Education, learning, homework and exams. These are all words that can drive fear, frustration, and stress into our lives. The majority of people would even classify schooling as “the worst years of their life.” I can’t speak for anyone but myself, and honestly, while school wasn’t the most enjoyable experience, I can’t classify my time at school as the worst years of my life. In fact, now that I think of it, they were probably some of the best.

They helped me explore who I was, discover what my strengths and weaknesses were and allowed me to see where I fit within society. School and learning have an enormous impact on our life, even when we don’t think it does. Whether it’s during our childhood, teenage or adult life, our educators are like beacons. They emit light in the hope to guide us through our own journey to becoming the unique individual we are meant to be.

Teachers are given a significant responsibility in preparing and enhancing people in a variety of aspects. It’s not an exaggeration to say that a teacher can change a student’s life. They are some of the most influential role models and come in many forms, even outside the schooling environment. The educators that stand out the most are the ones we have built a strong relationship with. If a teacher can help you learn and develop without you believing you are being “taught” something directly, then they have turned the light bulb on inside you. It is not always easy to change a student’s life in a positive way, which is why it takes a great educator to do so.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of teachers with whom I was unable to connect. It wasn’t necessarily the fact they were bad teachers, because some of my peers thought they were great. It was based on the fact the teacher didn’t have the chance to understand and enhance my individual learning requirements. In fact, throughout my entire schooling, there were only four that managed to be my greatest educators, one of them being my mother. They are the reason I am the person I am today.

The heroes we see on television are the same as us. They are able to be the best they can be because they were able to have an educator turn the light bulb on the inside of them, allowing them to be the best version of themselves. So, to celebrate Teachers Appreciation Week, here are some of the best examples of an educator enhancing their pupil across geeky pop culture.


5. Mr. Miyagi, Karate Kid 

Kesuke Miyagi is a karate master from the film franchise Karate Kid, who has a deep philosophical knowledge of life and uses his extraordinary martial arts skill to teach Daniel-Sun.

Mr. Miyagi emphasises personal development over demonstrated ability. It’s like reading; it’s one thing to read something, but it’s another to read for comprehension. Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel-Sun that winning and losing doesn’t matter. Karate is a lifelong pursuit of balance and is used to demonstrate one’s physical superiority.

Mr. Miyagi, like most great teachers, never focuses on himself. The fact that Mr. Miyagi never mentioned he was a Medal of Honor recipient from WWII helped Daniel-Sun understand the importance of balance. In life, it is never about triumphing over all competitors; it’s about being someone that maintains the self-discipline to balance themselves both physically and spiritually.

Daniel-Sun eventually wins his tournament because he focused on mastering balance as opposed to performance. This is much like schooling in real life; we must not concentrate on the performance of exams, but rather, maintain a focus on learning, effort and improvement — something a lot of teachers forget to do.Life lessons you can live by:

  • “No such thing as a bad student, only bad teacher. Teacher say, student do.” One motto I have always followed when I teach. To me, there is no bad student. I just need to understand them better.
  • “Man who catch fly with chopstick, accomplish anything.” I still struggle to grab a fly, so I’m not quite ready to catch it with a chopstick.

4. Rupert Giles, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Rupert Giles seems to be a typical librarian: highly intelligent, knows his literature and to top it off, he’s British. He’s referred to as “the Watcher” for the title character in the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Buffy Summers had attended traditional classes at Sunnydale High School, but her main substantive education took place under the tutelage of Giles. While he portrayed the stereotypical librarian, it was actually just a cover. His real job was to be the source of training, counterintelligence and guidance for Buffy. As a naive teenager attending school situated on the Hellmouth — a place where vampires, demons, and force of darkness gather — Buffy relied on Giles for not only support and coaching, but also for the research necessary to win her battles.

Over several years, Giles developed a father-like bond with Buffy, not only training her, but also fighting by her side. He even openly defied the Council to save Buffy’s life, which ultimately led to his dismissal. No longer having Watcher duties, he ignored the demotion and continued as Buffy’s trainer, confidant and father figure. Teaching is a life-long job, and Giles is proof of that.Life lessons you can live by:

  • “These musty old books have much more to say than any of your fabulous Web pages.” You are better learning from the past than relying on just the present.
  • “The knowledge gained from a computer is a… it, uh, it has no-no texture, no-no context.” Information can easily be copy and pasted from the Internet. Very few take the time to read and understand it.

3. Professor Charles Francis Xavier, X-Men

Professor X is the distinguished educator, an intellectual figure with a Ph.D. He can go deeper into the mind of a pupil than anyone else. He can pinpoint exactly what his students are thinking, and therefore, can teach from a relatable perspective.

Xavier’s ability to read minds isn’t the only reason he can connect with students this way. In fact, it comes from his own personal experiences growing up. He knows the fear and the apprehension humans have regarding mutants; he also understands the struggles of discovering your identity and finding a place within society. Because of this, Xavier made it his mission to strive for a peaceful coexistence between mutants and humans, believing that no race is more important than the other. To achieve this goal, he founded Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters (later named the Xavier Institute) to teach young mutants to explore and control their powers.

Xavier Institute’s first group of students, known as the original X-Men, were Cyclops, Iceman, Marvel Girl, Angel and Beast. He acted as both a teacher by helping his students harness and control their powers, and a protector in creating a home for children who suffered ostracization and discrimination. He made them feel like they belong.

While Xavier had a reputation for being a visionary and mentor and was highly regarded by others in the Marvel Universe, he did have moments of being passive. But, hey, we ain’t perfect.Life lessons you can live by:

  • “Any dream worth having is a dream worth fighting for.” You can be or do whatever you want as long as you believe you can fight for it.
  • “The greatest power on Earth is the magnificent power we all of us possess: the power of the human brain!” While we might not have powers like fictional characters, we do have one great power: our brain.

2. Professor Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter

He is one of the most loved educators, both in the wizarding and muggle worlds. Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore is best known for being the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novel series.

While Dumbledore may look like a typical wizard professor, he is so much more. He takes the “students before yourself” motto very seriously. Teachers will go to great lengths for their students, but none have gone as far as Dumbledore. He lives at Hogwarts and has no immediate family; therefore, he protects and cares for the students like they were his own child.

Throughout the series, Dumbledore never actually taught a class, yet he provided an unspoken power that commanded respect. He acted as a moral compass and was relied on for his generosity, wisdom, and guidance. As Elphias Doge said, in Dumbledore’s obituary:

Albus Dumbledore was never proud or vain; he could find something to value in anyone, however apparently insignificant or wretched… He was the most inspiring and best loved of all Hogwarts headmasters cannot be in question. He died as he lived: working always for the greater good and, to his last hour, as willing to stretch out a hand to a small boy with dragon pox as he was on the day I met him.”

Dumbledore knew great things were within Harry Potter. He knew that Harry would have been unable to reach his full potential if he were to have been reared by his relatives, Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia. Dumbledore took it upon himself to be the mentor Harry needed. Harry grew up to reach his full potential and fulfill his prophecy, all because he was able to rely on Dumbledore — from the beginning of the books when Dumbledore arrived at Harry’s aunt and uncle’s home, to the end when Harry is struck by a Killing Curse, Dumbledore was always there to offer advice.


1. Grand Master Yoda, Stars Wars

Yoda has to be the winner here — not that the others weren’t just as good. Yoda has accomplished more than any educator in real life or in fiction has. He taught for over 800 years — talk about dedication!

We all know Grand Master Yoda from Star Wars. He was the leader of the Jedi Order before and during the Clone Wars, and was one of the only Jedi to escape the Great Jedi Purge. Despite his small stature, Yoda is a skilled warrior and is one of only four known Jedi — along with Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Won Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn — who knows how to return as a Force Spirit.

In The Empire Strikes Back, we get to see a small sample of Yoda’s teachings with his pupil, Luke Skywalker. He was able to help Luke master the physical, mental and spiritual components of the Jedi Order in a short period of time. Yoda had personalised Luke’s learning, and while there are some questionable methods to Yoda’s madness, most of his teachings can and have influenced real-life teachers.

We are unique, and therefore, we need to be treated as individuals, where we are put on a learning path based on our strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes and goals. Yoda picked up on the flaws in Anakin that others missed and saw the potential in Luke when others didn’t. Sometimes seeing a pupil honestly can be a difficult thing for an educator to do. It is this realistic view that allows Yoda to provide the best learning environment that can help a student discover their identity.

Nothing was stopping Yoda from defeating Darth Vader; he could have, but chose not to. That is the thing about great teachers: they are willing to sacrifice fame and fortune to help others. Yoda knew he had to step back and let Luke be the hero, because that was what he was training him for. Yoda would have done anything for his students, even when it cost him personally.Life lessons you can live by:

  • “A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense. Never for attack.” Use your gift, talent and/or skills for good, not for evil.
  • “Adventure, excitement. A Jedi craves not these things.”Do things for the right reasons, not because you think you should.
  • “Unlearn what you have learned.” Make sure you learn what is right for you. If not, discard it.
  • “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” While Yoda used this in a way most wouldn’t (making Luke struggle, work hard and keep going), you have to remember that this helped him personally. For others, it would mean that if you are going to do something, try your best to finish, and if you find you just cannot do it, then move on to something you can.

Honourable mentions

  • Miss Honey, Matilda
  • Andie Bergstrom, SpaceCamp 
  • Dewey Finn, School of Rock 
  • Paige Matthews, Charmed
  • Professor McGonagall, Harry Potter

Which fictional teachers are in your top five? Answer below.

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About Author

Neek Woman

Neek Woman is a lover of all things sci-fi and she endeavours to make her real life more of a fantasy world. Spending the majority of her time glued to the screens either watching movies and tv shows or playing video games. You will be sure to hear her opinion through the several recaps and reviews she writes on the Geek Bomb site.

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