The following inspirational teacher quotes are from some of history’s most profoundly influential educators. Whether they be related directly to academia or not, the fact is all the people below taught us all something that exists beyond the classroom.
Their words touched both hearts and minds. Life lessons, and not just classroom lessons, abound here. After all, preparation for life is at the heart of every classroom.
Please enjoy these powerful inspirational teacher quotes and the messages embedded in them. They’re for you, all the teachers and enablers of the world.
Anne Sullivan Macy, the famous companion and teacher of Helen Keller, knew a thing or two about perseverance. Blind herself from the age of 5 from trachoma, she began teaching at the age of 20. Keller was her first student. The immediate connection between them blossomed into a lifelong journey of overcoming the absence of vision with an abundance of heart and determination.
What’s the message? As a teacher, you and only you see the painful steps your students sometimes experience in your classroom. They are fighting their own battles, breaking deeply personal barriers, and moving towards success. You are there for all of it. Only one who has taught can understand the often painful but always rewarding journey of teaching children. No one can take that pride away from you, or from your students.
Booker T. Washington was born into slavery in the mid 1800s. Despite the hardships and lack of prospects he faced early on, he became a largely self-educated man. He put himself through school to became a prolific teacher. He eventually went on to found what is today’s Tuskegee University.
What’s the message? It’s clear Washington knew the true essence and value of what it means to be a teacher. They devote their lives to lifting up their students in so many ways. Intellectually, emotionally, spiritually—a passionate educator nurtures the whole student. That’s why teaching is and always will be one of the noblest professions anyone can undertake.
One lady who was constantly challenging the status quo of her day was Maria Montessori. She was born in the 1870s in Italy, and was a diligent student. All her life she remained ambitious and confident. Her refusal to adhere to the traditional expectations held for women in her time was legendary. She eventually went on to develop an educational philosophy that is the foundation of thousands of schools all over the world bearing her name.
What’s the message? Montessori believed in embracing a child’s natural curiosity and spontaneity as the basis for great teaching and learning. It’s true, our children need our guidance and our care early on in their learning lives. That said, the truly successful educator is that one whose students have grown to no longer need them.
Author and lecturer C. S. Lewis captivated our imaginations with stories such as his famously-loved Chronicles of Narnia. He was also an inspirational educator, having taught at both Cambridge University and Oxford University. One of Lewis’ biggest influences (and dearest friends) was J. R. R. Tolkien.
What’s the message? In three words, believe in yourself. This is a message for you, and for every one of your students. The stimulus in our worlds, especially when we’re kids, is not always positive or empowering. We’re often brought up being made more aware of what we can’t do rather than what we can. As a teacher, you’re in a perfect position to train young minds to believe in what’s possible. Our lives are created by our thoughts and feelings. The only limitations we have are the ones we place on ourselves.
When Maya Angelou suffered intense physical and emotional trauma at the age of 8, she lost her voice. She believed it was her words that had caused the pain and suffering in her life and the lives of her family. She did not speak again until the age of 13, having to practically relearn how all over again. Who helped her regain her voice? An exceptional and dedicated teacher—something Angelou herself emulated later on in life. She died in the spring of 2014.
What’s the message? Although not technically an educator, Angelou taught people so much about love, forgiveness, acceptance, and the the value of a strong work ethic. Her list of academic and literary accomplishments is diverse and exemplary. In the end, this is one of those inspirational teacher quotes that reminds us of a simple truth. Success is a flower that still has to be watered, weeded, and given patience and love in its time of growth. Where is this more of a truth than with our students?
No list of inspirational teacher quotes would be complete without including the great man himself. Albert Einstein lived his life with an almost childlike curiosity that never faltered. It was this that opened him up to some of the most profound discoveries about our existence that we’ve ever had. He was a scientist, theorist, teacher, and some say a magician. In the end, it was his love of learning that made him never stop questioning.
What’s the message? Einstein believed strongly in the creative power of the imagination. What fuels the imaginations of our students is encouraging them to always keep asking questions. We can do this in our discussions and lessons, and with things like inquiry- and project-based learning. Developing the kind of teaching that makes students curious and wanting to explore is the pathway to building better minds and more successful global citizens.
Nadia Boulanger was an incredibly gifted teacher and musician. She had the distinction of being the first female conductor ever for the both the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. One of her most famous students was the composer Philip Glass.
What’s the message? There’s an old saying: If it was easy, someone else would do it. The trials that shape us in school and life are part of building character, compassion, and morality. Difficulty, when embraced as a learning opportunity, can be more beneficial than we realize. There will always be challenges. Boulanger suggests here that teaching our students to welcome challenges is an expression of caring. One of the greatest gifts we can give any student is the ability to freely conquer adversity.
One of the most popular thinkers and lecturers of the New Thought movement was Napoleon Hill, author of the book Think and Grow Rich. During his lifetime, Hill became an adviser for two U.S. presidents, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He lectured extensively on the principles of personal success until his death in 1970.
What’s the message? Being a teacher is not easy. Being a student is not easy. Being a human being is not easy. Nor should they be. We learn best when we are challenged positively and productively, in a way that resonates with us on personal levels. But what about the challenges life throws at us when we aren’t prepared? How do we learn then? How do we grow without succumbing to our fragility in the moment of truth? That’s up to us to discover for ourselves as individuals. Hill merely reminds us here that there is promise to be found in any pain.
Bonus Inspirational Teacher Quotes
“When you study great teachers … you will learn much more from their caring and hard work than from their style.”—William Glasser
“If kids come to us from strong, healthy functioning families, it makes our job easier. If they do not come to us from strong, healthy, functioning families, it makes our job more important.”—Barbara Colorose
“Teachers, I believe, are the most responsible and important members of society because their professional efforts affect the fate of the earth.” ―Helen Caldicott
“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.”—Ben Sweetland
“The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn.”—John Lubbock
“A master can tell you what he expects of you. A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations.“—Patricia Neal
“Good teaching is more a giving of right questions than a giving of right answers.”—Josef Albers
“The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence.”—Amos Bronson Alcott
“Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher.”—Japanese proverb