My Favorite Teachers in Children's Literature

We have recently started our second read aloud this year and I was reminded about the sometimes funny, frequently encouraging and oftentimes powerful role that teachers play in the books we share with our students. Especially in reading aloud, I love finding the humor with my students in the silly ways teachers are portrayed, or finding the compassion and kindness in the way other teachers influence a character.

This got me thinking about my most favorite teachers in children's literature. This list is by no means extensive, and I am sure I could come up with ten different ones tomorrow, but these were the first characters that came to mind when I pictured fictional teachers.

Some of these are inspirational, some are kind, and some are downright awful... which is always memorable and creates some fun class jokes for the remainder of the year. I have always loved to refer back to the Trunchbull after we've read Matilda because her character is just so over-the-top and we always can laugh about her as a class.

So, here are my top teachers, in no particular order, that can be found in some wonderful children's books:

1. Miss Nelson

Miss Nelson, from Miss Nelson is Missing, is probably the first book I remember reading about a teacher as a child. I still share this book with my daughter and we laugh as we discover some of Miss Viola Swamp's costume in Miss Nelson's closet at the end. I am so grateful this book has stood the test of time because there really is no other teacher as memorable. Plus, this makes a great beginning of the year book since it displays both the right and the wrong ways to behave in a classroom.

2. Ms. Frizzle

Who could be a more enthusiastic and energetic educator than Ms. Frizzle? She is the famed teacher from the Magic School Bus series and even has her own cartoons and new Netflix show (although I am partial to the original version of her from when I was growing up!). Not only does she live and breathe science, but she demonstrates what great teachers do: get their students excited about learning and solving real-world challenges. Her outfits are on my list of future Halloween costumes, too.

3. Ms. Trunchbull

Okay, I know, she is a nightmare of a teacher, or rather, headmistress, but Roald Dahl's description of her antics and her dialogue make her a favorite part of Matilda. I love to read this book aloud each year and saying her lines in a deep and angry voice is just so much fun. She embodies everything awful about an educator, but in a humorous and hyperbolic way. Roald Dahl is the master of characters and storytelling and she is such a memorable character because of it! I have a Word Work packet available for this book to help with vocabulary and such available HERE.

4. Miss Honey

The real hero teacher of Matilda is, of course, Miss Honey. She exemplifies what it means to be kind, compassionate, caring, responsible... you name it. She is humble and loving and you are rooting for her the entire story. She provides the perfect character to compare and contract with the Trunchbull, since there are so many stark differences.

5. Professor McGonagall

While there are a host of amazing teachers from the Harry Potter series, and some that are purely awful, Professor McGonagall had my heart from Book One. I am rereading the series with my daughter now and I just love how her character is written: serious, but caring; disciplined, but with a spark of excitement. I love following her journey through the seven books and beyond. She is one exemplary teacher.

6. Mr. Daniels

Mr. Daniels comes in as a substitute in Fish in a Tree and is one of the first people to ever realize that Ally has a learning disability. His gentle and encouraging teaching allow the once angry and misunderstood Ally to forge friendships and realize that she does have talents and gifts to share. This is a fantastic read-aloud that I like to share later in the year with my students, as it does a very good job of describing dyslexia from a student's point of view. A similar thread is found in the picture book, Thank You, Mr. Falker.

7. Miss Stretchberry

The talented Sharon Creech's poetry book, Love That Dog is not only a true tear-jerker, but a powerful story of how gentle nudges from teachers can make a huge difference. This book is written as a poetry journal from Jack's perspective, and he hates poetry. Through his poems, we learn of the different strategies Miss Stretchberry tries and, in so doing, we see his confidence grow and his poems take on powerful topics in deeply-feeling ways. If you are looking for a similar story of teacher inspiration, I can also recommend The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds.

8. Mrs. Granger

Frindle, by Andrew Clements, is a perennial classic in our grade and that is in large part to Mrs. Granger. Nick's plan to replace the word "pen" with "frindle" would have been dead in the water had she not stepped in and made it such a huge deal. Near the end, we learn what was written in her letter to Nick, and the final chapter always makes me tear up as she remembers the lasting influence she has had as a teacher for so many years.

9. Ms. Jewls

I like to start the year with the oldie-but-goodie Sideways Stories from Wayside School. The chapters are short, silly, and always allow us to end our day with a smile on our face. Mrs. Gorf is the original teacher, but she turns into an apple and Ms. Jewls is brought in for the rest of the year. She has some great dialogue and is one of the reasons this makes such a great read aloud: she is so "teachery" in her tone, yet her words and ideas often make no sense. Have fun with this one!

Who would you add to the list? Importantly, who is your favorite teacher from the Harry Potter series? I am already thinking of that list in my head...

To find my complete collection of read aloud suggestions, see my growing list here:

Happy reading!

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