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Top 12 Inspiring Real Life Teachers

Adam Waxler


Top 12 Inspiring Real Life TeachersReal-life teachers offer inspiration to students every day. Great teachers give students confidence and knowledge that goes beyond simple education.

Here is a list of real-life, great teachers, some famous and some not, that stand out for their contributions to their students and the world.  

1. Randy Pausch

Famous for his "Last Lecture," Randy Pausch was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and turned his last talk into an incredibly inspirational work. In his final lecture, Pausch encouraged his students to achieve their childhood dreams. This speech has since been turned into a book.

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 2. Jaime Escalante

Jaime Escalante was profiled in the movie Stand and Deliver. This teacher geared classes to advanced placement students in calculus, promising great jobs in engineering, electronics, and computers. He was tough, but effective, and was valued greatly by students, parents, and eventually, school administration.

 3. Dick Dow

Dick Dow was a high school industrial arts and robotics teacher, but his real contribution came as a track coach. His team had 12 undefeated seasons and 3 state division championships. Dow’s former students share that he meant a lot to them, taking them under his wing, especially those with troubled times as youths.

The track field at Boxborough was even renamed in his honor. For the ceremony, a former student chartered a private jet to ensure the dying coach would be able to attend.

 4. Karin Petherick

An accomplished scholar, Karin Petherick's first love was always teaching. She was a professor of Swedish literature, was elected Foreign Corresponding Member of the Royal Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities and was awarded the Bernard Shaw Prize for Translation of Swedish Literature.

Awards and pedigrees didn't hang on her wall, but rather photos from her former students of their weddings and children. As an educator, she was stern, but kind and in good favor with her students. Remarkably, Petherick maintained contact with many of her former students.

 5. David Laudenschlager

David Laudenschlager was a well-respected and dedicated history teacher. Students said he brought the characters of history to life, and although he was quiet and stern, he was an excellent teacher who made it fun to learn.

6. Kim Frencken

Kim Frencken finds her teaching inspiration in fun supplies. Often found out on dollar store excursions, she offered enthusiasm and fun activities that helped students learn how to write. Spending money out of her own pocket, Kim goes to great lengths to make sure that her students learned well and had fun doing it.

In fact, she was even voted Most Inspirational Teacher by who students. One student even wrote, "This is not an award that Mrs. Frencken deserves, this is an award that deserves Mrs. Frencken.”

7. Dean Herreid

In a former life, David Herreid fought fires in helicopter rescue crews , and now, he inspires students. Despite debilitating asbestos disease, David teaches his students how to refurbish junk computers, donating them to needy families, among other worthwhile charity projects.


8. Joe Clark

You may know Joe Clark from the movie Lean on Me, where he is known as a radical teacher and principal who takes strong action. He took on a failing inner city school with drug dealers and violence, expelling students, locking doors to keep out drug dealers, and requiring students to sing, eventually bringing about positive change in the school.

9. Annie Sullivan

You may not know Annie Sullivan’s name, but you know what she did. As Helen Keller’s tutor, she is responsible for Helen’s breakthrough as a deaf and blind person, paving the way for similarly disabled people everywhere.

 10. Julie Genoves

Although Julie can’t move from the neck down, she continues to be an inspiring and effective teacher. She’s outlived her life expectancy and works three days a week as a teacher. She encourages students to ask about her disease, and makes sure that children don’t see disability as an obstacle or get-out clause.

 11. LouAnne Johnson

A former US Marine, LouAnne Johnson is the inspiration behind the movie Dangerous Minds. Most of her students were tough, lower class, and involved in drugs and gangs. LouAnne created exercises that used themes and language tailored to the students, and was able to introduce them to poetry and more.

 12. Ken Carter

Ken Carter is known for "the lockout." As the coach of an undefeated basketball team, he canceled all of the team’s practices and games for eight days because of poor academic performance. His stunt emphasized the priority of good academic performance for his team, and he was eventually supported by the community.

 Do you belong on this list or know someone who does? Share how you, him or her is an educational inspiration in the comments section!


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