5 Greatest Movie Teachers (In Appreciation of Teacher Appreciation Week)
As my son's daycare reminded me, we're in the middle of Teacher Appreciation Week! So I thought I'd give my educational props to the bestest teachers of all time. After all, these instructors inspired and cared--really cared. So if you're in the mood for a little teacher-appreciation marathon, may we suggest:
Sidney Poitier, To Sir With Love: The best movies in this genre are the ones where the teacher brings gravitas and elegance, even if they're the ones breaking all the rules. Since this is Sidney Poitier in a nutshell, there's no one else we'd rather learn life's lessons from.
Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society: There are some, I am told, who found this movie uninspiring. They didn't wish for a teacher like Williams' John Keating, who asks his students to carpe diem, stand on their desks and "suck the marrow out of life." They weren't moved when he got Ethan Hawke to recite poetry in class and Robert Sean Leonard to follow his dream of acting. They didn't weep when the class saluted his farewell with "O Captain, My Captain." To these some, I say, you must have hearts of stone!
Edward James Olmos, Stand and Deliver: Now you know Edward James Olmos from Battlestar Galactica, but back in 1988 he turned in his career-defining (and Oscar-nominated) performance as Jaime Escalante, a teacher in East L.A. who made math fun. 'K, maybe not fun, but got his students to excel in it. "Math is the great equalizer," he says. Wise words indeed.
Robert Donat, Goodbye, Mr. Chips: Coming out of the golden year of cinema (1939), Robert Donat beat Clark Gable for Best Actor at the Oscars with his performance in this film, about a teacher who reflects on nearly five decades of students. That he's disliked and unpopular after he arrives only makes the poignancy that much deeper when he reflects in his old age on whether he ever made a difference.
Morgan Freeman, Lean on Me: How does a principal bring calm to a school overrun by violence and drugs? With a baseball bat of course! He's not technically a classroom teacher, but if you're looking for a more upbeat teacher movie after weeping through the last four, watch one of the most beloved actors of all time carry the whole movie on his broad, proud shoulders.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kindergarten Cop: Who else spends the entire class making his kids practice the fire drill, play "police school," and interrogate them about their fathers in case one is the drug-dealing convict he's been chasing across the country, and still gets them prepared to recite the Gettysburg Address? Only Ahnuld.
Who are your favorite movie teachers?