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National Teacher Day: Our Favorite Onscreen Teachers

May 7th, 2013 8:00am EDT

School of Rock
May 7th marks National Teachers Day, and to honor those who have educated and inspired us, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite onscreen teachers.
Dewey Finn (Jack Black), “School of Rock” (2003)
Dewey Finn may have been a rowdy, unemployed wannabe rock star, but after scheming his way into the classroom he became a new kind of role model. Dewey taught his students the true meaning of rock ‘n’ roll and encouraged them to rock out in every aspect of their lives.
Memorable Quote: “I have been touched by your kids... and I'm pretty sure that I've touched them.”

Jaime Escalante (Edward James Olmos), “Stand and Deliver” (1988)

When faced with the challenge of teaching calculus to a group of troubled high school students, Jaime Escalante prepared for a battle of words and wit and came out on top. Not only did he successfully guide his students to ace their math exams and SATs, but he allowed them to dream and hope for a future they never thought possible.
Memorable Quote: “There will be no free rides, no excuses. You already have two strikes against you: your name and your complexion. Because of those two strikes, there are some people in this world who will assume that you know less than you do. Math is the great equalizer... When you go for a job, the person giving you that job will not want to hear your problems; ergo, neither do I. You’re going to work harder here than you’ve ever worked anywhere else. And the only thing I ask from you is ‘ganas.’ Desire.”


Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss), “Mr. Holland’s Opus” (1995)

As a high school music teacher, Mr. Holland fought for arts education nearly every day of his career. Throughout this never-ending battle, Mr. Holland inspired hundreds of students to embrace music in a world filled with budget cuts, wars and deaths.
Memorable Quote: “Playing music is supposed to be fun. It's about heart, it's about feelings, moving people, and something beautiful, and it's not about notes on a page. I can teach you notes on a page, I can't teach you that other stuff.”


John Keating (Robin Williams), “Dead Poets Society” (1989)

English teacher John Keating is spontaneous and fun, with a unique approach to teaching. This unorthodox teaching style includes outdoor lesson plans, an insistence at seizing the day and looking at the world from a different perspective. His methods might have been frowned upon by colleagues and parents, but his students found a new appreciation for life.
Memorable Quote: “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”


Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling), “Half Nelson” (2006)

Despite having a dangerous drug addiction, Dan Dunne manages to navigate through the halls of the inner-city junior high school with his head on straight and lesson plans the deviate from the norm. His unique teaching style captivates students, and because he’s brought to life by Ryan Gosling, it’s safe to say he’s easy on the eyes, too.
Memorable Quote: “Change moves in spirals, not circles. For example, the sun goes up and then it goes down. But every time that happens, what do you get? You get a new day. You get a new one. When you breathe, you inhale and you exhale, but every single time that you do that you're a little bit different than the one before. We're always changing. And it’s important to know that there are some changes you can't control and that there are others you can.”


Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz), “Matilda” (1996)

With an aggressive and abusive former Olympian serving as principal of Crunchem Hall, school days are unavoidably dark and gloomy. But having Miss Honey as your teacher can make any day brighter. Miss Honey brought life and color into her classroom, as well as into the lives of all her students.
Memorable Quote: “All grown-ups get scared, just like children.”

Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris/Michael Gambon), the “Harry Potter” series
Serving as headmaster of the finest wizarding school in all of Great Britain can be a daunting task, but Professor Dumbledore is more than qualified for the job. Despite being offered high-level positions in the Ministry of Magic, the wizarding world’s form of government, Dumbledore would much rather mold the minds of young witches and wizards, teaching them right from wrong and the power of good versus evil.
Memorable Quote: “Dark times lie ahead of us, and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.”

Ms. Norbury (Tina Fey), “Mean Girls”
Math teacher Ms. Norbury was one of the many victims tagged in the Plastics’ deliciously evil Burn Book, but she was also the voice of reason in a school where four teenage girls reigned supreme. She frowned upon gossipmongers and encouraged the film’s leading lady to embrace her inner nerd.
Memorable Quote: “I don't know who wrote this book, but you all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores.”

George Feeny (William Daniels), “Boy Meets World”
Great onscreen teachers aren’t just limited to the big screen, as proven by television’s most beloved mentor, Mr. Feeny. Sure, it might have been a major pain to have a stickler like Mr. Feeny serve as your teacher in grammar school, high school and college, but his words of wisdom encouraged the kids of “Boy Meets World” to grow into smart, independent adults.
Memorable Quote: “If you let people’s perception of you dictate your behavior, you will never grow as a person.”

Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), “Glee”
Will Schuester may not be the best Spanish teacher, and he may be a subpar Glee Club advisor. He’s known for picking favorites and occasionally crosses the student-teacher boundary (after all, he asked an 18-year-old to be Best Man at his wedding). But what he lacks in originality he makes up for in passion. Mr. Schue actively fights for arts education and pushes students to express their hearts and souls through the power of music.
Memorable Quote: “It’s not the broken dreams that break us. It’s the ones we don’t dare to dream.”

Related: Boy Meets World, Dead Poets Society, Edward James Olmos, Embeth Davidtz, Glee, Half Nelson, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I, Jack Black, Matthew Morrison, Mean Girls, Michael Gambon, Mr. Holland's Opus, Richard Dreyfuss, Robin Williams, Ryan Gosling, School of Rock, Stand and Deliver, Tina Fey, William Daniels, Starpulse Exclusives, Television, Movies, Evergreen

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Photo Credits: Touchstone Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., Hollywood Pictures, TriStar Pictures, Lions Gate Home Entertainment, 20th Century Fox

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