Veteran Dr. Phillips teachers mentor, shape future generation of teachers

With 60 percent of teachers set to retire in the coming decade, inspiring young educators is goal of documentary, Teach!


ORLANDO, Fla. – A new documentary called Teach! explores our education system through its most essential resource - teachers.

But within the next decade 60 percent of those teachers will be retiring.

So the purpose of the documentary and the national campaign to follow will be to fill their shoes.

Local 6 found Central Florida's schools are well on their way to fulfilling that mission.

Susan Porro and Karen Rugerio are a dynamic duo and the heart and soul of the Doctor Phillips High School Performing Arts Program.

The two have been teaching a combined 81 years and doing so in tandem nearly half that time.

"We've created what we even call a legacy," said Rugerio.

A legacy that includes super stars Wesley Snipes, Wayne Brady, Joey Fatone and countless Broadway stars.

But their true joy is knowing they're shaping young minds.

"It's 150 lives that pass through your life every day," said Porro.

Rugerio agreed, "We're here because we watch that light bulb go on. You see them get it and you got 'em."

Nearly a decade ago their energy captured Roberta Emerson.  The 2006 Dr. Phillips grad and recent NYU alum traveled the globe acting, and now has come full circle home to Orlando likely to inherit this legacy program.

"Iit's good to know there are young people like miss Emerson," said Porro.

"It's so wonderful to have that moment.  To know after 38 years I''m going to put it in safe hands," said Rugerio.

Just four weeks into the job Emerson says it can be overwhelming at times.

"They look at you and they're like teach me," she said.

But knowing Porro and Rugerio are there helps ease her fears.

"What makes it easier is I do have mentors," said Emerson.

"We talk to her about being herself, ‘don't be me, be you,'" said Rugerio.

And that is why supporters say Friday night's documentary 'Teach!' is so important.

It could inspire a new generation to love the classroom.

The documentary's mission will continue on the website Teach.org which lists millions of scholarships, jobs across the country, and offers a support network.

"You'd go mad if you didn't have someone to understand what your day is like," said Rugerio.

And as mentors Porro and Rugerio's advice to any of those young people thinking about teaching is simple.

"Go. Do it. You can stand on the platform and watch the train go by or you can do it and go," said Rugerio.

The two-hour documentary "Teach!" narrated by Queen Latifah, airs Friday, September 6 at 8 p.m. on Local 6.

Queen Latifah's new daytime talk show begins on Local 6 on Monday, September 16 at 3 p.m.