Top 5 Wednesdays: Favourite Teachers or Mentors

It really bugs me that we’ve been asked not to include any Harry Potter characters for this week’s topic! I agree that between Dumbledore, Lupin, Sirius, McGonagall, and even potentially Hagrid, it would be way too easy. These kinds of topics are always difficult for me because I don’t necessarily keep track of which characters fit into different categories, so it’s hard to think of after the fact. It was also a very tricky one since many of the options that I came up with are from TV series. The prime example would have to be Mr. Feeny, the iconic teacher from Boy Meets World who somehow manages to follow Cory Matthews and his friends throughout their school lives and acts as an incredible teacher and mentor to all of them. He teaches them countless valuable lessons. He is tough but fair, and pushes his students constantly to improve themselves. It was actually pretty difficult to find any teachers or mentors from books that measured up.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Rupert Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Once again, this is probably cheating because it’s primarily because of the TV series, but because there are several books about characters from the series and the continuing seasons in graphic novel format, I think Giles still counts. Giles is Buffy’s Watcher who is responsible for training her to hone her Slayer abilities and teach her demon lore, but his relationship with her quickly became much deeper than that. Throughout the series, it is clear that Giles has become more of a father figure and mentor not just to Buffy herself, but also to the rest of her group, especially Willow as she learns to control her magic powers. Giles goes above and beyond his duties as a Watcher and develops genuine affection for Buffy and her friends, and does everything in his power to protect them but also to prepare them to deal with life on their own. In the last few seasons of the TV series, Giles actually separates himself from the group and moves back to England in attempt to force Buffy to stand on her own and function as an independent adult. He is such an interesting character, and a great mentor.

2) Uncle Press Tilton from The Pendragon Series by D.J. MacHale

In the first book in this series, Bobby Pendragon is visited by his favourite Uncle Press who takes him on a strange adventure, explaining that Bobby is a Traveler who has a duty to help save all of Halla (basically every time and place that has ever existed) from calling into chaos. Press introduces Bobby to the idea of Travelers and trains him to become one himself. It has been several years since I read this series, but if I recall correctly, Bobby mentions that his Uncle has taken him on many outings over the years to a wide variety of unusual activities, and comes to realize that Press was training him to have the skills he might need to use as a Traveler. Part of what is interesting about this character is that a lot of his role as teacher and mentor actually happened before the series even began, and his part in the actual books is very limited. This is an incredibly underrated series in general, and a huge reason that it works as well as it does is because of the strength of the characters. Although Press’s role is relatively small, his impact is often felt throughout the series and he definitely helped to shape Bobby into the Traveler and person he became.

3) Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus Series by Joanna Cole

Again, this probably has more to do with the TV series than the books, but the episodes were adapted into a series of educational children’s books about a variety of topics, including dinosaurs, the human body, and space. Miss Frizzle is an eccentric teacher who takes her class on bizarre field trips using her magic school bus, that allows the children to change in size and transform into other things to be able to see how things work up close. Her philosophy that she quickly passes on to the children in her class is “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!” and it is this line that I think makes her such a great teacher. One thing that has always stuck with me from elementary school is when my first grade teacher told us “Mistakes are how you learn,” and Miss Frizzle’s entire teaching style seems to encompass that idea. She teaches her students to experiment and test out theories to discover things for themselves, and allows them to follow the topics that interest them to satisfy their curiosity. She teaches them not to be afraid of getting the answer wrong, and to work together to figure it out. Of course, the teaching methods she uses are extremely dangerous and would never be allowed in real life (ie. bringing her class face-to-face with live dinosaurs), but it’s safe to say that her class will never forget what they learn!

4) Haymitch Abernathy in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

In a way, this can be seen as a bit of an unconventional choice given Haymitch’s struggles with alcohol, but he is definitely a mentor to both Katniss and Peeta both during their time in the Hunger Games and long afterwards. Haymitch is a Hunger Games victor from District 12 who mentors tributes for each Hunger Games competition. It is immediately clear that Haymitch’s own experiences in the Games have deeply traumatized him and he initially seems like a poor source of support for Katniss and Peeta due to his drunken behaviour. However, once he begins to recognize that the two of them are real contenders in the competition, he offers a lot of useful and practical advice about how to survive, and helps to guide Katniss especially by finding a way to subtly communicate with her while she is in the arena. He also plays an active role in trying to protect Katniss during the rebellions against the Capitol. Katniss seeks him out for help and confides in him throughout the series, and it is clear that she trusts his advice and that they have developed a very strong bond.

5) Miss Honey in Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda has always been one of my favourite movies, and I saw the movie many, many times before ever reading the book. I’m sure a lot of my reason for picking this character is because of the film version, but from what I remember, the book is pretty similar. Miss Honey is Matilda’s first teacher at school who quickly recognizes that Matilda has a brilliant mind, and immediately seeks to help move her up to a more advanced class to appropriately challenge her. She tries to speak to Matilda’s parents, and even braves a conversation with her abusive aunt and Headmistress of the school, Miss Trunchbull because she knows that it is in Matilda’s best interest. Miss Honey and Matilda quickly form a strong connection, bonding over their difficult family lives, and both try to help each other. Matilda begins to hone her telekinetic abilities to help scare away Miss Trunchbull and restore Miss Honey to her home and the money that is rightfully hers, and Miss Honey recognizes Matilda’s difficult home life, eventually coming to offer a home with her instead. It was great to see a teacher who was aware of her student’s abilities and needs, and did everything in her power to make sure that student was given appropriate work to actually move her forward, and not let her just stagnate in a class that was too low-level for her.


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