Today is National Teacher Appreciation Day, and now that I’m experiencing school for a second time through my kindergarten son’s eyes, I am even more conscious of what a huge effect teachers have on their students. On top of dropping knowledge on all things reading, writing and ‘rithmatic, teachers have an almost superhuman power to motivate and inspire.

Hollywood realizes how special teachers are, too, which is why it was so hard for me to narrow down this list of my favorite movie teachers. Here are the ones who made the grade:

  • Professor Keating (Robin Williams) – Dead Poets Society: One of the most beloved movie teachers of all time, Keating inspires his prep-school English students through poetry — on top of his unusual teaching methods. If you ever need a pick me up, watch the stirring “Seize the Day!” speech he gives from atop a desk.
  • Mr. Hand (Ray Walston) – Fast Times at Ridgemont High: When you’re a history teacher dealing with a bunch of out-of-control high school seniors — and especially if the likes of stoner Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) is in your class — sometimes you have to take, um, unconventional measures to get your point across. Mr. Hand does just that.
  • Economics Teacher (Ben Stein) – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: “Bueller… Bueller … Bueller?” “Voo-doo economics.” “Anyone … anyone?” This nameless character in one of my favorite ‘80s movies is only in the picture for a few minutes total, but his deadpan lines have lasted through the decades for a reason.
  • Ms. Norbury (Tina Fey) – Mean Girls: This 12th grade teacher schools her student body on everything from calculus to feminism, on top of taking an impressionable new student (Lindsay Lohan) under her wing. She’s so … fetch.
  • Pretty much everyone on staff (except Umbridge) – all Harry Potter films: Dumbledore. Hagrid. McGonagall. Lupin. Trelawney. Sprout. And even Snape. The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has a (mostly) beloved staff of teachers who shepherd students through their most formative seven years. And, you know, fight off Dementors and Death Eaters in their spare time.
  • Dewey Finn (Jack Black) – School of Rock: Sometimes the best teachers aren’t even real teachers, am I right? In this 2003 comedy that ended up inspiring a hit musical and a Nickelodeon series, the down-on-his-luck Finn decides to impersonate a substitute music teacher in order to earn some much-needed cash. He ends up being just the injection of energy and goofiness the kids — and their principal — need.

 

Which movie teacher would you want to give a shiny red apple to on this special day?