In honor of World Teachers’ Day, October 5, we pay respect to all the teachers who have made a difference in their children’s lives. In particular, we’d like to take this moment to remember some of the teachers whose lives and accomplishments were memorialized on the silver screen.
Erin Gruwell – Teacher, education activist, and founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation. Ms. Gruwell’s educational philosophy transformed hundreds of students’ lives and drew national acclaim, as she encouraged students to pick up a pen instead of a gun. The film Freedom Writers, starring Hilary Swank, was based upon Ms. Gruwell’s life. In past years, Envision has been fortunate to have Ms. Gruwell present the keynote speech at the Envision National Young Leaders Conference (NYLC).
Patch Adams – Portrayed in the movie by Robin Williams, Patch Adams is an American physician, comedian, social activist, clown, and author. Adams (born Hunter Doherty Adams) started medical school without earning an undergrad degree and went on to found the Gesundheit! Institute in 1971. Each year he organizes volunteers to travel around the world, dressing as clowns in an effort to bring humor to orphans and patients. In 2007, Adams and the Gesundheit Board unveiled its campaign to raise $1 million towards building a Teaching Center and Clinic. Adams believes all people are simultaneously teachers and students, and he urges medical students to develop compassionate connections with their patients.
LouAnne Johnson - The ex-marine-turned-high-school-teacher whose life inspired Dangerous Minds, a movie starring Michelle Pfeiffer that was adapted from Ms. Johnson’s book My Posse Don't Do Homework. During her first year of teaching in a California inner-city high school, Ms. Johnson encountered hostile resistance from her students and resorted to unconventional methods (using karate, Bob Dylan lyrics, etc.) to gain their trust.
Ken Carter – The legendary high school basketball coach who inspired the movie Coach Carter, starring Samuel L. Jackson. Coach Carter gained notoriety in 1999, when he canceled all of his undefeated team’s basketball games because 15 of his players had unacceptably poor academic performance. Although strongly criticized by players, parents, and the media, Coach Carter stuck to his guns, determined to convey strong values to his players. His actions and conviction affected the young men more profoundly than he ever expected. Coach Carter carries on his vision to educate and inspire through The Coach Carter Impact Academy, which he founded in Marlin, Texas.
Pierre Dulaine – The dance instructor whose work with children was fictionalized in the film Take the Lead, starring Antonio Banderas. He also founded Dancing Classrooms, a developmental program for 5th grade children that uses ballroom dancing as a vehicle to change the lives of the students and their families. Through dance, Mr. Dulaine teaches students respect, dignity, self-confidence, trust, and teamwork.
Lionel Logue – The Australian speech therapist who helped England's Prince Albert, the Duke of York, to overcome his speech impediment – a severe stammer – before the Duke ascended the throne as King George VI. Mr. Logue used unconventional means to teach the monarch how to relax and speak with confidence. An extraordinary friendship developed between the two men, lasting until the King’s death. Their relationship was depicted in the film The King’s Speech, starring Geoffrey Rush as Logue and Colin Firth as the King.
Freida J. Riley – The American science and math teacher who was widely known for inspiring students – most notably Homer Hickam, Jr., author of the #1 New York Times best-seller Rocket Boys. This book became the impetus for the movie October Sky, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Homer and Laura Dern as Miss Riley. Both the book and the movie relay how Homer, a young boy born to a coalminer, had a passion for rockets; a passion that helped him build a new life for himself. Miss Riley believed in his passion and his dreams, and helped him and his friends take their rocket designs to the 1960 National Science Fair, where they won a gold and silver medal in the area of propulsion. Hickman later became an aerospace engineer with NASA.
Miss Riley had Hodgkin’s disease throughout her teaching career, and succumbed to the disease at age 32. The Freida J. Riley Award, established in her honor, is awarded annually to an American educator who overcomes adversity or makes an enormous sacrifice to positively impact the lives of students.
World Teachers’ Day
This celebration is held annually on October 5 to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the 1966 UNESCO/ILO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. The 1966 Recommendation provides the primary framework for addressing teachers’ rights and responsibilities, on a global scale.
On World Teachers’ Day in 2017, we also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1997 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel, which focuses on institutional autonomy and academic freedom. This year’s theme is “Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teachers”.
Thank you, teachers, for the difference you make in our lives, and the ways in which you help shape the future of our country and our planet!