THE BLOG
08/17/2011 08:46 am ET Updated Oct 16, 2011

The Top 10 Best Fictional Teachers

by Jenn Pedde
University of Southern California

Teachers are a huge influence in people's lives, and, as the saying goes, "Art imitates life?" Surely this must be the reason that teachers are often center stage in our favorite television shows and blockbuster films. In these roles, teachers are what teachers should be -- motivational, understanding, dedicated -- but it's worth remembering that real life teachers inspire even the most fantastic fictional educator.

Here are the top ten fictional teachers from both the big and small screens:

10. Francois Marin (The Class)

In the 2008 French film The Class, Francois Marin is French language and literature teacher working at a middle school in Paris. Marin is introduced to a class full of rowdy students unwilling to learn complex French verbs or read The Diary of Anne Frank. However, by changing his approach to teaching -- first learning where his diverse students are coming from and then tailoring his instruction to their unique backgrounds -- he eventually makes some headway.

9. Dewey Finn (School of Rock)

Practically a conman working a classroom to pay off debt, is Dewey Finn is a teacher worth recognizing? Yes! Despite the questionable nature of his initial motivation, this ex-rock musician turned substitute teacher inspired his students to be creative and chase their musical aspirations.

8. Dr. Henry Walton Jones, Jr. (Indiana Jones)

Speaking of inspiration, surely Dr. Henry Walton Jones. Jr. -- better known as Indiana Jones -- offers loads of it to his students. Though we don't get a real sense of what Indy is like in the classroom, we can assume that the archaeologist / adventurer might be able to rattle off a tale or two to motivate his own college students.

7. Mr. Hand (Fast Times at Ridgemont High)

Strict to the point of authoritarian, this American history teacher goes toe-to-toe with Jeff Spicoli, a delinquent loudmouth senior student. In a coup de grace, Hand arrives at Spicoli's home just hours before the graduation dance and informs him that since Spicoli has wasted eight hours of class time over the school year, he had to make it up now or risk flunking the class and consequently be ineligible for graduation. Despite his unorthodox techniques, Mr. Hand is the embodiment of dedication and persistence, with great results.

6. Mr. Miyagi (The Karate Kid)

Though Mr. Miyagi instructs his student outside the traditional classroom, he is undeniably a fantastic teacher. He trains Daniel LaRusso for the All Valley Karate Tournament, which Daniel goes on to win -- no simple feat. By emphasizing the basics, Mr. Miyagi shows his students that they can achieve great things.

5. Mr. Feeny (Boy Meets World)

In the television sitcom Boy Meets World, Mr. Feeny instructs Corey, Topanga, Shawn and Eric from middle school to college -- talk about tenure! Mr. Feeny adapts to a number of disparate education scenarios, as a classroom teacher, principal and college professor. Throughout, Mr. Feeny asks a lot of his students, but is always there when they need him. Mr. Feeny's absolute concern for his students' success in all aspects of their lives and ability to juggle many hats are both characteristics inherent to all great teachers.

4. Charles Xavier (X-Men)

Part founder, part principal and part teacher, Charles Xavier -- better known as Professor X -- started his School for Gifted Youngsters as a safe haven and educational institution for mutants. Although much of Xavier's time is spent training the X-Men for battle, he also offers advice to all of the school's students, teaching them about the responsibilities that come with their inherited super powers and helping them come to terms with a hostile world. Like any teacher, Xavier instructs his students about the world around them.

3. Ms. Frizzle (The Magic School Bus)

Creating excitement in classroom may be difficult. Luckily for Ms. Frizzle, she's got a Magic School Bus on her side. Whether it's exploring the solar system, the center of the earth or the human body, Ms. Frizzle (literally) transports her students there, and they become all the more enthralled because of it. All great teachers share this same ability to capture their students interests and teleport them to faraway places -- just figuratively.

2. Yoda (Star Wars)

Yoda may not be a human (though is Charles Xavier?), but his capacity as mentor to entire generations of Jedi means he certainly is a teacher. Yoda challenges a young Luke Skywalker to rise to the challenge of becoming a powerful Jedi and basically saving the entire galaxy. The fact that Luke is ultimately successful speaks to Yoda's teaching abilities. He is a master of cultivating talent and assuaging student's personal conflicts, skills any teacher would be glad to possess.

1. Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter)

Being the most powerful wizard in the world and headmaster of a magical school, you wouldn't blame Albus Dumbledore if he was too busy to take anymore onto his plate. But miraculously (magically?) Dumbledore never fails to make time for his students, sharing advice with -- and even lending a hand to -- Harry when the boy's fate seems to get the best of him. Juggling the responsibilities of teaching a curriculum while also dealing with students personal (possibly apocalyptic) issues, now that's what makes a great teacher!


This post is written by Jenn Pedde who is the community manager for the Master in Social Work program at the University of Southern California, which has one of the nation's leading military social work concentrations.  She's an avid traveler and loves photography.