Being a teacher never easy. Before becoming a teacher, there are the hours of schooling, countless tests, student teaching in which you teach for free, long hours before and after school with a goal of helping students achieve the Common Core Standards for their specific grade. Reports are written, data is taken and the worst thing you could ever say to a teacher is that their job is easy. Sure, it’s easy until you realize that no child learns the same and some days you’ll go through material quickly and other days, you’ll be going over the same concept twenty times, trying desperately to find that one strategy that will make it all suddenly click. Being a teacher is tough and tougher still if you really aren’t one.
I’ve been a bit fascinated by David Robb’s stories for Deadline about three men who posed as Studio Teachers on several low budget films. Their names were exposed by Deadline as: Kent Linker, Fred Robbins and Terry Westlund. When I read their names, I immediately went to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing website. It’s a public site where anyone could look up an educator to see what their credentials are and when their credentials expire. For example, if you search my name you will find an Education Specialist Credential that allows me to teach in a special education classroom or work as a resource teacher. Essentially, I am legally allowed by the State of California to work with your child if your child has learning difficulties. I do not have a credential that would allow me to be a studio teacher. There does not seem to be any record of Kent Linker, there are three Fred or Frances Robbins and two have no information listed. There is no information for Terry Westlund.
On his Facebook page, Terry Westlund lists himself as a set educator and former ESL teacher. In order to be an ESL teacher, you need a credential. You also need a different set of credentials to be a set teacher. On his LinkedIn page, no credentials are listed. According to an earlier Deadline article, Westlund was let go from his last job after producers became concerned and a mother complained. Westlund is not the only fake studio teacher under investigation. Linker has been “teaching” for close to two decades. A studio teacher friend of mine did explain that non-union productions are not as diligent in terms of checking credentials and that may have been the reason Robbins, Linker and Westlund passed through undetected.
As an educator, this story is both fascinating and unbelievably creepy as class sizes in studio classrooms are typically smaller. The best I can compare it to is my time working in resource when trying to imagine the class size or the close proximity these men had with students. I might work one on one or with small groups of three or four kids. You build a connection with those kids, you figure out how they learn, how to motivate them, encourage them, when to back off when they’re getting too frustrated. It’s such a violation of trust that I do hope legal action is taken. The kids put their trust in you as a teacher. They trust that you get them, that you’re going to challenge them, encourage them. Parents expect you to keep them safe, to look after the welfare and it is disturbing that these three men took advantage of that.