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Inspirational Books and Movies for Teachers

There are many inspirational books and movies that focus on the real and significant difference teachers make in the lives of our youth each and every day. If you're thinking about pursuing a career in education, consider how these inspirational materials may encourage you to remain steadfast on this valuable career path:

Akeelah and the Bee

(2006, rated PG)

Starring Keke Palmer, Angela Bassett, and Laurence Fishburne, Akeelah and the Bee chronicles a gifted, young African-American girl as she advances to the Scripps National Spelling Bee. In this inspirational drama, Akeelah Anderson (Keke Palmer) is tutored by Dr. Larabee (Laurence Fishburne), against the will of her distraught single mother (Angela Bassett). In the end, the experience of sharing her gift affects not only Akeelah's family, but also the community around her.

Dangerous Minds

(1995, rated R)

Starring Michelle Pfeiffer as inner-city high school teacher and former US Marine, Louanne Johnson, Dangerous Minds is about one teacher's attempt to reach her students, regardless of the personal cost. Pfeiffer's performance, and Johnson's inspiration, make this movie a must-see for educators who are passionate about reaching their students.

Dead Poets Society

(1989, rated PG)

Starring Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, and Ethan Hawke, Dead Poets Society takes place at a prep school called the Welton Academy for Boys. There, brand new English teacher, Professor Keating (Robin Williams), employs a controversial, engaging teaching style that captures the attention of his students and compels them to reexamine their lives. Keating also introduces his students to something called the "Dead Poets Society," encourages them to "Seize the Day!," and fully expects his students to become individuals who think for themselves, instead of living by others' expectations for them.

Freedom Writers

(2007, rated PG-13)

Based on the memoir The Freedom Writer's Diary

Written by teacher Erin Gruwell and published in 2006, Freedom Writers tells the story of one inner-city teacher who refused to give up on her students. Starring Hillary Swank, Scott Glenn, Imelda Staunton, and Patrick Dempsey, Freedom Writers shares with viewers one of the best-kept secrets in the field of education: expect more of your students, and they will achieve more. Gruwell's students rose to the occasion again and again as she introduced them to quality literature and the power of believing in yourself.

The Miracle Worker

(1962, unrated)

Starring Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft, The Miracle Worker is about the ability of teacher Anne Sullivan (Anne Bancroft) to reach deaf, blind, and mute student Hellen Keller (Patty Duke). Awakening Keller's ability to express herself and understand others, Sullivan's influence on Keller literally changes her life.

Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools

(1992, written by Jonathan Kozol)

Author Jonathan Kozol spent two years visiting schools in over thirty neighborhoods, including Camden, NJ, Washington, D.C., New York's South Bronx, Chicago's South Side, San Antonio, and St. Louis. Through his conversations with teachers, students, administrators, community leaders, and others, Kozol learned that America is still, to a large degree, racially segregated, and that there continues to be tremendous inequality among America's schools. In detail, Kozol describes the negative impact of too few resources, too little parental involvement, and a general lack of hope. And yet, as disturbing as the picture Kozol paints is to confront, his work also leaves educators who are concerned about our nation's inner-city schools inspired to make a real contribution in the lives of their students.

Stand and Deliver

(1988, rated PG)

Starring Edward James Olmos, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Angel Guzman, Stand and Deliver is about a math teacher in East Los Angeles who inspires his students to be their best by challenging them beyond anyone’s wildest expectations.

As an educator, you have the opportunity to create your own list of inspirational books and movies for teachers. Start today by making a list of the films and books that have influenced your career as a teacher, and take some time each year to read them or watch them again, to help you stay in touch with the inspiration that brought you into this amazing profession to begin with.


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