With the end of the school year fast approaching in many places, it is also a time when students offer their thanks to the many amazing teachers who made a lasting impact, and are thankful to leave the awful ones behind. From Kindergartners to University Graduates, all have memories of great and not so great teachers, and in honour of these teachers we thought it would be fun to reflect on some of the most memorable fictional teachers.
1. Professor Minerva McGonagall from the Harry Potter books. As fans of the books (or movies) will remember, she is the head of Gryffindor, and the Transfiguration professor. She is stern but fair, and has watched over Harry for most of his life. A formidable ally and a powerful enemy, it was definitely good for Harry and for Hogwarts that she was one of the good guys!
2. Miss Honey from Matilda. She is that rare kind of teacher that can make her students love her and turns even the slowest learners into brilliant students. She is nurturing and mother like, and eventually ends up adopting and rescuing Matilda from her horrible parents. If only there was a way to clone Miss Honey and have her teach every child who struggles in school!
3. Miss Stacy from Anne of Green Gables. Miss Stacy is the first female teacher in Avonlea, and even prior to school starting, she captures the imagination of Anne. She expands her students’ horizons, inspires them to learn, and was the primary reason that Anne decided to become a teacher. What better endorsement is there than that for a teacher?
4. Mrs. Frizzle from Magic School Bus. She is the eccentric 3rd grade teacher at Walkerville Elementary School, and she uses magical techniques to teach her students science concepts. She must have eyes in the back of her head as she always seems to know what her students are up to, and she always seems to know the answer to every question they ask. As a kid who hated science in school, I suspect having her for a teacher would have quickly changed my mind!
5. Mistress Miranda Pimm from Curse of the Blue Tattoo. The stern headmistress of the Lawson Peabody School for Young Girls, she initially dislikes Jacky, but eventually grows to like her. Despite her dislike, she deals fairly with Jackie, and is open minded enough to change her opinion of her. Of course being rescued from a fire by that same person will do that to you. 😉
6. Mrs. Baker from Wednesday Wars. Holling is convinced that Mrs. Baker hates him because as a Presbyterian, he’s the only pupil left in class on Wed. afternoons as the Catholic and Jewish students leave the school and she has to stay with him. She starts reading Shakespeare with him, and eventually he comes to realize that she is a caring teacher with her own set of problems. Thanks to her, he is able to start looking outside of himself and learn about tragedy and what is going on in the world. Being able to get a student to do that is the sign of a gifted teacher, and Mrs. Baker is a good reminder that not all assumptions we make about people are correct or fair.
7. Mr. Terupt in Because of Mr. Terupt. Mr. Terupt is the new 5th grade teacher in Snow Hill School in Connecticut. While the initial reactions to him are varied, eventually they warm up to him. He has a way of engaging the students and making them want to do better, and his influence over them is felt even when he’s unable to directly interact with them. Mr. Terupt is the kind of teacher you want to have for every grade, and he’s definitely an inspiring example of a great teacher.
8. Mrs. Gorf, Mrs. Jewls, Miss Zarves from the Wayside School books. These contrasting teachers stand out in Louis Sachar’s zany books about a crazy, mixed-up school and the kids who are in the class on the 30th story. Mrs Gorf is a terrible teacher who turns misbehaving students into apples by sticking out her tongue and wiggling her ears. You don’t want to act out in her class! Eventually, she gets turned into an apple when one of her students holds up a mirror and turns the effect on herself. Mrs. Gorf is eaten by the yard teacher when he takes an apple from her desk. Mrs Jewls is the replacement teacher for Mrs. Gorf, and is the complete opposite. She is extremely nice, and initially believes the students are monkeys because they are too cute to be children. She has some unusual teaching methods (such as throwing a computer out the window to demonstrate gravity), but she was determined to teach the students three things every day, and unusual or not, they learned. I think we’ve all had a few teachers who are on the eccentric side. Honourable mention goes to Miss Zarves who never actually appears in the book but seems to be the stuff of legend in the school but nobody actually knows her. In chapter 19 of the original book, readers discover that the reason nobody has actually met her is that she doesn’t exist!
9. Mr. Freeman in Speak. After Melinda’s terrifying rape by a Senior at a party, she stops speaking and is unable to tell anyone what happened. Mr. Freeman gives her solace and a voice through art to come to terms with what happened and find a way to get past it. Mr. Freeman is perceptive and encouraging without pushing too hard. He’s the only one who is able to get through to Melinda, and without him, she likely wouldn’t have had the courage to speak up.
10. Mr. Keating in Dead Poets Society. Technically, Mr. Keating is not a teacher from literature, but because he taught English and was so connected to literature and poetry, he deserves mention. The “Oh Captain My Captain” scene is unforgettable and inspiring, (if you don’t know what I’m talking about go watch the movie) and any teacher who can make a bunch of teenage boys appreciate Shakespeare and Whitman must be doing something right!
I’m sure there are hundreds more great literary teachers not mentioned here, and we’d love to hear who some of your memorable book teachers are!