May is Teacher Appreciation Month, and in my head, teachers and books go hand in hand. Not only did many a teacher thrust a book into my hands but some of my favourite teachers are found only inside the pages of books. I don't think that it's surprising that some of the best teachers are found within the pages of books -- it seems like the perfect place to honour them.
I can never just pick one favourite of anything. It's impossible, and choosing a favourite fictional teacher is no different. One of my favourites is Miss Stacy from the Anne of Green Gables series. She gets the class outside, and they explore the woods as part of their lessons. She allows the children to laugh and shine. Miss Stacy is the quite simply Mary Poppins of teachers, minus one magical carpet bag. And how can you not love it when she reminds Anne of her own words: "Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it?" I sometimes remind myself of that, particularly on days when it feels like I've made every mistake in the book. It's hardly surprising that when Anne grows up and becomes a teacher, she aims to be the same kind of teacher as Miss Stacy. I've often wondered who L.M. Montgomery's Miss Stacy was.
Boarding school fiction is rife with fantastic teachers, and there is perhaps no boarding school more famous than Hogwarts. In my heart of hearts, my favourite is probably Professor Lupin. I mean, it's hard not to like Lupin (unless you are Professor Snape), but then it's hard to choose a favourite at all. I do have a large, soft, squishy spot for Professor McGonagall, too. She's strict, but you know that she truly cares for the students. She is quite simply too proper to allow herself to show it, at least not when she can be recognized. She did, after all, kick off the series by stalking the Dursleys' house for a whole day in her animagus form. She also kicks some Death Eater butt.
It turns out I'm not alone: When Muggle Meets Wizard asked her readers who their favourite Hogwarts teacher was, McGonagall led the pack.
When asked who is your favorite Hogwarts professor, 43% of you responded McGonagall. While I don’t vote in the weekly polls, I said in a previous entry how much I adore McGonagall. She’s strict in the way you want a professor to be strict -– she has rules, but she’s flexible and fair. More importantly, she cares deeply.
It's the caring deeply that punts many a teacher onto a favourites list. Since we're talking boarding schools, I have to put in a nod to headmaster Mr. Sturgeon, aka "The Fish," from Gordon Korman's MacDonald Hall series. He should have turfed Bruno and Boots (and well, half the school, plus the girls across the road at Miss Scrimmages...) a dozen times over, but he let them continue with their mischief -- because really, it was all for the greater good. Mostly. Or at least that what he wants to believe deep down.
One fictional teacher that I haven't read about yet, though I think I am going to enjoy, is Miss Jean Brodie. I've had The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie on my reading list for years now. (I'll get to it, really, though it would help if I bought the books or added it to my library list.) Miss Jean Brodie was one of 10 teachers who made John Mullen's list of the best teachers in books.
No teacher impacted me the way that Miss Brodie did her students. When Caroline Bookbinder saw the movie in her early 20s, she didn't get Miss Brodie so much, but reading the book now she understands her more.
I understood better now her battle with the headmistress to save her job and how political and petty those fights can become. I understood her desperation, her loneliness, her justifications for how her life has turned out.
A few years ago, a group of bloggers put themselves to the task of putting together a list of 100 cool teachers in children's literature. It does make sense that children's books would have the best teachers. Oh, what a list it is -- with so many teachers I had forgotten about. Ms. Finey! Miss Nelson! Miss Frizzle, how on earth could I forget Miss Frizzle? She had the best outfits.
I know that you, too, will have favourites that I've forgotten. Won't you tell us who they are?
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