Teacher, Adam Dick’s narrative debut as a director, is an unflinching portrayal of trauma as a contagion passed between people and generations, all set within the prism of modern suburbia. Teacher follows the downward spiral of high school English teacher James Lewis (David Dastmalchian) as he goes to disturbing lengths to protect his favorite students from bullies and challenge the power of wealthy patriarch Bernard Cooper (Kevin Pollak).
A severe but functional alcoholic, James is haunted by painful memories of abuse that he and his mother suffered when he was a child. His drinking has landed James in the middle of a bitter divorce. Now months from tenure, his only source of stability is in the classroom, where he attempts to nurture the precocious Preston Walsh (Matthew Garry) and the chronically shy Daniela Lopez (Esme Perez). James’ efforts are hampered by the consistent bullying Preston and Daniella suffer at the hands of the school’s star baseball pitcher, Tim Cooper (Curtis Edward Jackson) and his friends. Attempts to remedy the situation through the administration fail, in part due to the fact that Tim is son to the school’s wealthiest patron, Bernard Cooper.
Tensions between Tim and James’ students escalate as Preston attempts his own remedy. This leads to a series of reprisals, both online and in person, that sends Daniella into a spiral of depression and jeopardizes both her and Preston’s safety. Increasingly unstable, with his job in danger and no help in sight, James takes it upon himself to bring about some semblance of recompense upon Tim. What follows is a reckoning that defies expectations and serves as a testament to the destructive, cyclical nature of trauma.