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Memorable and Famous Teachers from Literature

The Best and Worst Teachers

Back to School Realities

Girl Student in ClassroomAh, it is that time of year when students head back to the classroom and nothing is more stressful that the question, “Who is my teacher?”  Students brace themselves as they look at their school schedule to see if they received the dreaded Mrs. Smith for Algebra or the drill sergeant Mr. Jones for P.E.  Let’s face it, the teacher can make or break the educational experience for the student.  In literature, there are some iconic teachers on both ends of the spectrum and in the back-to-school spirit we have a few nominations.

The Worst Teachers

Here are a few fictional teachers you can count yourself lucky to NOT have:

Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

True there are a lot of hum-dinger teachers to choose from at Hogwarts, but Dolores Umbridge has to be the worst.  She is evil personified in pink.  So if you think you have it bad, remember, it could always be worse and you could have Ms. Umbridge as your teacher.

Wackford Squeers from Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens had a way with names and characters and Wackford Squeers is an excellent example.  He was a one-eyed headmaster that took in unwanted children (crippled, illegitimate, etc.) for a fee, which he then pocketed, as he starved and whipped this pupils.

Coach Genghis from The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events) by Lemony Snicket

Coach Genghis, the new physical education teacher at Prufrock Preparatory School (School Motto:  Memento Mori), developed S.O.R.E (Special Orphan Running Exercises) just for the Baudelaire siblings.  The exercises consisted of running laps…all night…every night…even the baby…just so that he might kidnap them after they flunked out of school.

The Best Teachers

However, in all fairness and in the spirit of positive thinking, we should mention some teachers that any student would love to have.

Muriel Stacy from Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

Muriel Stacy inspired the best in her students.  In fact, she was what inspired Anne Shirley to become a teacher herself.  That is the ultimate tribute.  (And for that matter, Anne Shirley was not a slacker teacher either.)

Miss Frizzle from the Magic School Bus Series by Joanna Cole

Miss Frizzle rocks!  Crazy hair, crazy earrings, and a bus that transforms for the ultimate science field trips.  Plus, like all great teachers, she lets her students discover through experience.  Falling asleep in class is not a problem.

 Mrs. Baker from The Wednesday Wars or Mr. Ferris from Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt?

There was some dinnertime debate in my household about whether Mrs. Baker from Gary Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars should be nominated or Mr. Ferris, physical science teacher at Marysville Junior High, from Okay for Now.  Because they are both awesome so we won’t limit ourselves and will put both forward.

When the main character from Okay for Now, Doug Swieteck, meets Mr. Ferris on the first day of school they have an exchange:

     “Doug Swieteck,” Mr. Ferris said, “do you know the basic principle of physical science?”
      A trick?
     “No,” I said, sort of slow.
     He rocked Clarence.  “The basic principle of physical science is this:  two bodies cannot occupy the same space at the same time.  Do you understand that?”
     “I think so,” I said.
     “Do you understand what the principle means?”
     I shook my head.
     “It means, Doug Swieteck, that in this class, you are not your brother.”


Now that is a great teacher…someone who evaluates you only on your merits and not on relatives, looks, or preconceptions…someone who gives you a clean slate to start the year with.

Good luck this school year!

An accountant and CPA by profession, I found myself a book reviewer for Squeaky Clean Reads by happenstance. When the opportunity came to transform that website into Compass Book Ratings, I was excited to seize it and meld my business background with my love of books. As the mother of three teenage sons, I have read a large number of children and young adult books and I believe that there is great value in a content review service. As much as we would love to read everything our children read, there just isn’t enough time. I also appreciate being able to select books for myself that are really worth my precious and limited reading time. I believe there is a book out there for everyone–they just have to find it!

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