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Six of the Most Famous Teachers in History

Bookwitty By Bookwitty Published on September 28, 2016
This article was updated on October 1, 2016

Most of us have had a teacher, or if we’re lucky a few, who fundamentally shaped who we are today. Yet teaching is one of the most selfless professions. Educators dedicate themselves to their students, often only witnessing the results of their years of labor, decades later when their student grow up and can reflect on their influence.

In honor of World Teachers’ Day, an international event to celebrate teachers and focus on their needs, here are six of the most famous teachers in history. These teachers are best known for making a lasting contribution in education through their pioneering approach to learning, and their passion and dedication to the profession.

Aristotle (384 B.C. - 322 B.C.)

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Aristotle was one of the first ancient Greek philosophers who, along with Socrates, Plato and others, laid the foundation for what we now consider modern Western philosophy. As a teacher, he is best known for taking on Alexander the Great as a student. This gave him access to many resources and he went on to open his own school, the Lyceum, in Athens where he spent the rest of his life teaching and writing.

Friedrich Froebel (1782 - 1852)

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Froebel is a German educator famous for creating the concept of “kindergarten”.

He began his career as a teacher in Frankfurt and later worked to develop his revolutionary theories on education around play materials and students’ creativity and individuality. Before the late 19th century, people didn’t think about teaching children younger than age 7. Froebel pioneered education for children through teaching them how to play, explore, observe their surroundings, and communicate.

Booker T. Washington (1856 - 1915)

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Washington is considered one of the most influential African-American educators of the late 19th century. He established the Tuskegee Institute, a black college in Virginia which was committed to training teachers, and was also an advisor to U.S. presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.

Anne Sullivan (1866 - 1936)

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Anne Sullivan is best known as Helen Keller’s teacher. She became blind when she was five years old, and without reading or writing skills, she struggled to find a job or profession she could keep; even housekeeping proved challenging. She was educated at the Perkins School for the Blind and began teaching Helen Keller when she was 20 years old. With the help of Sullivan’s gifted teaching, Keller soon became famous for her progress, and Sullivan went from teacher to lifelong friend.

Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867 - 1943)

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Wilder is best known for her children’s book series, The Little House on the Prairie. At first, her choice to start teaching was based on financial needs. Even though she never finished high school, she took on teaching jobs when she was 15 in one-room schools in South Dakota. Today, she’s also known for having been one of the world's youngest teachers.

Jean Piaget (1896 - 1980)

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Piaget contributed immensely to the field of children’s education through developing the study of developmental psychology. His work categorized a child’s developmental into four phases, which became the foundation to building education for young children. Piaget was also the director of the International Bureau of Education between 1929 and 1968. 

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