Beyond the Blackboard
Presented by: Hallmark Hall of Fame
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I remember a time when finding out that a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie was scheduled to air instead of one of my favorite television shows would elicit a groan from me. At the time, Hallmark movies were incredibly sappy affairs with storylines I had trouble relating to. Over the years, the movies presented by Hallmark Hall of Fame have improved dramatically and I now look forward to watching and enjoying them whenever they air. The airing of Beyond the Blackboard on Sunday, April 24, 2011, would prove to be no exception.
Beyond the Blackboard is a true story based on Stacey Bess’ book Nobody Don’t Love Nobody. Emily VanCamp is Stacey Bess, a woman who always dreamt of becoming a teacher, but had to overcome a few hurdles before she could get there. Arriving at her goal at the age of twenty-four, she discovered the difficulty of finding a full-time teaching job in Salt Lake City, Utah. When she is finally offered a job by Dr. Ross (Timothy Busfield) as a teacher for a new pilot program school. She happily accepts, not really knowing just what she is getting herself into.
Upon arriving at this new school, she discovers that it is not a school at all, but a warehouse located right next to a busy train yard. The school’s students are made up of the children of families living at the yard’s homeless shelter. Things are hairy at first, but Stacey is incredibly determined and with the help of the shelter’s occupants, volunteers and school board official Dr. Warren (Treat Williams), Stacey Bess offers these homeless children a proper education and a new source of hope for both them and their families.
Beyond the Blackboard is an incredibly uplifting tale about a woman who overcomes her pre-conceptions about the homeless and becomes a champion for the homeless children of the area. She is an inspiration to the families whose hearts she touches, the children whose lives she strives to improve through education, the volunteers at the shelter and countless others who have come to see the homeless in a different light through her eyes. The fact that this movie is based on truth is even more inspiring.
Emily VanCamp is a terrific actress - to watch her in this role is to truly believe that this is a first time teacher facing a huge hurdle and a mountain of possibilities should she succeed. Even the child actors are excellent. We want to hug Maria (Paola Nicole Andino) as we realize that in spite of the adversity she faces, she will stop at nothing to advance her education in order to become a teacher…even if that means moving in with her educator when her father is kicked out of the shelter for violating the rules. We are heartbroken by Dana (Isabella Acres) and her brother’s shy uncertainty with women thanks to the abuse suffered at the hands of their now incarcerated mother. We love Danny (Liam McKanna) and his tough exterior which hides a caring soul and a natural born leader.
Beyond the Blackboard is a heartwarming tale that just happens to be true, offering up an important message that will open up viewers eyes to the plight of homeless children in the United States. If it helps one person change their perception of the homeless and volunteer to render aide in some small way, shape or form, this movie has achieved its goal. Thank you Hallmark for bringing such an important and inspiring story to the screen.