Top 10 Inspirational Teachers in Film

Last Updated on January 8, 2013

Won't Back Down

Won’t Back DownAvailable On Blu-ray and DVD January 15th

Nona Alberts (Viola Davis) is one of those teachers who cares and strives to make a difference. Here, we’ll count down the Top 10 influential teachers in film including those in Mr. Holland’s Opus, Stand and Deliver and Music of the Heart.

In Won’t Back Down, Oscar® Nominees Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis lead a stellar cast in this empowering drama inspired by actual events. Hard-working single mom Jamie Fitzpatrick (Gyllenhaal) is concerned that John Adams Elementary is letting her daughter down. Teaming with a caring teacher (Davis) who wants the best future for her own son, she sets out to improve attitudes and elevate the school’s academic standards. Despite the odds, with courage, hope and persistence, the women just might prevail in this uplifting film that also stars Rosie Perez and Academy Award® Winner Holly Hunter.

 Roberta Guaspari in Music of the Heart

Roberta Guaspari in Music of the Heart

Roberta Guaspari (portrayed by Meryl Streep) is a real violinist and teacher. Music of the Heart tells her story in which she takes on the task of teaching violin to group of students in Harlem. Though initially met by some resistance (from both of the students and their skeptical parents), Roberta is slowly able to make progress with the kids and the program becomes a success. However, 10 years later, the program is canceled due to budget cuts and Roberta loses her job. To fight back and keep music education going, Roberta and a group of supporters put on a concert to benefit the program and successfully reinstitute it.

 Ms. Geist in Clueless

Ms. Geist in Clueless

Ms. Geist (Twink Caplan) is one of Bronson Alcott High’s teaching staff in 1995’s Clueless. Ms. Geist is a bit of a bleeding heart, and she tries desperately to get her stuck-up students to care about the rest of the world outside of Beverly Hills. Ms. Geist helps Cher (Alicia Silverstone) see that she can help others, and she ends up devoting her time to collecting goods for disaster relief.

 Jaime Escalante in Stand and Deliver

Jaime Escalante in Stand and Deliver

Another real life teacher, Jaime Escalante (portrayed by Edward James Olmos) became a math teacher at a disadvantaged school in East Los Angeles. While his peers looked down on the kids at their school, Jaime believed that they could do more than the rudimentary math he had been teaching them, and began to prep his students for calculus. Ultimately, his students took the AP Calculus test and they all passed. However, their scores were called into question and they were accused of cheating. Jaime fought for his students to be able to retake the test to prove that their scores were based on hard work, not cheating. In the end, his students all pass a second time, proving that hard work and determination really does pay off.

 Dewey Finn in School of Rock

Dewey Finn in School of Rock

Though not technically a teacher, Dewey Finn (Jack Black) impacts his students in School of Rock. After posing as a substitute teacher at an elite prep school, Dewey learns that his new pupils are talented musicians and decides to train them to be a rock band for an upcoming competition. He teaches them to love rock, and that there is more to life than school and grades.

 Mr. Holland in Mr. Holland’s Opus

Mr. Holland in Mr. Holland’s Opus

Mr. Holland originally becomes a music teacher in order to spend more time with his wife, and to compose a piece of music. However, as he spend more and more time in his school with the faculty and students, he begins to have a respect for teaching and really tries to get the students involved in classic music. He used rock and roll to teach them about classical compositions. After 30 years of service to his students, Mr. Holland and his music program are cut from the school’s budgets. However, his former students ban together to give him a goodbye he’ll never forget: playing his orchestral piece (“Mr. Holland’s Opus”).

 Ms. Norbury in Mean Girls

Ms. Norbury in Mean Girls

Ms. Norbury, played by the hilarious Tina Fey, is the sympathetic math teacher in the 2004 hit Mean Girl. Not only is Ms. Norbury unintentionally hilarious, but she also ushers Cady (Lindsay Lohan) away from the catty Plastics and into the Mathletes, and leads all the female students in a giant confession and apology to one another, and beseeches them to stop the girl on girl hate.

 Anne Sullivan in The Miracle Worker

Anne Sullivan in The Miracle Worker

In 1962’s The Miracle Worker, Anne Bancroft plays Anne Sullivan in the true story of Helen Keller.  Helen, frustrated by her inability to communicate due to being blind and deaf, was often prone to uncontrollable outbursts that her parents didn’t know how to manage. They called upon the Perkins School for the Blind, who sent Anne to work with Helen at her home. Through persistence and love, Anne is able to break down Helen’s walls and help her communicate. 

 John Keating in Dead Poets Society

John Keating in Dead Poets Society

John Keating (Robin Williams) is the radical new English teacher at the uptight Welton Academy Prep School. Through his unorthodox teaching methods, like standing on desks and tearing pages out of books, Keating is able to help his students discover and explore their true passions in life, like writing and acting, instead of succumbing to the lives their parents have prescribed for them.

 Clément Mathieu in The Chorus

Clément Mathieu in The Chorus

In The Chorus (or Les Choristes), Clément Mathieu is a new teacher at a school for boys who are ill behaved.  The headmaster at the school ruthlessly punishes his pupils, but Mathieu attempts to win his students over with kindness and humor. Mathieu also starts a choir for the boys, which helps improve their behavior and makes the school a happier place to be overall.

 Professor Dumbledore in the Harry Potter Series

Professor Dumbledore in the Harry Potter Series

Professor Dumbledore (portrayed by both Richard Harris and Michael Gambon) is an astounding wizard who basically knows everything about everything. As a mentor to the young hero, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Dumbledore makes him learn many difficult lessons in order to prepare him for the challenges he will face, while still managing to crack a few jokes along the way.

119 thoughts on “Top 10 Inspirational Teachers in Film

  1. I had a fifth grade teacher named Mrs. Todd who was always very nice to me and went out of her way to take an interest in me. I always felt special. Looking back, she probably made each of her students feel special. I really liked her and was sad to read about her passing. I wonder if she knew that she affected my life and that I have many great memories of her.

  2. My one teacher became a lifelong friend and family member. She taught me to love myself and to never hide my spirit.

    Rafflecopter Name: Stephanie LaPlante

  3. My grade 5 teacher, Mr. Boyd. He was very artistic in many ways, and taught us to appreciate the beauty in life through art, music, and our own ideas.

  4. it was a teacher for my now almost 13 year old son. we moved from upstate ny to kansas in the middle of his first grade year. he was failing horribly in ny, he had a horrible teacher that was getting ready to retire and treated him like crap. he peed his pants one day in school after being potty trained for 3 years because she wouldn’t let him go to the bathroom for example. she seemed to single him out. i almost pulled him from school and homeschooled but then decided to move. he had an awesome awesome teacher here, mrs swanson. he did a complete 360 and passed with flying colors. i requested her for my son that is 2 years behind my oldest and hopefully my two younger kids that are 4 and 2 now will also get to have her 🙂

  5. My 10th grade english teacher was amazing. I felt like she was the first adult to actually listen to me and care what I had to say.

  6. No, not really, I had a bunch of nice teachers and I learned a lot from them, but was never influenced by them for life decisions. I was mainly encouraged by family, friends and people in the church

  7. Yes, I did in grade 6 with Mr.B. He was a unique and innovative teacher who understood how kids learned and what they needed to succeed. Everyone hoped to be in his class for Grade 6.

  8. Well, there’s my mum… she’s a teacher… but no, I’d say that the most inspirational teacher I had was Ms. Langevin, my history teacher. She was fantastic. Years later, I even invited her to my wedding!

  9. Well, I’ve had many inspirational teachers and friends. My mom taught Sunday School and had to spend twice as long as the lesson to prepare and to get ready for all the questions the teens would ask.

  10. I will never ever forget my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Reid. She was an amazing teacher and helped me grow so much.

  11. My science teacher in grade 10 and my grade 9 geography teachers were both a huge inspiration to me.

    breej23 at hotmail dot com

  12. My third grade teacher was an amazing, kind hearted woman. Unfortunately, she lost her battle with cancer about one month ago. So sad, she was truly wonderful.

  13. My 1st grade teacher Mrs. Haney and Mrs. Reno both were loving and careing people and helped me through some tough times.

  14. I had a fantastic music teacher throughout high school! He took his time with each student even though there were 75 of us in the first class of the day.

  15. My english teach my sophomore year was amazing! I always loved writing but he helped me reach my full potential. He actually reminded me a lot of the teacher played by Robin Williams in Dead Poet Society.

  16. I never had one particular teacher that really stood out to me but I had a bunch of really great teachers growing up — I was lucky.

  17. yes my sewing teacher was my insperation
    and to this day i think of her when im working because if not for her i probably wouldnt be working where i am today
    Karen Madsen

  18. it wasnt an actual teacher.. it was my uncle.. he was always/is always there for me whenever i needed someone!!!

  19. My 7th grade teacher is Mr Bak was a very inspirational teacher and my favorite


    belinda mcnabb

  20. I had not an inspirational teacher

    Thank you for hosting this giveaway

    pumuckler {at} gmail {dot} com

  21. I had a teacher in American Lit, who told me I as a great reader, but I read too much garbage, so to impress her, I started reading harder books….I’ve never looked back. She passed away many years ago. Hope she knew how valuable she was.
    Thank you,

  22. I had a teacher who hated my writing style. I was so mad at her that it made me work even harder. By the time I got to college, I was in Junior and Senior classes before the end of my freshman year!

    sherri419 at gmail dot com

  23. I had a teacher named Mrs. King that was very passionate about History. I love History and we really meshed well. She also loved to travel, as do I. She made me want to pay attention and learn because she made it so interesting.

  24. My 10th grade Literature teacher was amazing. She was passionate about Literature and teaching it to us. All my other classmates were asleep in her class but I was always wide awake and she noticed. She would always keep me after class and tell me what great work I was doing in her class. I still appreciate everything she done for me that year.
    brandy graham (name on rafflecopter)

  25. yes Mr wetterman was my 6th grade teacher who taught us that respect must be earned
    vmkids3 at msn dot com

  26. My first grade teacher has been an influence in my life ever since. We’re still in contact, more than 20 years later!

  27. i had a really great gifted teacher in elementary school that taught us a lot about life and other great things!

    susansmoaks at gmail dot com

  28. Please Enter Me In Your Won’t Back Down Blu-ray Giveaway.
    In Response To Your Question Of
    Did you have an inspirational teacher affect your life?
    I Had Some Good Teachers But Not Any Who Inspired Me.
    Thank You For Having This Giveaway!!!!!!!!!

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