1. Severus Snape in the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise
Sure he’s sour and strict, but boosting students’ self-esteem only goes so far when the fate of the magical world hangs in the balance. Without Snape’s cunning and encyclopedic knowledge of all things dark and dangerous, the Boy Who Lived would have surely ended up as a dementor fodder long before the Battle of Hogwarts.
2. Yoda in the ‘Star Wars’ franchise
Despite being the size of a lawn gnome and having trouble with pre-school grammar, no one holds more sway over the ‘Star Wars’ saga than Yoda. In a world of moon-sized space stations, desert planets and hyperspace, Yoda provides a Zen-like center, free from anxiety and brimming with wisdom. Where others do battle, he instructs and challenges, with nothing but centuries of experience to defend himself.
3. Dewey Finn in “School of Rock”
A lot of the times, the teachers we remember the most were the ones who acted a little like kids. In this goofball spin on the ‘inspirational teacher’ trope, Jack Black upends the traditional ‘master-pupil’ relationship and uses his child-like joie de vivre to get his prep school students to loosen up and rock out for a change. With the winking over-the-topness that he honed with Tenacious D, Jack Black manages to serve up the age-old ‘rock is liberation’ battle-cry and make it look both fresh and even a little convincing.
4. Elizabeth Halsey in “Bad Teacher”
While inspirational movies about no-nonsense teachers winning over troubled students with potential are all well and good, anyone who’s set foot in a classroom knows that some teachers are just, well, bad. Cameron Diaz sharply milks this awkward truth for laughs in this not-for-kids comedy. As an added jab at the idea that all teachers are upstanding individuals, her character uses up most of her class time by showing inspirational movies about teachers like ‘Stand and Deliver’ while she sleeps off a hangover.
5. John Keating in “Dead Poets Society”
A good teacher knows that not all lessons require textbooks and exams and that finding out who you are can often be as important as expressing what you know. Where “Freedom Writers” celebrates inspiring the underprivileged to acquire knowledge, “Dead Poets Society” celebrates one oddball teacher’s attempts to inspire the knowledgeable to acquire experience or “suck the marrow out of life,” as Williams’ John Keating might say.