Teacher Appreciation Week begins on Monday, May 4th. Even though these last few months of school have been virtual, Classmates still appreciates everything teachers have done. There are also those who aren’t teachers by trade, but still teach and inspire every day through mentorship and friendship. They deserve just as much thanks, so in honor of all those who teach us life lessons, here’s a list of unconventional teachers in movies and television.
It’s Teacher Appreciation Week!
Finding Forrester – William Forrester
Reclusive writer William Forrester befriends an African American teenager, named Jamal Wallace, who attends a prestigious private school. Although Jamal is initially on a scholarship for basketball, he has a hidden talent for writing, and when Forrester meets him by chance, he helps him refine his writing skills through their secret friendship. Sean Connery plays William Forrester, who has been compared to real-life author J.D. Salinger.
Good Will Hunting – Sean Maguire
Will Hunting, played by Matt Damon, is a 20-year-old janitor at MIT who starts seeing therapist Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) as part of a deferred prosecution agreement for assaulting a police officer. A professor discovers Will’s potential when he catches him answering a difficult math problem left on the white board overnight, and the professor starts to teach him advanced mathematics. However, it’s his therapist that he really bonds with and opens up to, and their relationship is what defines the movie.
Remember the Titans – Coach Herman Boone
Remember the Titans is based on the true story of African-American coach Herman Boone (played by Denzel Washington in the movie) and his attempt to integrate a Virginia high school football team in the 1970’s. Although he is hired as an assistant coach, drama ensues when he’s given the head coaching job and the former head coach is moved to assistant. The football players also clash, but Coach Boone’s persistence and integrity eventually win the team over, and they look to him not just as a coach but as a mentor and teacher.
Coach Carter – Coach Ken Carter
Coach Carter is another sports movie based on a true story, but this time it centers around basketball. Real-life Richmond High School basketball coach Ken Carter (played by Samuel L. Jackson) became famous in 1999 when he suspended the undefeated basketball team due to poor grades. In the movie, the players are disrespectful and in need of discipline, and when Carter puts together a contract instructing them to sit in the front row of their classes, wear ties on game days, maintain a C+ grade point average, and refer to everyone as “sir”, he is met with hostility. Although he is tough on them, he is also fair, and he slowly wins their respect. Even without a teaching degree, he is the ultimate teacher, trying to help his players become better students.
The Karate Kid – Mr. Miyagi
Mr. Miyagi is a different kind of teacher, but a teacher nonetheless. In the movie, teenage Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and his mother move to Los Angeles, where they meet Miyagi (played by Pat Morita), who is their apartment’s handyman. Miyagi teaches Daniel the art of karate through repetition of menial chores. This helps him learn defense through muscle memory so that he can defend himself and compete in a tournament against his bullies – specifically Johnny, who has a black belt and is the ex-boyfriend of Daniel’s new cheerleader friend, Ali. Miyagi eventually opens up to Johnny about his own life, causing the two of them to bond. Johnny’s relationship with Miyagi goes beyond just student/teacher and instead, he really serves as Jonny’s mentor.
Freaks and Geeks – Coach Ben Fredericks
Although on for just one season, Freaks and Geeks has become a cult classic. The show was cancelled before the writers were able to fully develop the characters, so the relationship high school gym teacher Ben Fredericks has with his students only just begins to form. He starts out as a typical coach playing favorites with the jocks, but his character changes when he starts to date the mom of one of the “geeky” students, Bill. He works harder at building a bond with Bill and begins to show his vulnerable side. He also serves as a slight mentor for Bill’s friend Sam when Sam gets his hands on an adult film and anonymously writes down a disturbing question during sex ed. The coach recognizes Sam’s handwriting and is concerned, so he decides to talk with him privately, sympathetically answering his questions. It’s nice to see a gym teacher go out of his way to help a “geek” in need.
Glee – William Schuester
On the tv show Glee, Will Shuester (Matthew Morrison) is a Spanish teacher, so he does have a teaching degree, but he’s much more of a mentor to the kids in his Glee club than he is to his Spanish students. He was part of the club when he was a teenager too (he went to the same school he teaches at), so he understands how it feels to be bullied for being in Glee. He always puts his students first and will sacrifice whatever he needs to in his own life in order for the Glee club to have the resources to go to Regionals. He’ll do anything to build their confidence, in school and in life, even if it means butting heads with the cheerleading coach, Sue (Jane Lynch), the football coach, or the principal. His students look to him for advice, which he is always there to offer up.
Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! Who are the teachers and mentors who have made an impact on your life?