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It's teacher appreciation week, and in celebration we’re saluting some of the best-loved teachers modern fiction has to offer. While we weren’t able to take their classes on transfiguration or using the Force, these mentors had a lot to teach us and their lessons hold up long after we’re done with their stories.

 

Mr. Keating – Dead Poets Society: Mr. John Keating brought poetry into the lives of teenage boys who were fixated on the problems of their own lives. More than rhyme and verse, he endeavored to teach them the importance of language and feeling, and dared them to reach into their reading and themselves for deeper meanings. He inspired them to take charge of their own lives, and in turn was given one the most memorable standing-on-desks salute in modern film.

Best Lesson: “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.”

Ms. Frizzle – The Magic School Bus: Miss Frizzle taught important lessons about science, but even more about the quest for knowledge. Her lessons are almost always about sharing discoveries, and students’ research and observations make them respected contributors to each adventure (with the possible exception of Carlos’ bad jokes). The Frizz teaches enjoyment of learning above all else, so we’ll forgive her for not technically getting permission slips before taking juveniles into outer space or the Jurassic Age.

Best Lesson: “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

Image via Mischief Managed

Minerva McGonagall – Harry Potter: Most of the teachers at Hogwarts could have been added to this list, but McGonagall gets a special place of honor. The leader of Gryffindor had us after making Harry a seeker instead of simply punishing him for flying without permission. One could say that this is Harry’s first lesson in rule breaking; he learns to do the right thing despite the rules, whether it results in adventure or detention. McGonagall shows him that when it’s time, he must rise to the occasion no matter the consequences.

Best Lesson: “I want to hear you're training hard, Potter, or I may change my mind about punishing you.”

Mr. Miyagi – The Karate Kid: Mr. Miyagi is a regular font of wisdom on patience, kindness and responsibility – lessons Daniel doesn’t expect to be learning from a martial artist. He learns humility, determination and inner strength from Miyagi, along with serious fighting skills. Mr. Miyagi demonstrates that having strength is more important than showing strength, and that being respectful and easy-going is almost always the best choice.

Best Lesson: “First learn stand, then learn fly. Nature rule, Daniel-san, not mine.”

Yoda – Star Wars: Luke has a lot to learn and, while it tries his patience, Yoda has a lot to teach. In all the lessons he shares, the one that Luke needs the most is that dedication is crucial to the success of any mission. Yoda reminds us that excuses are no match for dogged persistence, and that inconceivable feats are possible through training and focus – even hoisting an X-Wing out of a murky swamp on Dagobah.

Best Lesson: Do or do not, there is no try.

Miss Honey – Matilda: Miss Honey is a savior for Matilda not because she can step in and right all the wrongs of the world, but because she shows her students that they are not alone, and to Matilda in particular, that nothing is wrong with her. Miss Honey inspires fierce loyalty and love not by being a fighter or an entertainer; she simply loves her students and teaches them how to be kind by being kind to them.

Best Lesson: If you are good, life is good.

This list could go on and on, so if you have a favorite fictional teacher you’d like to add, let us know in the comments below!

And if you’ve been lucky enough to have a special teacher in your life, this is a great week to drop them a line and let them know how important they’ve been to you. Think about it from their perspective – who wouldn’t want to get a note saying that they had been a former student’s real-life Ms. Frizzle?


Margaret Dunham's picture

Margaret Dunham

Margaret’s earliest memory is trying to get a plastic Playskool car up to 88 miles per hour. She lives in a beautiful DIY fortress about a stone’s throw from Peter Parker’s old digs in Queens. By day she writes full time for the City of New York and local nonprofit heroes; by night she spends her time crafting, writing, and kung fu fighting. Read all about it on her site The Fearless Gluestick.