Novato teacher uses campus as movie set – Marin Independent Journal

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Teacher Kevin Rapp talks to students during class at Sinaloa Middle School in Novato on Thursday, May 5, 2022. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)

Kevin Rapp was once on the path to becoming a successful filmmaker, but life had other plans. He became a teacher at Novato.

Now ending his teaching career, Rapp can still point to a cinematic legacy. He carved out a niche for himself in filmmaking at Sinaloa Middle School.

“I turned the school into a mini Warner Brothers set,” said Rapp, 60, who is retiring next month.

Rapp says he was inspired to make movies at an early age. His favorite movie was “Jaws” and he “wanted to be Steven Spielberg”.

After graduating from college in New York, he moved to Los Angeles to try his luck. He created and produced the 2002 independent film “Reflex Action”, which aired on ABC and is still streaming on various platforms.

“I wanted to do hit action movies,” he said. “Two hours of non-stop action is what I wanted to do.”

Instead, after moving to the Bay Area for personal reasons, Rapp went on to make a series of monster, zombie, sci-fi and horror videos using Sinaloa as the setting and the students and staff as actors.

Rapp, a special education teacher at the school for 15 years, will leave behind a legacy of more than a dozen such films.

“The magic behind Rapp’s films – apart from the legitimate quality of the films – is the students who play them,” said John Matern, dean of students at Sinaloa. “Rapp took kids from corners of the school who were otherwise leading very quiet, unknown, under-celebrated lives and turned them into stars.”

For 26-year-old Kyle Chernoff, who starred in Rapp’s first film, ‘Sixth Period,’ when he was a seventh grader at Sinaloa, the experience sparked a confidence he hadn’t felt before.

“I was on the calmer side,” said Chernoff, who was a general education student but had what’s called a ‘resource’ class with Rapp for support and help. to the homework of his other classes. “It helped me break that shell.”

“‘Sixth Period’ is about when zombies take over the school and he’s trapped in class with his friends,” Rapp said. “We showed it to the whole school.”

Chernoff and others then took the stage and were celebrated by students and teachers.

“It helped me build the confidence to do more things,” Chernoff said. “It helped me show off.”

He then joined the San Marino High School varsity football team. A running back and team captain, Chernoff was named the best running back in Marin.

Chernoff, now a police officer in San Francisco, said it wasn’t just being in the movie that helped him, but also his relationship with Rapp, with whom he stayed in touch.

“He was able to find unique ways to get students to want to learn,” Chernoff said. “It made me want to go to school.”

Similarly, Giovanna Boggeri, a sophomore at San Marino High School, said she starred in two Rapp movies in sixth and seventh grade. It would be the last of Rapp’s films, as when she reached eighth grade, the COVID-19 pandemic halted production for the next two years.

Boggeri said she continued to draw on experience from films when performing in front of audiences, including on television. Boggeri, who suffers from epilepsy, appeared on local television in New York last week to meet World Wrestling Entertainment star Drew McIntyre. The Make-a-Wish Foundation arranged the meeting to fulfill Boggeri’s wish to meet McIntyre, one of its heroes.

“My experience in ‘Show and Tell’ and ‘What I Did When I Was Little’ was to be confident in myself, to be confident to be on TV and to be in the real world “said Boggeri, 16.

Rapp said he would start each film at the start of the school year, meeting with students to create the script. Rapp and the cast were shooting the film during breaks, lunchtimes and weekends.

“It’s such an amazing campus, with a stream running through it and some wilderness areas,” he said. “And I had 900 extras – kids who were all dying to be in the movies.”

At the end of each year, the whole school gathered in the gymnasium to watch that year’s movie and laugh and shout with joy, he said.

“It was such a great time – so amazing,” Rapp said. “I was completely hooked.”

Rapp’s favorite movie of the more than a dozen movies he’s made is “Room 213,” which was so popular he made a sequel, “Return to Room 213.”

“It was a real horror movie,” Rapp said. “It was shot at night, the setting was Halloween night, in a haunted classroom.”

“I wanted to see 900 kids scream – and boy, did they scream,” Rapp said of the film being screened in front of the whole school.

Other favorites are “The Sinaloa Games” — a “Hunger Games” takeoff — and “Bigfoot,” where the legendary monster is spotted on campus and groups of college students set out to find it.

Sinaloa’s retired maths teacher Paula Freeman said that although the films included both general education and special education students, the latter could have benefited the most.

“By putting this student population in the spotlight, it gave us a new perspective of ‘the special education student,'” she said. “The film acted as an outlet that gave Kevin’s students an opportunity to shine and proved to the general education population that these children have strengths and talents that go beyond the content of a manual and traditional apprenticeship.

Mary Pritchard, a former principal at Sinaloa, said Rapp gave special education students “a gift for life”.

“This opportunity made these students feel special and earn well-deserved praise from their teachers and peers,” Pritchard said.

Rapp, who lives weekdays in Novato, said he was retiring to live full-time with his wife and three children, who moved to Placer County several years ago.

He plans to finish writing a children’s book and dust off “Reflex Action” so he can add some post-production tweaks and a digital remaster that he wasn’t able to do 20 years ago. He also plans to hike every day, play pickleball, and do some substitute teaching.

Although he didn’t plan it that way, Rapp said he’s grateful his filmmaking ambitions created the vehicle to help kids thrive, gain confidence, have fun, and to change their lives for the better.

“Looking back, I gave up on my Hollywood dreams, only to find them in college,” he said.

Many of Rapp’s films are posted on YouTube at bit.ly/3wbW18x. Some also air at Marin’s Community Media Center on cmcm.tv and on Novato Community Television on novatotelevision.tv.

Special education teacher Kevin Rapp poses with his video camera at Sinaloa Middle School in Novato on Thursday, May 5, 2022. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)
Kevin Rapp, a teacher at Sinaloa Middle School, with his video camera on the Novato campus, Thursday, May 5, 2022. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)
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