By Simon Miraudo
August 31, 2012
Is there a more unfairly maligned profession in the world than teaching? When an oft-absued film critic asks that question, the order of the world is seriously askew. To quote The West Wing's Sam Seaborn (as everyone should try to do on a daily basis): "Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don't need little changes. We need gigantic revolutionary changes. Competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be getting six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge for its citizens, just like national defence." Hear, hear! With the inspirational flick Monsieur Lazhar hitting cinemas, as well as the controversial - and notably educator-free documentary Bully now playing, we thought it high time to stand upon our desks and declare our ten favourite movie teachers! Carpe diem!
10. Professor Sandiford in Art School Confidential
John Malkovich’s Professor Sandiford took 25 years to get to where he is today: America’s pre-eminent triangle artist. So, heed his advice, kids: “If you want to make money, better drop out right now, go to banking school, or website school; anywhere but art school. And remember, only one out of 100 of you will ever make a living as an artist.” Good talk.
9. Mr. Thackeray in To Sir With Love
Lulu sang it best of Sidney Poitier’s Mark Thackeray: “A friend who taught me right from wrong, And weak from strong, That's a lot to learn, What, what can I give you in return?” Lovely! … Wait, what?
8. Mr. McAllister in Election
Matthew Broderick’s Mr. McAllister has some unsavoury thoughts regarding power-hungry Tracey Flick (Reese Witherspoon) and fixes a school election to ensure she doesn’t become class president. OK, he’s not the most moral teacher around, but he stands up to the sweet, smiling face of evil, and we should all be thankful for his sacrifice.
7. Ms. Collins in Carrie
Ms. Collins (Betty Buckley) is the only person to treat poor Carrie (Sissy Spacek) with a modicum of love and respect, and is genuinely pleased when she arrives at the school prom with a hot date on her arm. But not even that affection can keep her safe from Carrie’s pig-blood-induced telekinetic outburst.
6. Professor McGonagall in Harry Potter 1-8
She can turn into a cat.
5. Mr. Escalante in Stand and Deliver
Edward James Olmos stars as real-life math teacher Jaime Escalante, who convinces his troublesome East L.A. students – including Lou Diamond Phillips - to study Advanced Calculus, and saves them from a life of gang violence. Math: actually worth learning!
4. Mr. Finn in School of Rock
Wannabe rocker Dewey Finn (Jack Black) poses as substitute Ned Schneebly, and, after discovering his preppy kids are all learned instrumentalists, forms a massive musical outfit. We could say he also teaches the kids to be themselves and stand up to their pushy parents and whatever, but really, he makes the list for ensuring the youth of tomorrow know their Led Zeppelins from their Black Sabbaths.
3. Mr. Hand in Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Mr. Hand (Ray Walston) has to contend with pizza-ordering burn-out Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) for an entire year. As payback, he gives him an epic tutorial on the night of the big dance. And his lesson sticks! Aloha!
2. Ms. Norbury in Mean Girls
Tina Fey plays Ms. Norbury in Mean Girls (she also penned the screenplay), the lone voice of reason in a school where the students – all on the leash of the manipulative Plastics - are tearing one another apart. The main lesson we learned from Ms. Norbury and Mean Girls? Tina Fey needs to write more movies.
1. Mr. Keating in Dead Poets Society
"Just when you think you know something, you have to look at it in another way. Even though it may seem silly or wrong, you must try. Now, when you read don't just consider what the author thinks; consider what you think. You must strive to find your own voice because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said most men lead lives of quiet desperation. Don't be rescind to that. Breakout." We can't say it any better than Robin Williams did.