So we’ve had our fair share of teachers. Some of them have been rubbish (Mr. B, the Geography teacher who used to mock his students’ looks and their sexualities), and some of them have been brilliant (Dr. D, who used Kelis’ Milkshake to highlight a lesson on boredom).
In literature, there’s a good split between the teachers we love to hate (if you don’t despise Dolores Umbridge, get to the back of the class!) and the ones we adore. Here’s our list of 10 inspirational teachers, drawn from our favourite books.
1. Miss Pointy
When Sahara is pulled out of special school by her mum and reinstalled in mainstream education she encounters the unusual teaching style of Miss Pointy, who conducts lessons in “puzzling” and “time travel”, is flamboyant and rude and who helps Sahara decide on the person she wants to be: the one in the school records or the one in her own life story.
2. Miss Honey
Who doesn’t love Miss Honey, the beautiful kindly teacher who takes Matilda under her wing and eventually adopts her? The niece of the evil Ms. Trunchball, she nurtures Matilda’s intelligence and incredible abilities and gives her a loving home. “Miss Honey was still gazing at the child in absolute wonderment, as though she were The Creation, The Beginning Of The World, The First Morning.”
3. Severus Snape
Bear with us. Throughout the Harry Potter series, Snape is placed in opposition to the Boy Who Lived; sneering and scornful, and a bit of a bully towards his students, he is nonetheless an effective Dark Arts teacher who gives his life in the protection of his student, in memory of his lifelong love. “After all this time?”. “Always”. No, YOU’RE crying.
4. Anne Shirley
Anne is mistakenly sent to the Cuthberts instead of the orphan boy they requested. She later becomes the teacher at Avonlea and the later books are filled with stories of Anne’s teaching and the students she meets and befriends along the way. “Anne, darling, we owe it all to you. We'll never forget it, will we, Jarvis?”.
5. Ms. Rain
In the novel Precious, by Sapphire, we see a young woman’s life wrecked by abuse. When the 16-year-old Precious’s second pregnancy is discovered she is transferred to a specialist school, where she meets Blu Rain, who inspires her to learn how to read and write and gives her a start to a new life. “That didn't love, Precious. Your baby loves you. *I* love you! PUSH yourself!”.
6. Mr. Chips
Mr. Chipping’s role as a teacher at Brookfields encompasses many generations of students and plays witness to the death of his wife, the woman who inspires him to loosen up his classroom style. At the end of his life, he reflects upon the enjoyment and fulfillment he has achieved through his teaching. “Chiefly I remember all your faces...I have thousands of faces in my mind...If you come and see me again in years to come - as I hope you all will - I shall try to remember those older faces of yours, but...in my mind, you never grow up at all.”
7. Charles Xavier
The head of the mutant school and leader of the X-Men, Professor Charles Xavier makes it to this list not just because he’s an able teacher, but because he has acted as a protector to many generations of students, all of whom come to his School in the hope of finding sanctuary. This makes him an inspirational teacher in our (comic) book. “The X-Men do not give up. They stand up.”
8. Miss Clavel (Madeline)
The kindly nun teaches her boarding school wards science, math, literature, music, and arts, and sometimes even physical education - quite the polymath! She secretly favours Madeline because of her wit and precociousness but is caring towards all of her students, even the perennial bully Vicky. “Goodnight little girls, thank the Lord you are well." "Goodnight, goodnight dear Miss Clavel!"
9. John Keating
The book was based on the movie but this list would not be complete without Mr. Keating, the teacher who inspires his students through his love of poetry. If he isn’t tearing pages out of textbooks he's leaping up on desks and encouraging them to create their own individual walks. Despite a devastating turn of events, the students eventually show that they have taken on board the lessons of their dynamic teacher. “Oh Captain, my Captain!”.
10. Sylvia Barrett
Ms. Barrett is an idealistic English teacher at an inner-city school, whose letters and memos make up the core of this book. Discouraged by the bureaucracy of the school system she almost gives up on education, until she realises that she has had a positive effect on the lives of her students. Written by Bel Kaufman, the book has become a classic in American literature. “And that’s it; that’s why I want to teach; that’s the one and only compensation: to make a permanent difference in the life of a child.”