October 5 is World Teacher’s Day, when we pay tribute to the teachers that have made a difference in our lives. These are the educators that open minds and not just textbooks; that encourage us to learn how to solve problems, to explore our world, to become critical thinkers—and to learn about ourselves in the process.
In literature, we have the privilege of seeking out and crossing paths with many of these kinds of teachers. Teachers like the five listed here, who bring a fictional classroom to life and leave us with lessons to think about long after we close the book.
Miss Jean Brodie from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
In her prime, Miss Brodie is unorthodox, controversial, outspoken and unafraid to challenge the status quo—so, everything her teenage charges admire in an adult. Jean Brodie may not be doing things the way a circa 1930s private school in the UK expects her too, but with her unconventional methods, she opens the minds of her students to explore all of life’s possibilities.
Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series
There is no shortage of fantastic teachers at Hogwarts (ok, Dolores Umbridge may be an exception), so why put Snape on the list? Because he’s the only one that truly keeps things real for the young wizards, with exacting standards, total respect for potions and magic and as we learn later in the series (spoiler alert), a master of espionage and deeply loyal protector of Hogwarts.
Ms Rain from Push
In Push by Sapphire, Ms Rain, a teacher at an inner-city alternative school, is used to teaching students that lead difficult lives. But when Precious Jones—16, illiterate, a victim of continued abuse, HIV-positive and pregnant—enters her classroom, Ms Rain is determined not to let her succumb to her miserable circumstances. Over time, she not only teaches Precious how to read and become academically proficient, but shows Precious that she is worthy of love and self-confidence.
Don Tillman from The Rosie Project
The Rosie Project’s professor of genetics, Don Tillman may not have the people skills or social grace of some of the other teachers on this list, but what he lacks in extroversion, he makes up for in tenacity, determination, logic, patience and individuality. And if those aren’t great traits for a teacher to embody, I don’t know what are.
Miss Honey from Matilda
When you have as awful of a home life as Matilda Wormwood does, it’s good to have a teacher like Miss Honey in your corner. Though she suffered under the abuse of Miss Trunchbull for many years, Miss Honey is kind and encouraging, allowing not only Matilda, but all of her students to reach their potential, feel good about themselves and, if needed, have a soft place to land when life is cruel and hard.
Did we list your favorite fictional teacher here? Let us know in the comments!