5 Historical Teachers and How They Changed Education

empty classroom with large wooden desks 

Just by the nature of their work, teachers are in a position to profoundly impact the students they teach. There are probably one or more teachers from your past that helped, encouraged or even inspired you.

Here we profile five famous teachers from history that changed the landscape of education in America. For each educator we provide a famous quote that is attributed to them – feel free to share and pin the images to your social networks!

We hope this post motivates you to think about your future in the field of education.

ECE quote by Jaime Escalante

1. Jaime Escalante // (1930-2010)

Best Known Teaching Role:

Mathematics teacher at East Los Angeles-based Garfield High School

How They Changed Education:

Students at Garfield High School were historically poor performers when it came to mathematics coursework. But after Escalante became a math teacher there in 1974, he helped record numbers of Garfield students pass the advanced placement (A.P.) Calculus exam. The best known portrayal of this story of student success is the 1988 film Stand and Deliver.

ECE quote by C. S. Lewis

2. Clive Staples Lewis (a.k.a. C.S. Lewis) // (1898-1963)

Best Known Teaching Role:

Professor at London-based Oxford University

How They Changed Education:

As an avid lover and learner of ancient mythology and philosophy, Lewis was heavily influenced by fellow Oxford professor and The Hobbit author, J.R.R. Tolkien.  Lewis continues to inspire generations long after his passing with works such as Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters and The Chronicles of Narnia.

ECE quote by Frank McCourt

3. Frank McCourt // (1930-2009)

Best Known Teaching Role:

Teacher at several New York City-based schools including:

McKee Vocational and Technical School, New York City College of Technology, Stuyvesant High

School, Seward Park High School, Washington Irving High School and High School of Fashion


How They Changed Education:

Not only did McCourt impact several students throughout his various teaching positions in New York City, but he also inspired students after the publication of his best-selling memoir, Angela’s Ashes. Books that followed include Tis and Teacher Man.

ECE quote by Anne Sullivan

4. Johanna “Anne” Mansfield Sullivan (a.k.a. Annie Sullivan) // (1866-1936)

Best Known Teaching Role:

Teacher of Helen Keller

How They Changed Education:

As a visually impaired teacher herself, Sullivan was hired to teach deafblind woman Helen Keller to communicate with hearing and seeing individuals. She went on to work with Keller for the next 49 years before her death in 1936. The best known portrayal of this story is in the Academy Award-winning film, The Miracle Worker.

ECE quote by Laura Wilder

5. Laura Ingalls Wilder // (1867-1957)

Best Known Teaching Role:

Taught in several one-room schoolhouses throughout Minnesota

How They Changed Education:

Despite not graduating high school, Wilder became a teacher at the age of 15 and taught three terms before marrying in 1885. Her transient youth and the challenges she and her family faced in the American Midwest in the 1880s have been immortalized in books and television shows including Little House on the Prairie, Little House in the Big Woods and On the Banks of Plum Creek.

Kendall Bird

Kendall is a Social Media Strategist at Collegis Education who is focused on bringing awareness and engagement to Rasmussen College's social media properties. She is passionate about helping others, the power of education and building strategies that put the needs of students first. 


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