A TOUCH OF GREATNESS
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05/16/2010
Elizabeth
Indiana

I attended Osborn School in Rye, NY, during the early 1960s. Mr. Cullum came to our school every week and directed us in many wonderful productions, including Julius Caesar and Antigone. He was incredibly funny and uninhibited and was a constant source of challenge and wonder to us. To this day I can hear him explaining the meaning of dozens of words like "libation," always in a memorable way that made them come alive. He was truly one of a kind and made an indelible impression on every single student he taught. How lucky I was to be one of them!

03/11/2009
Patty
Chicago

If every teacher would teach in this style - or even consider it as an option -- no child would be left behind.

12/21/2008

This was so inspiring. The commitment and dedication of Mr. Cullum was amazing. He truly exemplied how every teacher should relate to students. He made his lessons enjoyable yet meaningful. Anytime a teacher can an inspire students to want to go to school everyday says a lot about the character of that teacher.

01/15/2008
Tony BrakeField
Delmar, AL

I could not sleep about a year ago one Saturday night. So I got up and turned the television on. I was channel surfing when I saw Independent Lens coming on. So I watched it. It was the show about Mr. Cullum. It was so amazing that he was part of so many people's lives for over 50 years. There should be more instructors like Mr. Cullum that go up and above the call of duty for the pupils in his class.

6/16/07
Nancy Rogers (Wright)
Portland, OR

I was a student of Al Cullum. Through the years I have never stopped talking about him and thinking of him. I gained such a appreciation of both the arts and my life as it is today. He had a spunk about him-such a zest. He made the classroom such a fun way for us to learn.

I remember having a Congress in our classroom. Mr. Speaker! I was William McKinley. The day I was to speak I was sitting on the podium talking to the "congress". My assassin sneakily reached in from the outside window and pretended to shoot me with his water gun. I had to gradually fall off of the podium to my death. But out of something very serious was all of a sudden something that seemed quite realistic and also fun.

I remember having Art Appeciation where we would try to guess the name of the artist of a famous painting. If we did guess, that person got rewarded a treat of a European Chocolate Bar.

Mr. Cullum was an exceptional man. He did not believe in sheltering his students from life. He did not want to keep us from learning in a both unique and educational way as well as making it fun to us (and him).

This film was recently given to me as a gift from my daughter. I was so amazed and happy that she did that. I am just so proud that I had the chance to be a part of Mr. Cullum's 5th Grade, Room 5A.

I believe every school should have a copy of this film so that every teacher can witness the inspiration this man was to humanity.

Thanks to all of you who worked so hard to create this masterpiece!

1/5/07
Teacher

In watching this film, I immediately thought of my own struggles as a gay teacher. I know with absolute certainty that I am making a positive difference in the lives of my students, and yet I live in fear. People around me feel complete, unmitigated permission to act upon there insanely homophobic views. Hopefully this kind of nightmarish existence will not be happening 100 years from now.

1/04/07
K . Grant
Lynn, MA

I found myself weeping while I watched this film. I wept at the enthusiasm the children exuded as they traveled through their education with Robert Cullum. I wept because I didn't have a teacher like Mr. Cullum, nor did my children, nor do my grand children. I am going to purchase a CD to send to each of my grand children's schools. I hope the CD will be used during one of the professional days to inspire all the teachers in those schools.

12/19/06
louise lord
syosset ny

i had the privelege of having albert cullum as my professor at boston university in 1971...the fact that i can still vividly remember his unyielding enthusiasm and animation is testimony to the fact that he could light your fire and make every moment of education a great one' people like him are rare...we need more with his level of committment to children and the actual art of great teaching..

11/22/06

This was a wonderful documentary. Every child deserves a teacher like Mr. Cullum. As I read over other peoples comments, it is abundantly clear most children do not; or if they do have an inspirational teacher, it is only for a year. Then back to the standard "grind".

I have no idea how one could go about "fixing" our existing government schools. I think there are too many "defense mechanisms" in place to truly be able to revise, revamp, renew or otherwise invigorate a stagnant and very standardized and political government school system.

Happily there are other options! Homeschooling has been ours. My children do learn in a very creative, expressive, non oppressive, loving, happy, exciting, lovely, quiet, loud, joyful, sleepy, invigorating environment every single day, every single year! My children are living meaningful lives right now. They are involved in their family's and community's lives. Their "arts education" is part of their learning, just like in Mr. Cullum's classes. He integrated a love of the arts; literature, music, drama, and then was able to wind that around love of learning for the love of learning. So of course, vocabulary words and math are fun! We do the same. And we do it every year!

11/21/06
williamsburg, virginia

I lived across the street from Midland School for ten years and my younger son was ta studentt there from K thru six (89-95). I had heard of Mr. Cullum thru the grapevine and an article in the local paper. The film was an awakening - with testing the criteria for excellence in education now -have we forgotten the wonder of learning?

11/20/06
JAYNE HASTINGS
CANTERBURY, NH

I teach this way! The things I learned as a child that stayed with me...I learned this way! I need to dance it, sing it, draw it and feel it in order to grasp it. I teach the way I learn. I am often called "crazy" by parents, friends, and administrators alike and I cry at the end of every school year as my students move on knowing that they have touched me and I have touched them; knowing we have learned from each other. Parents often say to me during our parent-teacher conferences, "We're not sure who is having more fun here, you or the students!" Unfortunately,I get more and more frustrated each year with the demands of a standard based curriculum. It should be all about the process not the product. I feel it is my job to educate the public and the educators who vote on budgets designed to replace drama and music from their curriculum for more workbooks, assessment pieces, and behavior modification programs. The fact of the matter is: IF YOU FOCUS ON THE PROCESS OF LEARNING THE PRODUCT WILL COME. My job as an educator is to prepare my students for life not to help them memorize an answer in order to raise standardized test scores. Teaching with Gardner's 8 Intelligences in mind reaches every learner, makes learning fun, and focuses on the process. I agree with Albert Cullum and know that learning doesn't have to be difficult or boring or take place behind a desk in a quiet room. Learning should be fun. Learning should be active. An effective learning environment should be safe and a place where students trust and will be willing to take risks. This can only happen if the teacher is part of the learning....the one who encourages...models...and respects each learner and their learning style.

11/20/06

The children who were taught by this man were indeed blessed. I especially like the dedication he gives "To the millions of children who are destroyed by compulsory education." I feel like I am one of those unfortunates. I felt like none of my classmates or teachers loved me. They were prey to the lures of the star athlete and it only got worse as one progessed through the grades that such a bias was present. I was especially unfortunate in that the star athlete lived down the street from me. My parents continuously compared me to him nevermind we had nothing other than being of roughly the same age and being male in common. I hear that he's a Doctor now but mind you he walked down a rose strewn path whereas I was mercilously picked upon and was in continuous fear for my safety, especially on the bus since I was the runt of the litter as it were. I agree wholeheartedly that one should act out and learn as a team and foster the team spirit which industry seems to want in their employees.

11/20/06
Nathan Riordan
St. Louis

I am 23 years old, and I am studying to become a high school teacher. Alber Cullum may have been an elementary teacher but I hope to become a teacher like him. He was so passionate about teaching as Mr. Cullum was. He has given me ideas even though I have not yet graduated college. I am going to be a biology teacher, but I want my students to become as involved as Mr. Cullum's students were with acting. I want my students to love science as much as I do. Thank you for the program it made me excited to become a teacher again!!!!!!!!

11/20/06
Michigan

Well I was moved by the piece. I'm studying to become a teacher and wish to one day be a parent so this really moved me to make a difference because I've become so jaded in my young life. I would like to know what happened to David Pugh, he's listed as a former teacher and I wanted to know what he was doing now and why he is no longer teaching...it is noted as being former and not retired so I wonder what made him stop teaching.

11/20/06
Helen
Chicago

I too was deeply touched by this film. Albert Cullum's dedication to his art program is endearing. Luckily, Netflix has this movie if anyone should desire to see it again.

11/17/06
margaretta swigert-gacheru
evanston, illinois

Albert Cullum was the dream teacher that every child should have been so fortunate to have in 5th grade. i was deeply moved by your doc. film and would love to own a copy, be able to share it with fellow teachers, and introduce it to every teacher training college on the planet. Cullum was beautiful and you did him a great service by highlighting his work. His message is so needed: that we all have a touch of greatness in us; we just need to find it, express it, love it, and move mountains with it as Cullum did. Many thanks to you for sharing this beautiful doc film

11/17/06
J.Katzenstein
Woburn, Ma

I had seen this program before and was delightecd to encounter it again --- what a fantastic teacher and what a world-changing experience for his students! I was fortunate to go to "progressive school" in the 1940's and had many wonderful classroom teachers who made our imaginations come alive -- our reunions bring together many who have gone on to lead creative and productive lives, directly influenced, I believe, by those early "outside the box" teachers.. Thank you for repeating such an inspiring hour I plan to watch it again next week!

11/16/06
Maureen Cronin
Cincinnati, OH

A TOUCH OF GREATNESS was exactly what I felt and feel having just seen the film on our local CET at 5 a.m. on a rare night when I couldn't sleep! Tomorrow when I meet again with my college freshmen for writing and literature courses, I will take Dr. Cullum with me. The film is wonderful; the subject is inspiring. Thank you one and all. I am grateful all over again for the privilege of being a teacher.

11/16/06
Fort Fairfield Maine

What a wonderful film on greatness in teaching. Now if this type of classrom instruction was the norm, parents would not have many worries to get little ones enthralled to go to school everyday. A remarkable teacher who I had never heard about until last night. Wished I'd had a teacher like Mr. Callum.

11/16/06
memphis

Mr. Cullum's techniques were very similar to the way we, as coaches and teachers, experienced Odyssey of the Mind in the 90's. Why oh why is this hand-on learning not accepted in mainstream America? What a wonderful movie and story!

11/16/06
Mark Wittig
Tulsa Ok

What a great film about a great educator. I had no ideal education could be so much fun. I love to learn but dislike schooling. If I was in Albert Cullum's class I would truly love learning in school. Thank you so much for opening my eyes to a way a teaching that is fun and educational all at the same time.

11/16/06
Chris Bentley
Lynn, Massachusetts

Extraordinary! It was so wonderful to see such insight to the mind of a child. Not only did he inspire them to be more than they themselves ever thought they were, he proved that learning is fun. Today children are so forced to be a grade student and in the environment of that stress to achieve academically they lose such a big part of themselves and who they are inside. Inspiration gets pushed back in the desire to see A's on report cards. We should all take a lesson from such greatness and get back to the fundamental skills of good teaching and the loving of our fellow people. Everyone has greatness within them and it is a good teachers job and responsibility to provide an atmosphere in which that infinite potential within each of us has a chance to express itself.

11/16/06
Kate Stevens
Pittsburgh, PA.

I just saw the documentary last night,and found myself smiling throughout, I was entranced by the level of the children's ability to express themselves and perform so passionately. Wow what an extraordinary person. It is sad when it is so rare to hear of a teacher with such an impact on his students.Today with programs like No Child Left Behind, art programs have been left behind. I visited a public elementary school in Baltimore. There were crayons and computer paper and half the class was spent studying for standardized tests. I hope this changes.

11/16/06
Todd Erkel
Pittsburgh PA

Albert Cullum understood the balance between convergent and divergent knowledge and intelligence. He made room for differences. No child, and no child's hidden talent or nuanced gift left behind.

11/15/06
Suzanne
Culver City, CA

I have just seen your wonderful story of Albert Cullum, teacher extraordinaire, bringing tears to m'eyes. Teaching is such an art. Los Angeles minds are missing so very very much.....

Thank you for such wonderful programming (if that is what this wonderful presentation is called.) Congratulations to all concerned. That was one long long list of credits.

11/15/06
Janice A. Henry

What a beautifully done movie. I will order it; I especially know of a friend of mine who has taught acting in NYC who would appreciate seeing the video.

He was a true treasure, one who understood the child in all of us and how to release our God given talents.

11/15/06
Cathy Van Aken
Ridgway, PA

I felt like a child last night while watching A Touch of Greatness. I can't describe the feelings of joyfullness and freedom I experienced as Mr. Cullum encouraged the Mississippi River swimmers and the snowflakes danced. As a grandmother I am inspired to include this type of playful and imaginative learning with my grandchildren. Thank you PBS for a wonderful evening. Thank you Mr. Cullum. I wish you had been my teacher.

11/15/06
Berne, NY

I was lucky enough to see "A Touch of Greatness" on PBS last night - I had so many things to take care of , but could not tear myself away from that TV!! I was so impressed by not only this man's enthusiasm, but his courage, and strength of conviction. Not to mention, the amazing level of maturity I heard in the voices of his students as they dicussed Shakespeare and Shaw, the talent brought out in their Shakespearean performances.... This film should be a STAPLE in every teachers's college across the country - and students of teaching should watch it and measure their own courage and enthusiasm against this man as a standard for what makes a person fit for teaching.

11/15/06
Staceed Orcutt

I worked as a teacher's aide for a few years, and now at the age of 37 I am going to college to become a teacher. I loved this program, and the ideas expressed by Mr. Cullum. It makes me want to aspire to be a great educator also.

11/15/06
Erik Lehtinen
East Greenbush NY

OUTSTANDING !!! I went to both public and private schools and can testify that public school education, for the most part, filters out creative development. Nothing against the teachers....they have to deal with unrealistic, often irrelevant, federal standards imposed on them from Washington DC.
B The film captured a key point. How do you educate potential educators that may have lost, or at least do not respect, the inner creative child. One real change to the system needs to begin in the teacher education programs. I went to a private "waldorf" school that valued developing the whole person in academic skills and creativity. That educational process started in the Waldorf Teacher program, and was implemented by teachers in the Waldorf classroom.

Albert Cullum was an amazing educator and the students that had him as their teacher were truly blessed.

11/15/06
bonya
Los Angeles, California

Mr. Cullum represents what teaching should be--creative, inspirational, and exciting. Without creative teachers, how can we learn? Sadly, we don't... and that's why we so desperately need the Mr. Cullums of the world.

My inspirational teacher was Mrs. Ford, 5th grade, DeForest Elementary in Council Bluffs, IA. She taught me to believe in myself and inspired me to sing, dance, and paint as a way of seeing the world.

10/30/06
Nancy Rafi
Newport, RI

What a joy to know that there are Mr. Cullum's in the world. I was fortunate to have my own, Dr. David Concannon, in the 9th & 10th grade English classes while attending Middletown High School in Rhode Island. Dr. Concannon had us translate Romeo & Juliet into modern times (we, of course, didn't know that's what West Side Story was) and what a ball we had! I had the privilege of playing the new Juliet, and then went on to attend Dr. Concannon's Shakespeare class in 10th grade. Knowing that I was taking Latin classes (on of only 6 students in the school who thought Latin would be interesting - what a geek!) he would put Latin phrases on the blackboard each day before class and ask me to translate before Shakespeare class. I learned more Latin from him then from my Latin teacher!

You always knew class would be interesting, and Dr. Concannon kept us on our toes. When a plane passed overhead during class, he told everyone to jump under their desks, as the Germans were bombing us here in London. If you acted up, Dr. Concannon would take a plastic rifle out of his closet and make you walk the halls, guarding the lockers as part of your punishment, and then write a 250 word essay on how keeping others secure in an unsecure world made you a better person.

I had many teachers throughout my life, but none made more impact on me than Dr. Concannon. I still find myself using his familiar phrase when things start to bother me - "Illegitime non carborundum" - don't let the bastards get you down.

6/20/06
Ken Ramirez
Bethesda, Maryland

I was one of Albert Cullum's students at Midland School in Rye, New York. My life was changed forever. I grew up a fearful and unhappy boy with very little to feel good about. I stuttered constantly, was awkward and introverted, and felt the future offered nothing.

Al Cullum changed all that. He taught me that there was a world of greatness, creativity, and beauty just waiting to be experienced. Every thing Al touched was magical, be it history, math, poetry, or art. His classroom hummed with joy and excitement. Every subject was treated with contagious creativity. We solved math problems in King Tut's tomb, raced around the room solving geography problems, read great poety to our peers, guessed the names of masterpieces of art and I'm not even scratching the surface.

Al's lunch breaks were taken up with batting balls to us. Instead of commuting home 30 miles to New York, he stayed after school three days a week in referee the street hockey games he had organized. He accepted my parent's invitation for dinner one night and stayed to watch my little league baseball game.

I went on teach English nine years in the public schools, and I marvel at the man's dedication, creativity, and energy, not to mention his love.

Al made me feel special long before Mr. Rogers came along. So much of what I am and what I value comes from that man who trekked to the suburbs every day for what must have been a small compensation.

I logged on to the computer tonight because I have been thinking about Al recently, and I wanted to thank him for what he did for me. I was saddened to find out that he had passed away, but I was delighted to see that this wonderful movie had been made, and that many of my former classmates felt the same way about him that I did.

We give a lot of lip service to teachers, but we pay them little and bestow a marginal status on them. I don't teach anymore, but my daughter is now the same age I was when I met Al, and I truly cherish these wonderful people who inspire and care about her just like Al did for us.

I am very fortunate, and I know all of Al's former students are too. Rest well, Al, your life was well spent.

4/13/06
Barbara Boyer
Bellevue, ID

Does anyone know where I can get the books- Push Back the Desks and Shake Hands With Shakespeare? There are several groups in this valley with which I would like to use them. I lost my copies from my teaching days.

4/5/06
Bonnie Rupp
Falls Church, VA

As a fifth grade teacher, I was introduced to Albert Cullum's work through the plays of Shakespeare that he adapted and which were included in our weekly Scholastic newpapers. That was 1968-69. I have used his books, Push Back the Desks and Shake Hands With Shakespeare for all these years, whether I was teaching preschool students, elementary school students or elementary school teachers. I found this site tonight because this afternoon I once again pulled out my original copies of the books to share with a teacher and thought, "I need to see if these can be replaced with newer copies." As I was Googling 'Albert Cullum', I found your documentary. I can't wait to watch it.

11/21/05
Sam Leary
Chesapeake, Virginia

I just viewed the film "A Touch of Greatness" in a class for gifted certification. Dr. Cullum reminded me of another "gifted" teacher I encountered early in my career. He believed students learned through all their senses and taught history in a most unique manner. Students hid under desks as the bombs (books)rained down on helpless Londoners (students)during the Battle of Britian; air-raid siren blaring (he was very good at sound effects). He never sent a student to the principal as they almost worshipped him as their leader. He was a performer in his classroom who knew every child and found a way to get the best from each one. His school became his life. Every afternoon, he was in the gym playing basketball with the kids no one else could tolerate. He too, incurred the rath of his fellow teachers who could not or refused to form the kind of relationship he forged with his students. They found ways to demean his accomplishments to the point that he did not socialize with them in the lounge, but was happy to hold court in the student cafeteria with his loyal subjects. In the end he did very well and I feel was rewarded for his service to young people; he retired after touching many lives and today lives very, very comfortably with an inheritance bequested by two wealthy spinsters whom he cared for many years. Mr. Holloman, you truly made a difference.

10/14/05
N Brown
Charleston, SC

Albert Cullum, even after his death, continues teaching his ultimate lesson which is that we all have a "Touch of Greatness". Thank you for this lovely inspirational film.

9/19/05
Ron Fisher, Ph.D.
Atlanta, GA

Albert Cullum reminded me of my freshman (high school) teacher who honored the 55 students in each of the 4 sections of his English class (Catholic prep. school) by having us read Shakespeare instead of studying grammar, 1960-64. He got in trouble because we didn't do well on the standardized grammar tests. However, I learned about human nature, and I learned to think critically, as Albert Cullum taught his fifth-graders. A few years later, having dropped out of college because I found it boring, I talked my way into a teaching position at my h.s. alma mater in San Francisco, teaching four sections of English. In addition to teaching Shakespeare, I offered a writing seminar to all interested students during their (and my) lunch hour. I was told by the principal to desist, that lunch time was for athletics. So, flying under the radar, I moved the class to my apartment on Saturdays.

After pursuing a Ph.D., I found that my goal of infecting college students with my love of literature and creative writing would "get in the way of your being tenured."

I abandoned teaching--in the classroom--and became a personal and career counselor, getting a Ph.D. in psychology but always believing I learned most about human nature not from Freud but from Shakespeare and my h.s. English teacher, Mr. Franxman.

8/12/05
Muffy Mallory
Orinda, CA

My family left Rye in the middle of my 4th grade year at Midland School in the late 50's. One of my good friends was Steve Lawson and that connection (long severed, now reconnected) led me to this wonderful film. I have been haunted by it since watching it, twice. My older brother Peter had Mr. Cullum which is why I knew him as well as I did. Peter is 60 and talked about Mr. Cullum all the time. We had him to dinner at our house a number of times and I recall my parents embracing him and, I am guessing, his techniques. I was shocked to see that he was an outcast. I have few regrets in life but I can add to that short list this one: that I didn't have the opportunity to be taught by such a great man. What I do recall, however, was how proud I was in 2nd grade to have gotten published in the Chatter Box. I still have the issue, in fact.

Nothing in recent memory has produced such excitement in me as much as this film. My partner is on the board of a small school in San Francisco and he enjoyed the movie so much that he is going to share it with the head of the school. I intend to share it with as many people as I can as well as with my three siblings, all of whom recall him. Al Cullum was surely a man ahead of his time. Thank you for making this film.

8/2/05
Mary S. Bahr
Baltimore, MD

Being a creative person, I am SO impressed by Albert Cullum specifically in that he was confident in knowing he was uniquely different and not afraid to express what came from a deep place within him. Teachers can be well educated and trained, but they don't ALL have that unique, inner freedom and special spirit, which makes for greatness. How can children be truly taught and transformed without such greatness as a role model? Children can discern the types of hypocrisy. Two examples of my grade school life: in 8th grade, the school librarian was more than livid when I told her I had just read "Rebecca" [Daphne DuMaurier] and thought it was so good that the school library should get their own copy. And, on the other hand, my 7th grade science teacher taught really fun classes and, therefore, I told my parents that science was my favorite subject and that what I learned most was why he painted his house black (an oddball personal story he would always talk about). Needless to say I also failed science. I am a post-grad from an art college where there was a freedom of expression along with discipline of craft, but I learned more to discern the good, innovative teachers from ones I likened to be "ingenuine puppets with a reputation to uphold." The best influence on my development was my father - who didn't "teach" me as much as be a role model in what, as a man, who was a fine arts painter, truly valued and acted on with a deep well of great spirit. And his college students gravitated towards his genuiness. He and Mr. Cullum, I think, would have liked each other.
5/11/05
Chuck Remington
Norwalk, CT

Gideon!!!

Now there's a name I haven't heard in 30+ years. I played a minor role to your lead in Soph & the Lion at Midland under Cullum's genius.In 5th or 6th grade. Can't recall now.

I've been working in environmental education since the late 80's and I use a good deal of theater and inquiry-driven (read chaos-theory) techniques in the programs I write or coach others to write for young people. And I know that focus came from my experiences with Albert.

Another classmate of ours, Peter M., sent me this link. Interestingly, his work is all about non-tradtional, innovative approaches to teaching.

All hail Mr. Cullum and my favorite quote of his...

"Think before you stink!"
5/7/05
Emily Miller
Bothell, WA
I'm a 4th year teacher and currently in graduate school. My professor showed us the the film "A Touch of Greatness" recently. I was touched, moved, and inspired by Al Cullum. I work w/ special needs students and it's not surprising that my profession has such a high burnout rate. I love my students and my job. I do struggle with the bureaucracy of the expectations that are placed on teachers today. I wonder what Al would have done if forced to teach to a state mandated test? What a wonderful film! in a world of cynical reviews of public education...this film has given me a new sense of hope and energy to continue what I was put on this earth to do...teach, love, and bring forth greatness in children. Thank you Al for being who you were for children.
4/11/05
Rochelle D. Hammonds
Atlanta, Georgia
I saw this film and was utterly transformed directly to my dream. I am a 38 year old african american female who is on page 2 of her life. I have known from day one that i was here on earth to inspire and teach others. I started using drugs in my teens and now have been clean and serene for 12 years continuously. Now that I am paying attention to my life I am attending Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia, initially my major was teaching but i let someone talk me out of that because they said it was too hard. Now i am a Social Work major and I do believe that I will be able to teach with a Social Work degree. I said all that to say I that I want to inspire everyone I come in contact with just like Mr. Cullum. I was born with enthusiam, insight and the ability to inspire. Thank you to those who made the film and to those who participated in any way.

Soon to be Inspirer
Rochelle Hammonds
3/2/05
Gideon Ansell
Boston, MA
Watching this film left me teary, exhilarated, sad, and a little bit more hopeful than before. Al Cullum was my teacher at Midland School in the early-to-mid 60s and I was fortunate enough to be in two productions of his (in fact I'm in some of the archive footage film and that's me in the picture on the right of "The Teacher" page of this site.) As with his former students featured in the film, his effect on me continues to this day. Over the years I've frequently related stories of Mr. Cullum and credited him with fostering so many of the life choices I made and core principles I hold out to my kids.

Simply put, Mr. Cullum had the most profound impact a teacher can have on a student. By being who he was, he made us understand that art mattered, that we mattered, that there was truth, compassion, and beauty in the world, and that we shouldn't be afraid to embrace them. That sounds like a lot to load onto a fifth grader, and of course I didn't realize any of it explicitly at the time. All I knew was that I loved being in any classroom or after-school actively with him. Thanks to this movie, though, I was able to see from an adult's perspective the effects of Mr. Cullum's philosophy and practice of teaching on us. Our interest in, and excellent retention of, normally dry subject matter like vocabulary and grammar was astounding. Our desire to learn and participate was impressive. Most importantly, the performances he drew out of his kids, by simply letting us know we were up to the task of understanding the characters we were portraying, were profound.

I do have to say that even at the time I was amazed that Mr. Cullum was allowed to get away with half of what he did, and as the years pass and my observation of institutional conservativism and myopia increases, it amazes me even more. In retrospect it makes me even more astonished that I was able to have those important years with Mr. Cullum.

As a final note, my reaction was not just misty-eyed nostalgia working its way on me forty-odd years later. My wife is a theater arts teacher, and my daughter is a theater major at a public performing arts high school. Both of them were enthralled and touched by the film. It showed me that Al Cullum's loving and honest approach to teaching transcends time and place and can be a touchstone for new generations. I'm hopeful that this film can jump-start a few teachers to approach the process in a new, more thoughtful, and exciting way. Even in the face of "No Child Left Behind" bureaucratic nonsense.
2/28/05
Kathie Anderson
Plymouth,MA
As a student in Albert Cullum's class in the mid 70's at Stonehill College, I knew I had a brush with greatness. I remember to this day (and frequently share with my fifth grade classes) Albert's statement that a good teacher needs to be childlike but not childish. He was right. Over the last twenty six years, his words have stuck in my mind. Each day I work hard to put myself in the shoes of my students and try to find some joy in whatever we are studying. Thank you , Albert Cullum, for giving me the gift of looking at the world in a childlike way while reminding me of the respect and kindness that all students deserve. Thank you, also, Leslie Sullivan for the nostalgic look at someone who had a greater impact on my teaching style than I had realized until seeing your documentary.
2/14/05
robert delilse
seattle washington
Al and I were doctoral candidates at Boston University in the late sixties. He didn't need the doctorate to do the things he did so well but he felt that he would be able to affect the lives of so many more with this degree. We would spend many evenings talking about the things which had to change. We also spent many evenings going over the manuscripts he would be preparing for publication.The one which had a great impact on me was Push Back the Desks. For many years after graduating and teaching in NYC I would use the book with my graduate students. I was not Al Cullum but I did try to put into practice the many things he advocated.

I am sure that All is enjoying all of this attention. I'm sure he can here the applause.

"Al, you can come through the curtains now!"
2/10/05
Donna Tanner 1977
Chelmsford, MA
Today I opened my Stonehill Alumni magazine and read with a tear in my eye the story of "A Touch of Greatness" and the most influential professor I had during my years at Stonehill. As a Principal, I constantly refer to Dr. Cullum and my experiences in his classroom. In particular I remember his belief in the importance of taking the time to know our students, believing in them and recognizing their individual strengths. During my years at Stonehill, Dr. Cullum took the time to play tennis with me and take interest in my learning. He truly influenced and inspired me to pursue a career in education. In February 2001, I asked Dr. Cullum to visit my school. He told me he was not able to travel much but sent along a copy of the re published book, "The Geranium On The Windowsill Just Died But Teacher You Went Right On". On the day he passed away, I shared the book with the staff at school in his honor. His teaching continues to live on is us all. I cannot wait to see the video!
1/21/05
V.Kieldsen
miami, fl
A Touch of Greatness should be recommended viewing for all. Teachers, parents, children, and those of us who want more for the youth culture today. What joy watching Albert Cullum impart his passion for teaching brought to me.

I was teary throughout as I watched and listened to his students ( I was envious of them, as I wished that I had had their experiences in the classroom for myself as a child! . His philosophy for life and teaching and his love for children ...how grand. What a legacy.

I could not wait to share this with my sister who is a grade school teacher and has experienced first hand the pitfalls of trying to teach within the system today.

My wish for all children today is that they would be fortunate enough to have a mentor such as Albert Cullum to touch their lives and open up their minds to the greatness within.

note: Thank you Mr. Feldman(my H.S. Drama teacher) whereever you are, for being my Mr. Cullum!
1/21/05
Katie Kemple
Arlington, VA
I watched this program on a snowy lunch break at home yesterday. Though I am a fan of Independent Lens, I was not prepared for the beauty I beheld in this film. The footage of children performing Shakespeare and other great works, made me laugh, but then, it made me cry too -- not from sadness, but because their movement was so pure. Teachers like Cullum don't touch ones life everyday, but through this documentary, he was able to touch more lives even after his death. It was some of the most inspired footage I have ever seen. Thank you for making this available to audiences around the country.
1/21/05
John Lippincott
Wesley Hills, NY
Hi,

I went to Midland School in the 60s but was transferred before I would have gotten to Mr Cullum's class, if he was still there at that time. I did see several of his plays, musicals and operas and my brother had him for a teacher. My impression to this day is that his plays and musicals and operas were the best versions of the works performed that I have seen up until my college days. Great singing, good acting, they were all head and shoulders above any other school's painfully amateur plays I saw or have seen since. I still measure someone's singing of "Martha" from the opera of the same name against the version I heard at Midland in maybe 4th grade!

I hope I can catch this when it airs next.

Thanks to all that worked on this.

Cheers,

John L
1/21/05
Lisa Gibson
Tyngsboro, MA
I was blessed to have Professor Cullum as my teacher while at Stonehill College. At an age in which one is bordering on adulthood and told to "grow up" and "act your age", he taught us that it is ok to loosen up, have fun, and understand what it is to be a kid again. Through this authentic play-making, he helped us express our creativity at a time in our lives in which conformity to our peers and the rules of adulthood are becoming key. He gave me a sense of confidence and freedom that is rare in the classroom.

I hope that he knows what a difference he made in so many lives. I regret that I did not have the opportunity to thank him.

One wish is that the program could be shown in the Boston area at a more watchable prime-time hour. I'd watch a program of this quality over "The Bachelor" for instance anyday.
1/21/05
Marie Thomas
Celebration, Florida
Thank you for producing this show. I have been teaching for 32 years. I am shocked at what I see happening in the name of education in our public schools.Last year, I was trained at the Children's House in Celebration, Florida. It wss the best early childhood education program I have ever seen, I was taught the Montessori method, then I purchased the materials and taught the program, as I was learning it, in a public school. The children surprised me. They could learn more, and do more in all subject areas than I had been lead to believe in my college training as a teacher. Mr. Cullum's method met the needs of the intelligence of the child. Dr. Maria Montessori taught a global education. Please do another show on the American Kindergarten vs. The American Montessori Society Kindergarten. Yes, we do need to rescue millions of children, I am continuing to study Montessori. Our children desire the best of what we know today, The intelligence is in the child. We need to allow the futher development of the intelligence of the child by our teaching methods, Thank YOU for an inspiring show, I am a teacher like Albert Cullum. The inspiration for great teaching comes from following the child.

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