TALES FROM TINSELTOWN: Disney scores high marks for paying tribute to US teachers

I worked for Disney earlier this year, and ruffled feathers at the House o' Mouse with a column about major studios' comic-book mentality.

I worked for Disney earlier this year, and ruffled feathers at the House o' Mouse with a column about major studios' comic-book mentality.

Mocking their pursuit of the $150 million blockbuster at the expense of adult audiences, I recklessly poked fun at the people who signed my checks.

Not too smart, but, hey, as my dad used to say, "My son may not be the brightest bulb on the tree, but at least he has the sense to come in out of the rain." Thankfully he didn't see me standing on the set last night in a downpour, waiting for an actor to emerge from the comfort of her warm, dry trailer.

But this week I'm pleased to share something that makes me proud of Disney, Hollywood, and the good ol' US of A, in general. The studio announced its annual American Teacher Award Honorees, 32 in all, covering ten categories. The winner receives $25,000, equivalent to many teachers' annual salary. I was tickled that one of the honorees was from a high school in Anaheim, where I once taught while attending graduate school. If you want to ponder what's wrong with the educational system, consider I once instructed budding young minds. Scares even me.

Sure, Disney garners positive PR for sponsoring these awards, but they are deserving of it. And no one deserves recognition more than teachers.

Let's face it, they are not dealing with your grandfather's pupils. Today's kids are a tough lot, accustomed to dazzling visual stimulation and the latest gadgets.

Try keeping, with merely chalk and your own energy, the attention of 14-year-olds raised on video games and MTV. Makes being a publicist for Anna Nicole Smith seem like a lark.

One of my journalism professors constantly warned us against joining the ranks of the PR professionals, the "smoke and mirrors magicians," he chided. He was determined to prevent us from being lured to the dark side. Unable to resist, I sat in on a PR class and told the instructor what the good professor thought of her industry. "Yes," she smiled, "I'm aware of Harold's sentiments, and I make it a point to park my BMW next to his Impala to remind him of his idealism."

College students are notoriously idealistic, and a BMW is very ideal indeed. A switch in career tracks swiftly followed, but I never forgot the good professor's impassioned plea to go forth and practice journalism for the betterment of the world, and when I step onto a movie set instead of into a city council meeting, I still wonder what he would think.

That's the power great teachers have. They stay in your heads forever.

An "A+" to Disney for giving them their PR due - and enough cash for the down payment on a BMW!

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