California Educator

October/November 2019

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S P E C I A L E D U C A T I O N T E A C H E R S know that many of their students will be able to live rich lives beyond the classroom. With instruction designed to meet their unique learning needs, these educators give students with special needs the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential. at includes the opportunity to realize their hopes and dreams. Two recent films — one a feature-length movie and the other a documentary — focus on young people with disabilities who are passion- ate about reaching their goals, and the friends and family who help them. The films are worth tracking down to screen with colleagues and students. The Peanut Butter Falcon stars Zack Gottsagen, a per- former with Down syndrome who is described by movie co-director Tyler Nilson as possessing relentless optimism backed up by the kind of fierce ambition that makes stars out of actors. He plays Zak, a young man with Down syn- drome who dreams of being a professional wrestler and busts out from his care facility to find a wrestling idol he knows only from old videotapes. Along the way, he meets fugitive fisherman Tyler (Shia LaBeouf ), and the unlikely pair set off on a makeshift raft down waterways in the American South, reminiscent of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. The storytelling is colorful and lyrical , and Gottsagen has been praised for the humor and intelligence he brings to the role. Said one critic: "All you have to do is watch Gottsagen's performance to see what we are missing when we discount the complaints of the disabled community in re: representa- tion. It is inconceivable to imagine an able-bodied 'name' playing this role and bringing to it even half of what Gottsagen does naturally." "The whole movie is about someone like Zack being able to do what other people do." —Tyler Nilson, co-director of The Peanut Butter Falcon Impossible Dreams — Realized Two new films feature people with disabilities pursuing their goals Brian Donovan, his then-fiancée Tempany Deckert, and Kelly Donovan. Zack Gottsagen and Shia LaBeouf in The Peanut Butter Falcon. 42 Teaching & Learning

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