In the tradition of Mr. Keating from Dead Poets Society, Mr. Clarke from Lean on Me, Mr. Holland from Mr. Holland's Opus (and to a lesser degree Mr. Finn from School of Rock), my vote is for Mr. Braithwaite in the novel (as well as the movie) To Sir, with Love. Teachers who use unconventional means to enlighten their students are at the very top of my list of true inspirations.
I am a teacher. I think that about sums it up for me. Mr. Braithwaite is my favorite character in the book. I guess I find so much in him that speaks to what I consider to be the universal struggle of teaching. Battling inertia from all angles, not finding support with the faculty community, not recognizing the difference between lecturing and teaching, and then having to make a critical choice to forgo the arcane curriculum and seek to "connect" with students in a meaningful way. Braithwaite's character represents what modern teaching should be about. I think that his willingness to work with students as young people and embrace their experiences as his own is what defines good teaching and best practices. Braithwaite understands that in order to reach his students and be an effective educator, he has to represent a figure that is both accepting and one that seeks to hold his students to a higher standard of both teaching and learning. While this is difficult, Braithwaite is not afraid to try and to continually assess his effectiveness and student effectiveness in the classroom setting. These are lessons I try to implement in my own pedagogical approach and why I find Braithwaite to be my favorite character.