Author’s Note: No images are my own. Spoilers are Present!
This is a made-for-television movie that is just exceptionally brilliant! It is so much into a small package. This 2005 film was originally aired on ABC Family, but I had not seen this epic tale until this year. It has aged well as its lessons are timeless. Michael D’Angelo a.k.a Mr. D (Ryan Reynolds) is a brilliant charismatic teacher who is a past alum of Hollybrook Middle School.
D’Angelo is there to replace the recently deceased ‘Stormin Norman’ Warner (John Astin), the beloved history teacher and a many-times decorated teacher of the year. Stormin Normin’s son Matt Warner (David Paymer) sees this as his time to pursue the teacher of the year award. However, D’Angelo quickly captures the attention of his students and the entire student body. His passion for history and gusto in which he lives his life captures the students and faculty. Everyone begins calling him Mr. D and Matt Warner quickly becomes envious.
Mr. D makes an impact in the school’s culture and spirit, and he also changes the life of Mr. Matt Warner.
Warner’s Challenge: As stated earlier, Matt Warner’s father, Norman was an incredible teacher who recieved numerous awards for his teaching ability. With his father deceased, he sees this as the opportune time to achieve the award he has been waiting for: Teacher of The Year. Due to D’Angelo’s charisma though he feels threatened right away as he knows that the road to this award is no longer a straight path.
His fear over being upstaged spreads to his personal life. He can’t bear to hear the name Mr. D at home whatsoever. He made it to the point where he steals the grade book of Mr. D only to realize that he is not collecting damning evidence regarding faulty classroom management. Instead, he is told by the principal that he knows of the high performance of his students and the state board of education is actually going to give Mr. D an award for his students’ high performance.
At that point the principal issues Warner a ultimatum. He needs to decide if he shall be an educator or not. With this in mind, he takes inventory of what is going on in his life and he realizes that he needs to figure out what is going on. Due to a secondary incident involving his wife he puts Mr. D under surveillance and learns the truth about this inspiring teacher. This is a game changer.
Before & After: While watching the film I saw nothing to like or admire in Mr. Warner. He took the easy route: following in his father’s footsteps. Unfortunately, he never took his father’s advice to relax. At one point I thought this rigid teacher was another classic example of a washed up STEM professional wannabe who couldn’t hack it in the classroom. Frankly, I wanted him to just quit and become a claims adjuster. Warner reminded me of all of the teachers who taught me not to be a teacher.
After he learns a few things about teaching from Mr. D he changes his ways, and Mr. Warner turns his teaching around and becomes a decent teacher and a better man. Also the truth about Mr. D and his father’s opinion of Mr. D shows him that he needs to relax and find passion in teaching. Like his father, he becomes a believer in miracles in the classroom.
Mr. D’s Passion For Teaching: Mr. D’Angelo reminds me of several of my favorite teachers and professors. His attitude and approach are unique from those people, however his classroom activities remind me of my 8th Grade History Teacher Andy Zuck at Morton Junior High School in Morton, IL.
Mr. Zuck and Mr. D favored the creation of educational experiences and learning through doing. The real-life Andy Zuck and the fictional Michael D’Angelo instilled a love in the subject of history through their passion for the subject and their interpersonal skills. D’Angelo threatens Matt Warner’s ascension to the award of Teacher Of The Year through his innovative methods for instruction.
Matt Warner to a point is a allegorical representation of the failure of the so-called educational reformers. Mr. D’Angelo is a classic, effective teacher who thinks outside of the box. While Warner wants to have total control out of fear and out of little to no passion.
The Aftermath: D’Angelo helps Warner to change his ways and there is a real ripple effect in the enrichment of his life. I recommend you see this movie it is on Amazon Prime. Possibly elsewhere, but I couldn’t tell you where. Check it out.