Famous Teachers in Literature

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Derived from the latter root ‘Litterae-Letters,’ ‘literature’ literally meant ‘the product of letters.’ In its current sense, however, ‘literature’ is not confined to published materials only and may include other genres from multi-media. Things like: statistical data, scientific formulations, or mathematical expressions do not fall in the jurisdiction of literature. Writing originated in the ancient Egyptian civilization in the hieroglyphic or hieratic forms. Ancient Egyptian literature has been preserved in different media like the Papyrus Scrolls, wooden writing boards, stone edifices, etc. The Gandhara and Taxila civilizations too had preserved their literature. Teachers construct civilizations, project and preserve them through contemporary literature. Therefore, all  three; civilization, literature, and teachers go hand in hand. All the ancient civilizations, like the Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Chinese, Indian, Arab, and European civilizations have rich literature and great teachers. Socrates, Plato, Clement of Alexandria, and Ghazali are only a few of the famous teachers. Roger Ascham wrote The School Master in 1570, and it was considered an authentic handbook for all school teachers in Shakespeare’s time. Similarly, Francis Bacon wrote Advancement of Learning for King James #1 in 1605. Shaikh Sadie Sheerazi’s ‘Gulistan’ and ‘Bostan’ had been taught for centuries not only in Iran but also in India and had inspired German scholars too.

1. Socrates

Socrates teaching

Socrates was born in 469 BC and died in 399 BC. He is a famous Greek philosopher from Athens and is best known for his ‘Dialogues,’ an all-inclusive account of Socrates presented by Plato. He is considered the founder of Western philosophy. His personality appears to be unknowable and mysterious particularly on account of the writings of his pupils Plato and Xenophon. He contributed to the fields of ethics, logic, and pedagogy which is a science of initial education and commonly referred to as the Socratic Method. It is based on asking a number of questions to get an answer. The question is also aimed at encouraging the probing into the issue under consideration. He was tried for impiety and corrupting the Athenian youth. He was convicted for denying the prevalent deities and introducing new ones. He was executed by making him drink a cup of hemlock extract in 399 BC.

2. Titus Flavius Clemens

Titus Flavius Clemens
Titus Flavius Clemens

Titus Flavius Clemens, also known as Clement of Alexandria, was born in c. 150 and died in c. 215. He was a Christian theologian, well versed with classical Greek philosophy and literature. He came to Alexandria in c. 180 and is considered one of the earliest teachers in literature. He was a teacher at the Catechetical School of Alexandria. He was taught by Pantaenus and ordained to the priesthood by Pope Julian. Clemens was inspired by Plato and the Stoics, and he was very knowledgeable about Greek Mythology. Clement was a vegetarian, and although he did not oppose non-vegetarians generally, he regarded the consumers of flesh with gluttony as sinners. He opined that, ‘It is good not to eat flesh.’ He also formed the opinion that fumes from cooked meat ‘darken the soul.’

3. Jane Eyre

Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre (title page)

Jane Eyre was written by Charlotte Bronte who was born to Maria and Patrick Bronte in 1816. Jane Eyre is considered an English classical novel. Jane Eyre experienced a harsh early educational environment at Lowood School. After a short teaching experience, she became the governess of Adele Varens at Thorsfield Manor. She was an exemplary governess, teacher, and one of the most famous literary figures in English literature. In the end, she marries the owner of Thorsfield Manor, Mr. Rochester. Jane Eyre’s life is a story of her capability to cope with all of the stressful conditions. Jane Eyre is an embodiment of resiliency.

4. Albus Dumbledore

Albus Dumbledore
Albus Dumbledore (Harry Poter character)

Harry Potter is the classic movie of the current years, peerless in its fame and matchless in its popularity, particularly among teenagers. Albus Dumbledore is the most powerful wizard and headmaster of Hogwarts, the famous School of Wizardry. He prepared Harry Potter to compete with Lord Voldemort and defeat him. Albus Dumbledore allowed breathing space for Harry as all teenagers occasionally need it for their full development. Dumbledore took care of Harry showing respect, patience, and compassion for him. Dumbledore took the hand of Harry, opened his mind, equipped him with skills, and led him to greatness like a great teacher.

5. Anna Leonowens

Anna Leonowens
Anna Leonowens

Anna Harriette Edwards was born in Ahmednagar, India on November 26 and died in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on November 26, 1915 at the age of 83. From 1862 to 1868, she tutored the wives and children of Mongkut; the King of Siam. Her experiences in this capacity prompted Margaret Landon’s 1994 best selling novel Anna and the King of Siam. The famous movie The King and I was based upon this novel. The movie is so touching, interesting, and absorbing that one can not leave it without seeing it from the very beginning and right up to the end.

6. Charles Townsend Copeland

Charles Townsend Copeland
Charles Townsend Copeland

Charles Townsend Copeland, nicknamed ‘Copey,’ was born on April 27, 1860 and died on  July 24, 1952. He was a famous poet, writer, and a professor of English at Harvard University. His admirers liked his reading aloud of Kipling and Dickens. Famous journalist John Reed was his student. He dedicated his book Insurgent Mexico to Copey. The New York Herald Tribune remarked about him ‘The men’¦knew that ‘Copey’ was one of the supreme teachers of their generation’¦How the man could teach.’

7. Comejo Polar

Comejo Polar
Comejo Polar

Comejo Polar was born in Arequipa, Peru on December 23, 1938 and died in Lima, Peru on May 11, 1997. He received his Ph.D. from the National University of San Agustin in Arequipa and became a professor there. He also taught at the University of Pittsburgh and U.C. Berkley as visiting faculty. He had authored 11 books and is taken as an authority on Latin-American literature. He also founded Revista de Critica Literaria Latinoamericana a journal reflective of Latin-American literature.

8. Anne Sullivan

Anne Sullivan
Anne Sullivan

Johana Mansfield Sullivan, better known as Anne Sullivan, was born to Alice Cloesy and Thomas Sullivan in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts. She was visually impaired and is best known for her commitment and companionship to her world-famous student, Helen Keller. She developed the touch teaching method and opined that children learn by repetition and imitation.

9. Jean Piaget

Jean Piaget
Jean Piaget

Jean Piaget was born to Arthur Piaget and Rebecca Jackson in Neuchatel, Switzerland on August 9, 1896 and died in Geneva, Switzerland on September 16, 1980 at the age of 84. He was educated at the University of Neuchatel and the University of Zurich. He taught at Grange-Aux-Belles Street School for Boys and had been director of the Rousseau Institute in Geneva. He is famous for his Theory of Cognitive Development, known as Genetic Epistemology. He opined that children’s logic and mode of thinking was completely different from those of adults as children were constantly creating and testing their own theories of the world. He said, ‘Only education is capable of saving our societies from possible collapse whether violent, or gradual.’.He was awarded the Balzan Prize in 1979.

10. Holofernes

Love’s Labour’s Lost

Holofernes is a talkative schoolmaster in Shakespeare’s Loves Labors Lost. He appears only thrice in the play. In his first appearance in Act IV we find him discussing a piece of poetry with his friend Nathaniel while Dull is listening to them. Holofernes boasts of the right usage of the English language and has an annoying habit of defining what he said already using unnecessarily  several synonyms making things almost impossible to be understood clearly as reflected in  the play Act IV ii, 3-7; wherein he used ‘terra, soil, land,’ and ‘earth’ to convey one word;

‘Welkin, the heaven; and anon falleth like a

Crab on the face of terra, the soil, the land, the earth.’


Socrates has been globally considered as a great philosopher and teacher. It is interesting to note that Socrates himself acknowledged a few persons as his teachers, and all of them were women. Pythia, the oracle of Delphi, taught him by presenting a riddle to solve. Asphasia of Miletus taught him rhetoric. Diotima of Mantinea was similarly an ancient philosopher, and she tutored Socrates. The point is that almost all the ancient civilizations were male dominated, but ‘knowledge,’ particularly ‘teaching’ was not only an exemption but also seems to be a ‘female dominated’ area.



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