Top 5 Historical Figures Most Admired by Teachers

The Survey Says

ESGI and ThinkFives asked hundreds of teachers who they most admired.  In addition to Moms, Dads and other family members, these historic figures towered in their admiration.

Mother Teresa

Mother Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu, more fondly known as Mother Theresa, was an Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun and famous missionary. She founded the order of the Missionaries of Charity, a congregation dedicated to helping the poor.

Loved and admired for her work with the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India, Mother Teresa’s missionaries expanded across the globe, opening houses in Australia, the Middle East, and North America, and eventually administering 158 missionary foundations.

Mother Theresa received the Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian work in 1979. Pope Francis recognized her as a Saint in 2016.


  • “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
  • “Be faithful in the small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”
  • “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
  • “If you can’t feed 100 people, then feed just one.”

Rosa Parks

When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama city bus for white passengers in 1955, she put into motion an unstoppable movement toward freedom that continues to this day.

Rosa felt it was her responsibility to speak boldly in the face of racism and oppression. While that single moment on a bus was a monumental symbol of protest, she had been a lifelong activist who challenged segregationist laws and policies for decades.

A recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, upon her death in 2005, she was the first woman to lie in honor in the capitol rotunda.


  • “Each person must live their life as a model for others.”
  • “I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free so other people would also be free.”
  • “Stand for something or you will fall for anything.”
  • “You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

When the term “civil rights” is referenced, one person comes to mind for most people, Martin Luther King Jr. The champion of civil rights, Mr. King was an American Baptist minister who became the worldwide conscience for non-violent activism and equality.

Mr. King led the Montgomery bus boycott, the Albany movement, the protest in Birmingham, Alabama and the historic march on Washington in 1963.  It was there that he delivered his famous “I have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Honored with the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting racial inequality through nonviolent resistance (among many awards), Martin Luther King paid a heavy price for his activism. His life is honored today through activities, peace centers and a memorial in Washington, DC.


  • “Intelligence plus character that is the goal of true education.”
  • “Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love.”
  • “I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind‘s problems.”
  • “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”


For 2000 years, Jesus has been the central figure of Christianity, the world’s largest religion. His teachings are the basis of religions, writings, art and culture. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John shared the life and teachings of Jesus in the New Testament, providing the source of his legacy and influence.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and many parables provide guidance everyday to billions of people world-wide. 

Among all the influences that shaped Western Civilization, there is no person more significant than Jesus. Even for religious skeptics, the historical importance of Jesus is the result of the most influential life ever lived.


  • “A new commandment I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you so you must love one another.”
  • “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”
  • “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
  • “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”

Abraham Lincoln

The #1 most admired historical figure by our teachers is none other than Honest Abe, Abraham Lincoln. This towering president is admired for his determination in abolishing slavery and issuing the Emancipation Proclamation.

Born in a log cabin in Indiana, Abraham Lincoln became one of the most unlikely legends in American history. Self-educated and without the pedigree of most politicians, Lincoln rose from state legislator to congressman to President.

His leadership during the most difficult time in American history is praised by admirers and scholars. He was a great orator, motivator and statesman. He is remembered for his many accomplishments including the Lincoln Douglas debates, the Gettysburg Address, and his legacy in the cause of liberty.


  • “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
  • “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.”
  • “Government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
  • “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”

Honorable Mentions

  • Ruby Bridges
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Harriet Tubman
  • George Washington


  1. I liked all of these individuals, but I am surprised that Gandhi or Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not make the list. Very surprising!

What do you THINK?

%d bloggers like this: