s school failing and wounded until Marva was able to have her way.

One little girl in particular, Clarissa, came to Marva when she was in third grade. She had already been tested and labeled as being retarded with an IQ of 70. She had no hope and her mother had little hope except to make her happy. Marva turned this little girl’s life around 180 degrees. I won’t tell you precisely what happened, but I will tell you that Marva turned around the lives of thousands of children over her years at Westside Prep, and Clarissa’s story is a stellar example.

I had the good fortune to spend three days in Marva’s school with several other educators in a special training program she offered. She is a dignified, capable woman who loves her students with a fierceness that bars no interference. She saw the child who was not yet there in every child and urged and loved them until they shone. I also met Clarissa’s mother, who became a teacher at Marva’s school.

Marva Collins and her first classMarva Collins and her first class at Westside Preparatory Academy

Marva’s school had such outstanding results that President Ronald Reagan invited her to be his Secretary of Education. She politely declined, explaining that she could be of greater value by remaining in her classroom. She was not one to mince words.

I think you are going to enjoy this one! It is a film the whole family can enjoy together.

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