The Top Ten (Fictional) Teachers of All Time
Whether in books or on the big screen, fictional teachers have always claimed a fair share of the creative spotlight. This list sets out to decide, once and for all, who tops the list of fictional teachers. In creating these rankings, it was necessary to take more than box office and bookstore popularity into account. The ranking process placed great emphasis on the qualities inherent to any great teacher: a positive attitude, passion, creativity, flexibility, and a desire to see your students succeed.
The teachers on this list date back to the mid-19th century, and range from Victorian England to Japan to sunny California. Even when faced with the most challenging circumstances, these teachers have responded to inspire their students and generations of readers and watchers alike.
10. Ken Carter (Coach Carter)
l came to coach basketball players, and you became students.
l came to teach boys, and you became men.
While this one is based on a true story, we couldn’t help but feel that the inspiration created here was worth a mention.
As Coach Carter, Samuel Jackson demanded more of his players than just excellence on the court. He demanded excellence in the classroom, as well. In the middle of a winning season Carter realizes that despite their great record some of his players have been neglecting their grades.
He locks down the gym and put his players in the library. They eventually get back on to the court and win their first playoff game. He teaches his players that the glory on the court can be fleeting, while the knowledge they gain in the library lasts a lifetime.
9. LouAnne Johnson (Dangerous Minds)
You asked me once how I was gonna save your life. This is it. This moment.
Michelle Phiefer stars in this riveting film as a wide eyed teacher in a rough, inner city school. She takes on what some see as an impossible task in educating high school students that don’t see the point.
LouAnne shows them that their lives don’t have to revolve around the violence and poverty that they see everyday, and that they can do more than they ever thought possible if they only believe in themselves.
8. Jane Eyre
Adele Varens: Mademoiselle, will we be very happy?
Jane Eyre: We will work hard, and we will be content.
Charlotte Bronte’s iconic governess is one of the most famous literary figures, not only of 19th century British literature, but of all time. Jane survives the harsh environment of Lowood School as a student and later goes on to a short teaching career at the school, a strong example of her resiliency. As a governess at Thornfield Manor, Jane tutors the often-spoiled Adele Varens. That she ends up marrying Mr. Rochester, the owner of Thornfield Manor, is a testament to her success across the board as a teacher.
7. John Keating (The Dead Poets Society)
Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!
John Keating did one thing that English teachers have been struggling with since time immemorial: inspire a true love of poetry in his students. That Mr. Keating did this in a rigid boarding school structure is all the more impressive. Mr. Keating engendered two qualities in his students that go beyond the classroom, an ability to think freely and a sense of self-reliance and resiliency. If the support Mr. Keating’s students display in the final scene of the film doesn’t give you chills, then we don’t know what will.
6. Miss Honey
I’ve often thought about it, but I can’t abandon my children. And if I couldn’t teach, I’d have nothing at all.
If you were going to envision the perfect teacher, she would probably look exactly like Miss Honey.
Enthusiastic, kind and motivated by a deep love for her students, Miss Honey serves as the mentor that Matilda has never had before in life. Miss Honey achieves all this success while dealing with the overwhelming presence of her evil aunt and the headmistress of Crunchem Hall Elementary School, Miss Trunchbull. When Miss Honey adopts Matilda to prevent her from moving to Guam, she goes above and beyond what was simply necessary and ascends the pantheon of teaching greatness .
5. Yoda (Star Wars)
Luke, when gone am I, the last of the Jedi will you be. Luke, the Force runs strong in your family. Pass on what you have learned, Luke. There is another Skywalker.
Sure, he’s not human, but his role as mentor to generations of young Jedi knights merits recognition. Yoda challenges a young and impressionable Luke Skywalker to rise to the task of returning the Jedi to prominence. That Luke is ultimately successful speaks to the knowledge and teaching ability of his mentor. A figure of infinite wisdom (he has lived 900 years), Yoda is a master of identifying and cultivating hidden talent, a skill any teacher would be glad to have.
4. Mr. Feeny (Boy Meets World)
I want you to go home this afternoon and open a book! I don’t care what you had otherwise planned, I order you, nay, I command you. Go home and open a book.
Most teachers have only one year to impact a student’s life. In Mr. Feeny’s case, his role as a mentor to Corey, Shawn, Topanga, and Eric started in the sixth grade and stretches throughout their teenage years into college. Mr. Feeny’s ability to adapt to a number of teaching scenarios, whether as a classroom teacher, principal, or college professor, is one trait that sets him apart from other teachers. Mr. Feeny asked a lot of his students, and consistently made sure his classroom expectations were understood. Always there when his students needed him, Mr. Feeny’s care for his students success in all aspects of life is a characteristic inherent to any great teacher.
3. Ms. Frizzle (The Magic School Bus)
Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.
One thing every teacher aims to do is generate excitement in the classroom on a daily basis. When it comes to enthusiasm, no one can match Ms. Frizzle and her Magic School Bus. Whether it’s teaching about the solar system, the center of the earth, or the human body, Ms. Frizzle is a master when it comes to making sure her students are excited about learning. That Ms. Frizzle helped teach a generation of young readers and television watches about these same subjects only adds to her impressive resume.
2. Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter)
I will only truly have left this school when none here are loyal to me. Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.
Given that Albus Dumbledore is the most powerful wizard in the world and headmaster of Hogwarts, he could be forgiven if he ran out of time to serve as a mentor to individual students. Yet Dumbledore constantly takes time to prepare Harry for all the challenges he must face in his quest to defeat Lord Voldemort. That Dumbledore is able to achieve this while allowing Harry the personal space any teenager sometimes needs speaks to his incredible emotional knowledge. Dumbledore paves the way for Harry to achieve greatness, all the while displaying respect, patience and compassion with the difficult journey that Harry faces.
And the number one fictional teacher of all time is…
1. Mr. Miyagi (The Karate Kid)
We make sacred pact. I promise teach karate to you, you promise learn. I say, you do, no questions.
Though his domain lies outside the classroom, Mr. Miyagi’s role as a mentor to Daniel-san and Julie Pierce is one that can only be described as legendary.
Training the All Valley Karate Tournament champion is surely no simple feat. Mr. Miyagi guides his pupils through the emotional challenges of high school, a task that any teacher will tell you is difficult at best. Mr. Miyagi made sure that his students mastered the basics, and as a result, was able to guide them to achievements they didn’t think possible
Honorable Mentions (In no particular order)
- Severus Snape and Minerva McGonagall
- Mr. Belding (Saved by the Bell)
- The Professor (Gilligan’s Island)
- Miss Prism (The Importance of Being Earnest)
What do you think? Who would you add to the list and who would you rank higher or lower?