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Mar 9, 2023

7 Movie/TV Teachers That Should Be Role Models for Today

What does it take to make a truly great teacher? Sometimes fiction offers us better examples than reality. Here are seven examples of how good and caring teachers relate to their students.

Kevin Kline as William Hundert in The Emperor’s Club (PG-13, 2002)

Mr. Hundert of St. Benedict's School for Boys loves teaching and especially interacting with his students. The look on their faces when they understand something or seek to learn more is what he lives for.

So, when he takes an incorrigible rich kid under his wing, he must take a different tack. How can he get through to this kid?

Mr. Hundert does not waver in his conviction that he can inspire this student to his best potential. Along the way, he manages to endear himself to all of his students.

It is only at the end when he discovers his efforts when dealing with the spoiled brat were not enough to keep him on the straight and narrow after school.

Nevertheless, Mr. Hundert is a great example of a teacher who goes above and beyond for his students.


Sidney Poitier as Mark Thackeray in To Sir, With Love (1967)

When Mark Thackeray moves to London to teach a class of unruly and inconsiderate teens, he gets more than he bargained for.

Besides teaching the curriculum, Thackeray decides to teach his class how to behave in society. They soon discover he is not an ogre, but someone who is trying to help them succeed in life, wherever they end up.

When he first comes to town, he is mocked and ridiculed, but by the time he leaves and his class graduates, he is the one person who has helped them become adults and worthwhile individuals. What a guy!


Julia Roberts as Katherine Ann Watson in Mona Lisa Smile (PG-13, 2003)

At Wellesley, a high-class college for women, in the 1950s, Miss Watson, a forward-thinking woman, sees the rut that these young women are digging for themselves.

She discovers that many are only in college to be able to handle society and their households when they get married and have children.

Miss Watson strays from the curriculum to expand their way of looking at the world. She helps them understand that they are not stuck in the conventional roles of the day and can forge the lives they truly want.

Yes, some do want to be homemakers and mothers, but others would like to challenge themselves in other ways and have their own careers outside the home.

Needless to say, she is not met with the friendliest consideration by the staff. However, her students admire her tenacity and devotion to their futures.


Rosalind Russell as Mother Superior in The Trouble with Angels (PG 1966)

St. Francis Academy for girls is a strict establishment under the thumb of the Mother Superior. All the nuns teach as well as maintain their religious activities. They all have the best interest of the girls in mind.

Mother Superior, however, has to keep a tight ship while maintaining the school’s educational standards. She has a heart of gold, and when one young girl simply cannot understand how to sew her dress, Mother Superior stays up all night helping her and actually sewing most of the dress herself.

Besides her devotion to God, Mother Superior is completely devoted to her students.


Gabe Kaplan as Gabe Kotter in Welcome Back, Kotter (TV-PG 1975-1979)

In this sitcom, Mr. Kotter returns to the high school where he attended and is assigned “The Sweat Hogs,” a class of unruly troublemakers.

It takes him a while, however, he eventually befriends each student. While they might still have some mischievous aspects of themselves, Kotter and his wife find they can actually get through to the kids and yes, they can actually teach them instead of letting them run wild in class.

Kotter is a bit off the cuff at times, but at his heart, he is genuinely interested in setting these kids on the right path.

The show was also notable for introducing John Travolta to the world.


And of course, there's John Sebastian's iconic theme song:


Robin Williams as John Keating in Dead Poets Society (PG 1989)

Mr. Keating inspires and encourages his students to learn about themselves and forge their own lives.

While he is a little unconventional when it comes to teaching techniques, he has a way of getting through to the students.

In the end, he is considered one of the best teachers in the history of entertainment.


Mr. Ratburn (Arthur animated TV series)

While tough, Mr. Ratburn is a friendly teacher who although doles out plenty of homework, he is intent on being the best teacher in the school.

He’s tough, and doesn’t let the kids get away with things, but he cares deeply about them. He teaches that consequences are the result of actions.


For other inspiring teachers, check out Robert Donat as Mr. Chips in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), Ingrid Bergman as Sister Mary Benedict in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945), Hilary Swank as Erin Gruwell in Freedom Writers (PG-13 2007), Kevin Costner as Jim White in McFarland, USA (2015), Embeth Davidtz as Miss Honey in Matilda (PG 1996), and Jon Voight as Pat Conroy in Conrack (1974).

All of these teachers portray people who are not in the profession for a paycheck or to have summers off. They care about their students and their futures.

Image: Adobe Stock

Francine Brokaw is a longtime journalist, covering entertainment, product reviews and travel, and is the host of Beyond the Red Carpet on Village Television and YouTube.

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