Emily VanCamp Stars, with Timothy Busfield and Treat Williams;
Film Based on True Story of Young Teacher Who Changes Children's Lives
Stacey Bess's first teaching job is not at all what she expected. She's assigned to the School with no Name in Salt Lake City, a space in a homeless shelter that is supposed to function as a classroom. The 'classroom,' though, lacks basic supplies such as desks and books, and her young students range in age from six to 12.
Based on a true story, Beyond the Blackboard chronicles young Stacey confronting her own fears and insecurities as she struggles to gain attention and respect from her students. She must also win over school board administrators and apprehensive parents.
Beyond the Blackboard, the 243rd presentation of the Hallmark Hall of Fame, premiers Sunday, April 24, 2011, 9-11pm ET/PT on CBS. This presentation continues the 60th anniversary year of television's longest-running and most-honored series of drama specials.
Emily VanCamp (Everwood, Brothers & Sisters) stars as Stacey Bess; Steve Talley (The Peaceful Warrior) plays her husband, Greg; Emmy Award winner Timothy Busfield (thirtysomething, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) and Treat Williams (127 Hours, Front of the Class) play the school administrators.
Beyond the Blackboard is based on Stacey Bess's memoir, Nobody Don't Love Nobody. Jeff Bleckner (Loving Leah, The Russell Girl) directs from a script by Camille Thomasson (When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story, The Magic of Ordinary Days).
Interviewed on the film's set, Emily VanCamp says when she first read the script she felt compelled to play the part of Stacey Bess.
"It's so rare that you read a script and connect with it on such a deep level," she says. "I have such a tremendous amount of admiration for Stacey and for the things she's done that to be able to portray her is really and honor.
"I love the combination she has of vulnerability and empathy, matched with tremendous strength."
Stacey Bess spent many days on the Albuquerque, New Mexico set of Beyond the Blackboard, and memories came flooding back.
"The chances of my surviving at the beginning were just about nil," she remembers. "I mean, I'd never been exposed to poverty."
Stacey Bess persevered, and for 11 years brought help and hope to her flock of school children.
"I had to convince them that I was an adult who could be trusted, an adult who was here today for them, and would be here tomorrow for them, and the day after tomorrow.
"When you looked into their eyes you saw exhaustion," said Stacey. "I had to teach them to be children. They had to learn that it wasn't their job to worry about money. Their job was to go to school, and to help their brothers and sisters."
Treat Williams, also interviewed on the film's set, says Beyond the Blackboard '"reminds us that sometimes it doesn't take an awful lot to make a huge difference in other people's lives. In this case, some desks, some books, some focus -- and a lot of love -- and these kids' lives were improved immeasurably."
Stacey Bess says the take-away message of her story and Beyond the Blackboard is: "Don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Don't be afraid to offer help to someone you don't know, or don't know well. "Even the smallest gesture can make the biggest difference in another person's life."
Andrew Gottlieb (The Lost Valentine, The Blackwater Lightship) is the producer of Beyond the Blackboard.
Academy Award winner Gerald R. Molen (Schindler's List) and Brent Shields (The Lost Valentine, November Christmas) are executive producers. It is from Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, Inc.