With the Labor Day weekend just around the corner, kids are enjoying the final days of summer vacation before starting school sometime next week. But for many teachers, the school year has already (unofficially) started as they set up their classrooms, plan lessons, and do other behind the scenes work to make their students’ school year a successful one. So in honor of our hardworking and dedicated teachers, here’s my:
Top 10 Teachers From Books and Literature
1. Professor McGonagall (Harry Potter by J. K. Rowlings) While a case could be made for many members of the Hogwarts faculty, in my opinion, Professor McGonagall is hands-down the best teacher in the Harry Potter series. Tough but fair, McGonagall is steadfast and dependable. In a story where role models and parental figures come and go, McGonagall is always there to watch out for her students. Although McGonagall can more than hold her own in the fight against evil, what truly sets her ahead of her fellow Hogwarts teachers is the fact that she never lets it distract her from making her students her first priority.
2. Professor Bhaer (Little Women / Little Men / Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott) – Education is sort of the family business for the March family with Mr. March, Meg, Jo, and John Brooke all employed as teachers, tutors, and governesses at one point or another, but it is Professor Bhaer that almost single-handedly taches all of those little men (and Daisy and Nan too), not only reading, writing, and arithmetic but also how to be a person of integrity and character.
3. Miss Temple (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte) – Although Jane herself becomes a governess, I chose Miss Temple for this list over Jane because of the way she tries to protect her students from the abuses of Lowood School. In a climate where student testing and Common Core curriculum are so hotly debated by the powers that be, we need teachers like Miss Temple who shield and guide their students through it all.
4. Mr. Carpenter (Emily of New Moon Trilogy, L. M. Montgomery) – Miss Stacey from Anne of Green Gables (or even Anne herself) would be the more obvious choice for this list but I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Mr. Carpenter. He isn’t warm and fuzzy but he is brutally honest and his students know that he will not sugar coat anything in his efforts to help them be the best they can be.
5. Miss Edmund (Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson) – Miss Edmund is the kind of teacher who sees and nurtures talent in her students and encourages them to be themselves. Although it ended in tragedy, the trip that Miss Edmund and Jesse took to the museum reminds me of the countless teachers that give of their own time and money to help their students both inside and outside of the classroom.
6. Tom Wingo (The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy) – At first glance, Tom Wingo is an odd fit for this list, seeming on the surface to be merely a redneck football coach suffering a mental breakdown after years of abuse, trauma, and the death of his older brother, Luke. But this shrimpers son has the soul of a poet and is a passionate educator and lover of art, literature, and culture. As a man and as a teacher, Tom resists stereotyping and teaches his students (both on the football field and off) to recognize the unsuspected layers of complexity and strength in themselves and others.
7. Mrs Weston / Miss Taylor (Emma by Jane Austen) – Miss Taylor never waivers in her believe that Emma can do anything she set her mind to and remains a true friend and support even after Emma has completed her education.
8. Emily Sparks (Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters) Emily Sparks is the type of teacher who never gives up on a troubled kid. Recognizing that the hardest kids to love sometimes need it the most, Emily’s care and devotion follows her student throughout his life.
9. Annie Sullivan (The Story of My Life by Helen Keller / The Miracle Worker by William Gibson) – A real life teacher whose work with Helen Keller was immortalized by Helen’s autobiography which was then adapted into a play and a film, I decided to include Miss Sullivan in this list of fictional teachers to represent for Special Education teachers everywhere whose drive, dedication and creativity improve the lives of their special needs students.
10. Hans Hubermann (The Book Thief by Markus Zusak) – Although not a professional teacher, Hans nonetheless teaches Liesel (aka The Book Thief) to read when she is having trouble at school. Hans is here on this list representing home schoolers and dedicated parents who take an active role in their children’s education.
Although not technically from a book, I am psychologically incapable of ending this list of fictional teachers without putting in a tribute to Robin William’s brilliant performance as Mr. Keating in Dead Poets Society, so I am just going to leave this here:
So that’s it for me. Now I want to hear from you. Are there any great teachers from books and literature that I forgot about? Leave a comment with your favorites.
Don’t forget that my Back to School Sale on handmade literary jewelry for teachers, librarians, and book lovers will be coming to an end soon. Visit my shop and use the coupon code: BACKTOSCHOOL to save 15% on your order.
And for all the teachers, staff, and students who are about to start a new semester, I wish you the very best of luck and a great year at school!