PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Earlier this month, Arizona’s Family had the privilege of kicking off teacher’s appreciation week with a private screening of our new documentary Empty Seats, Full Hearts: A New World in Education.

It is a year in review that received nearly as many laughs as tears. “I’m so hoping it resonates, not just with educators but with people of all walks of life and it gives them hope,” said Janet Hecht, principal at Justine Spitalny Elementary School.

With unprecedented access over the course of a year, Empty Seats, Full Hearts follows the dedication and optimism of principal Janet Hecht, as she sets out to fill the void in virtual learning and address the very real trauma that existed for students and teachers alike.

“Some parts were a lot harder than others to watch but overall, I think it really captured our struggles, not just teachers but students and families,” said kindergarten teacher Stephanie Cordova. “It was, it was amazing.”

Empty Seats, Full Hearts: The Podcast

The Justine Spitalny Elementary School teachers and families opened their hearts, their homes, and their classrooms to Arizona’s Family so we could document this historic time and the community’s ongoing fight against COVID-19.

“I really thought that the whole documentary captured beautifully the story of teaching during a pandemic,” said fifth grade teacher Andrea Barrera. “I mean, it was really hard and it was difficult for everybody involved but it was done with such grace, and just such detail and attention to things that mattered so thank you guys so much for capturing that.”

“I hope everybody sees it,” said Dr. LeeAnn Aguilar-Lawlor, Superintendent of the Cartwright School District. “I want to see it again and again and I can't wait to share it with my family and my friends. I’m just so proud.”

The students went out in March 2020 and returned in March 2021.

Arizona's Family was there for it and we look forward to sharing more with you in the days ahead leading up to Friday’s premiere.

All week we will be promoting the film and further exploring additional moments that didn't make it in film. Empty Seats, Full Hearts airs May 21st at 8 pm right here on 3TV.

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