With young people all over rushing to Wal-Marts and K-Marts and Targets to purchase their backpacks and pencils and pocket protectors, and with teachers gearing up for the school year by viewing marathon sessions of their favorite films portraying teachers, what better than to have Row Three’s resident educator release a list of the fictional teachers of all levels who have inspired him?
That is precisely what you are here to read – yet this isn’t your eighth grade algebra teacher’s list. Move over, Edward James Olmos. Nobody wants to be inspired to learn nowadays. Watch out, Robin Williams. You’re too soft and influenced far too many terrible graduation speeches. Sorry, Michelle, nobody is falling for the leather jacket anymore. This isn’t the nineties.
These are the teachers you wish you had. These are the teachers that every teacher wants to be more like.
10. Miss Stubbs
Film: An Education (2009)
Played by: Olivia Williams
Why we like her: She doesn’t play the largest role in An Education, but the moments she appears truly stand out for educators. Not only does she care about her students to a fault, she is relentless in providing them options for their best route to success. Oh, and the whole being pleasing to look at sure doesn’t hurt.
9. Severus Snape
Film: Harry Potter series (2001-11)
Played by: Alan Rickman
Why we like him: And here, I bet everyone thought I would go for Dumbledore. To say Snape has an unpleasant side is an understatement, but he is a no-nonsense man of many complexities that every young person can learn from. He is also a master of defense against the dark arts and that is a skill that every young person needs.
8. Principal Joe Clark
Film: Lean on Me (1989)
Played by: Morgan Freeman
Why we like him: Yeah, he is a principal and not a teacher, but he’s the principal that every teacher wished they had. Sure, he drops the F-bomb, n-word, and encourages suicide to drug users, but he just gives one hell of an inspirational speech about taking standardized testing. And folks, that is what education is all about.
7. Dave Jennings
Film: Animal House (1978)
Played by: Donald Sutherland
Why we like him: He’s sickeningly liberal, he admits when the material he is teaching is crap, and he tries to convince his students to smoke a lot of pot. Why do I have him on here? I’ve really got nothing. I just liked the screencap and he’s Hawkeye from the M*A*S*H movie.
6. Jean Brodie
Film: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)
Played by: Maggie Smith
Why we like her: A little idealistic and romantic? Sure. A little radical in her politics? Certainly. Still, she has a quality that every teacher strives for: perseverance. She might be a little too metaphorical for my tastes, but she loves all of her students unconditionally and, well, despite the havoc she causes, that’s something.
5. Professor Grady Tripp
Film: Wonder Boys (2000)
Played by: Michael Douglas
Why we like him: Every college kid wants a professor who is a published novelist. Every college kid also wants said published novelist and professor to hang out with him. There is something about being able to go into the local Barnes and Noble with a date, browsing, then casually pointing to a book and saying with a mysterious chuckle, “Oh, Grady Tripp – great book. Pretty good professor too. We had some good times.”
4. Dan Dunne
Film: Half Nelson (2006)
Played by: Ryan Gosling
Why we like him: He teaches middle school history in Brooklyn. He coaches their girl’s basketball team. He’s laid back, willing to throw the tie off when needed, and has a gift in his communicating with the kids. Okay yeah, their is that whole coke addiction thing, but hey, we all have our demons, right?
3. Jonathan Shale
Film: The Substitute (1996)
Played by: Tom Berenger
Why we like him: Besides being a gang busting undercover mercenary, when students throw shit at him while he is writing on the board, he has a spidey-sense that kicks in – and he’s not afraid to retaliate. Whether teachers admit it or not, the iconic moment from Mr. Shale’s very first day in class is how every teacher wishes they could start off each school year.
2. Dr. Henry Jones, Jr.
Film: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Played by: Harrison Ford
Why we like him: Come on, I could make a list of favorite barbecue sandwiches and I’d find a way to sneak Indiana Jones onto the list. Really though, while he may teach a subject matter that most find boring (“Archaeology is the search for fact, not truth”), he does so with style – a three-piece suit, unusual aloofness, and with the knowledge that the prior weekend he was just outrunning a deadly boulder and a tribe of angry, blood-lusting natives.
1. François Marin
Film: The Class (2008)
Played by: François Bégaudeau
Why we like him: First of all, this character is actually played by a real teacher. Secondly, this character breaks all of the glamorous stereotypes that movie teachers often fall victim too. There is no sudden revelation of how he can reach the kids, there is no cheesy montage of the teacher and kids working towards a common goal – there is only the bitter, frustrating, sometimes rewarding interactions between the teacher and the students. It’s beautiful.