Teachers In Films!

Reading time: 4

John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project...
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Who would be in your ideal staffroom?

We’ve asked our Teacher Toolkit team of writers to choose their favourite teacher and to share why they are in their staffroom. Of course, there are plenty more ‘on the list’ so please do tweet us and let us know who you’d choose!

There have been lots of films where inspirational teachers have played a starring role, and you’ll have a few that spring to mind I’m sure! Now, imagine walking into your ideal staffroom. Who would be inside? It’s a delicious thought. Imagine the staff meetings you ‘d have with these amazing teachers? You’d probably look forward to meetings and demand more of them!

Dead Poet’s Society:

John Dabell, Content Editor

My choice is an easy one. It’s got to be John Keating played by Robin Williams in the film Dead Poet’s Society. John Keating is an inspirational and unconventional English teacher who says to his students, “Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

Keating encourages his students to find their voice “because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are going to find it at all.”

Keating is the maverick teacher every school needs to shake things up and get students thinking differently. Unfortunately, schools aren’t brave enough to employ a John Keating because they don’t like loose canons and students standing on desks. He’s a teacher I’d love to see in the staffroom but he probably wouldn’t be there for long as he get the sack for doing things differently and bending the rules.

Mean Girls:

Hollie Anderton, Writer 

My favourite film teacher would be Mrs Norbury played by Tina Fey in Mean Girls. Even through all of the awful accusations made from the ‘Mean Girls’, she still carried on with her job because she loved it.

She ensured that the meanest of the girls got back on track and made maths funny which makes her a winner in my book!

My favourite quote is Ms. Norbury talking to Cady:

“I know having a boyfriend might seem like the only thing important to you right now, but you don’t have to dumb yourself down in order for a guy to like you.”

Harry Potter:

Helen Woodley, Writer

Dumbledore and Elder Wand.JPG

From Harry Potter, Albus Dumbledore, Hogwarts Headmaster and founder of the Order of the Phoenix, with a fondness for sherbet lemon and knitting patterns

He’s a teacher who knows how the system works and largely plays the game but still finds a way to bend and twist the rules or turn a blind eye when it suits.

He genuinely believes in his pupils and their abilities; he encourages them to take risks and be themselves. He’s confident and quirky: I’d love to have had him as a headteacher!

Quote: “Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both influencing injury, and remedying it.”

Bad Teacher:

Gerard Greally, Writer

I have chosen Elizabeth Halsey, as played by Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher.

Diaz’s portrayal has been badly misinterpreted. Often this character has been seen as a an alcoholic, foul-mouthed gold-digger.

Halsey will stop at NOTHING to ensure her students achieve ‘accelerated progress’ and she gets her ‘well-deserved pay’.

Well I ask you, how else would a teacher react in a highly competitive, progress-linked, bonus driven education? Isn’t this the type of teacher we all need in our schools?! …

Quote: “When I first started teaching, I thought that I was doing it for all the right reasons: Shorter hours, summers off, no accountability…”

Dangerous Minds:

Jodie Jasmin, Writer

It absolutely has to be Louanne Johnson played by Michelle Pfeiffer in the film Dangerous Minds – her perseverance and determination in trying to get through to underachieving teenagers even after being ridiculed and mocked by them so many times isn’t inspiring!

The strategies she uses to “relate” to those students from tough inner city areas such as using music to deliver her message of teaching math is a brilliant example of having to change how we teach to accommodate the student.

When she finally has a break through with those students – it’s really inspiring and often reminds me of my tough NQT year.

Quote: “Sometimes it takes a lot of wrong answers to get a right.”

School of Rock:

Beth Hartwell, Writer 

Dewey Finn in School of Rock played by Jack Black. Dewey is an out-of-work rock singer and guitarist who pretends to be a supply teacher at a top prep school. After spotting the musical talent in his students, Dewey forms a band of fifth-graders, in an attempt to win the upcoming Battle of the Bands contest.

Dewey has a real passion in his subject of rock music and it really shows! He portrays enthusiasm to the pupils which totally engages them.

Although not a perfect teacher by any means I think we can all take a page out of his rule book to show real interest within our specialist subject area.


Dewey Finn: 8:15 to 10, rock history. 10 to 11, rock appreciation in theory. And then band practice till the end of the day.

Frankie: What about math?

Dewey Finn: No, not important.

Sister Act:

Holly Gardner, Editor

My choice is Sister Mary Clarence played by the wonderful Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act 2.

OK, so she’s not strictly a teacher, she’s a Vegas showgirl posing as a nun – but that’s just semantics.

She inspires the pupils at St Francis Academy to break the shackles of ‘being cool’ and to work hard for what they want to achieve. She teaches them that a talent in singing is just as important as a talent in maths and builds up their self-confidence and self-worth – something I’d like all children to have help with.

Oh, and she has some great behaviour management techniques: “Do you know what I hate most about this place? There is nothing to pick up and throw!”.


These are some of our favourites … who has inspired you?


4 thoughts on “Teachers In Films!

  1. 1. Goodbye Mr Chips – the original (Robert Donat of The 39 Steps) or the 1969 Peter O’toole version
    2. To Sir With Love – Sydney Poitier
    3. Harry Potter!

  2. I looked up to Mr Bronson in Grange Hill. A fantastic role model. He was briefly promoted to SLT on the Death Star.

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