Launching Learning

new film promotes program for CF kids

Caleb Gerdes

A new locally written, locally produced film, Remembering Neverland, was inspired by a Chippewa Falls project that builds connections between students, parents, and teachers. The film, which will be screened at Micon Cinemas Eau Claire later this month, is the story of Parents 4 Learning, a project lovingly fostered by founder Tina Buhrow. The film and the book it was based on – both inspired by Buhrow’s personal story – are the dream of writer and director Dennis R. Miller. The pair are a rock-star team bent on inspiring the world to aid in the creation of an environment where no child will have to struggle in school.

The recent premier of the film was a boisterous occasion, with Eau Claire’s Grand Theatre filled with members of the cast and crew. Before the film began, Buhrow and Miller introduced themselves and requested that anyone involved in the making of the film stand and give a brief summary of their involvement. More than half the room not only shared their roles, but thanked and blessed both Tina and Dennis for their passion and dedication. The film itself is a mix of reality and fiction, including real-life pastor association meetings,and a journey through the woods to find the old women who lived in a shoe. Remembering Neverland sought to deliver both the story of the founding of Parents 4 Learning and the need for curmudgeons to find themselves on a journey back to their childhoods.

When I had a chance to pull Dennis away from the crowd for a few quick questions, I discovered the real purpose of the film was to endorse and propagate Parents 4 Learning. Dennis (who a few years ago created the film Voices from the Past, about Eau Claire’s Uniroyal history) spoke about the power of connecting and how he hoped the film and book would allow for the smooth expansion of Parents 4 Learning into Eau Claire schools. I asked him about how making the film and being involved with Parents 4 Learning has affected him, and after reflecting he said, “By connecting with Parents 4 Learning, and in making Remembering Neverland, I found myself as a piece of the puzzle, of the greater puzzle, and instead of having regrets” – referring to the inevitable regrets any parent has – “my cup overflows with joy.”

Parents 4 Learning, now is in its fifth year, hosts “learning parties” one Saturday every month at several Chippewa Falls elementary schools. Learning parties feature reading, music, and art activities and are places where parents are encouraged to join teachers and get actively involved in their kids’ education. Veteran kindergarten teacher Jerilyn O’Brien was the first teacher to get involved in Parents 4 Learning. For her, one of the greatest aspects of the program is seeing the community develop a love for learning. “Seeing the parents get involved in the child’s education, I think, it’s just wonderful!” she said. Pat Bushman, one of the first parents involved in the program, also attended the premier. “It’s been wonderful, not only getting to know my daughters’ teachers, but the other parents as well,” he said. He has been able to form a greater sense of community and understanding with the other parents.

The energy and connectivity of the group was palpable, and when I had a chance to speak to Tina, I understood where it stemmed from. A deeply passionate speaker and advocate for children, Tina shared her path. She had seen her own son struggle in elementary school, and through a life-threatening experience of her own discovered the way in which she and his teachers had attempted to treat her son’s misbehaviors was causing him to grow distant and depressed at the thought of school.

Not knowing how to help her son, she reached out to Scott Kowalski, then principal of Chippewa Falls Middle School, and said, “Mr. Kowalski, we need to figure out together how to help my son.” The experience of working with her son’s teachers and the principal allowed for changes in the way her son was taught. She saw major changes in both his behavior and his attitude toward school and learning. “That’s why I’m so passionate about asking the kids,” she said. “Let’s ask the children what they think will help them.”

Tina speaks passionately about the struggles children face every day and the ways in which we, as a community, should be treating learning. Parents 4 Learning events are amazing places where teachers, parents, and even community volunteers can learn to love learning together.

Remembering Neverland • Oct. 21-22 • meet the cast, hors d’ouevres, and music, 6:30pm; screening 7pm • Micon Cinemas Eau Claire, 3109 Mall Drive • $10 • (715) 874-7000 • www.miconcinemas.com

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