Movie teachers may seem too good to be true, but in some cases, they’re based off real people. Whether that’s the case or not, however, we’ve decided to put together our own list for your consumption. Here are our five favorites.
Escalante was actually a real person (and teacher). His work with students was immortalized in the film Stand And Deliver. Edward James Olmos played the character in the film, and we’ve got to say, it would have been awesome having both versions of the character at the head of the class. As Escalante, Olmos is tough, but caring. He expects a lot from his students and brings out the best. If you haven’t seen the film, it’s an inspirational tale about a group of troubled youths who take and pass the AP Calculus exams, only to be accused of cheating. Escalante stands up for the youths, who agree to take the test again on short notice and, once again, prove their worth.
Clark is another real-life educational personality who had the brass to expel all the dangerous students of an inner city high school and put chains on the doors during the school day so none of them could infiltrate the building and derail studies. He reprimanded teachers for not maintaining control of their classrooms, defied lazy parents whose children were part of the problem, and even went to jail for his kids. The results: before he came only 33 percent of the student body could pass the basic minimum skills test; afterward more than 75 percent were able to. Sounds pretty awesome to us, and in the film, he’s played by Morgan Freeman. That’s pretty hard to beat.
Sidney Poitier is an engineer from British Guiana who decides to apply for a teaching job while unemployed. He gets it, but discovers the place where he’s teaching has something of a dubious reputation. Fed up with the lack of respect from students, he decides to get tough with them, culminating in a boxing match wherein he whips the head troublemaker and wins his respect in the process. There are a lot of ups and downs throughout the year for Thackeray — so many that he starts pursuing engineering jobs once again. However, when he finally gets an offer, he realizes that his bond with the kids is too strong, and he’d rather stay in teaching than head back into the private sector.
Hilary Swank plays real-life teacher Erin Gruwell in the fictionalized film Freedom Writers about a young teacher, who employs unorthodox methods of teaching in order to reach out to troubled students who must navigate hectic lives of abuse, fear, and murder, on a daily basis. Gruwell risks her life and her marriage in order to make a difference and succeeds at great personal and financial costs. Terrific, underrated film.
This 1939 film still packs a wallop. It’s based on the 1934 novel by James Hilton about a retired schoolteacher of 83, who is looking back on his life and all the numerous students he taught during the course of 63 years. When Chipping arrives at Brookfield Public School in 1870, he is a bit of a stuffy personality. As time goes on, he becomes more comfortable relating to the schoolboys. Then he meets Kathy and falls in love. Their courtship is a warm, but tragic one as she and their baby die in childbirth. Chipping continues to teach for many years until retiring for good. On his deathbed he hears someone lament what a shame it is that he never had children. To this, he responds: “I thought you said it was a pity, a pity I never had children. But you’re wrong. I have! Thousands of them, thousands of them – and all boys.” Pass the hankies, please.
Which of these movie teachers is the best, and who would you have included on the list?