A good teacher can make a big difference in their students' lives. We see this in real life as well as in fiction.
In Harry Potter, for example, most of the professors at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry are smart, accomplished and care about what their students learn. Many of them have a direct impact on Harry, Ron, Hermione and the others in ways that really matter, whether it's through their acts of kindness or the helpfulness of the knowledge they impart.
At the same time, there are some teachers who don't quite hold up to others in Hogwarts' classrooms and some that have been downright disastrous and dangerous to the kids who walk the halls.
For Teacher Appreciation Week, I decided to take a closer look at all the Hogwarts professors and rank those who have tried to mold the magical minds at Hogwarts. While you'll see many familiar names here, a few I've left off the list. For example, Dumbledore taught everyone important lessons at Hogwarts, but since he was never in the classroom during Harry's time at the school and he frankly receives so much attention already, I decided to keep him off the list.
I also didn't include professors like Vector, Sinistra, and Grubbly-Plank because we just didn't see them and their teaching methods much in the series. While they'd certainly rank above the more terrible professors here, coming up with anything more specific would be hard to do without more knowledge about them.
Here's how I'd rank Hogwarts' professors from worst to best ...
Alecto and Amycus Carrow
These terrible siblings don't deserve separate entries. The Carrows were Death Eaters that taught at the school once Voldemort took control and they were as dreadful as you'd imagine Death Eaters as teachers to be. Alecto taught Muggle Studies and her brother taught Defense Against the Dark Arts which was renamed Dark Arts. The siblings beat students, Amycus made them practice the Cruciatus Curse on their classmates and Alecto taught them that muggles are basically animals. They were eventually overpowered and bound before the Battle of Hogwarts began.
Compared to the Carrows, Dolores Umbridge was cruel as a professor on a whole other level. The Death Eaters barely made it past her on my list so Umbridge has the honor to hold the second to worst spot here. While teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix she has everyone put away their wands and tells them they won't be practicing spells anytime soon. Instead of using magic, they just read their textbook. This lack of practical experience ultimately inspires the creation of Dumbledore's Army, so at least one good thing came of it. However, Umbridge's terrible teaching didn’t end with bad lessons. Any detention she held was basically torture for the student since the words she had them write were cut into the back of their hand. Not only was she terrible to the students but she was awful to the other professors, too. Needless to say, no one missed her once she was gone from Hogwarts — except maybe Argus Filch.
Professor Quirrell was the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher during Harry's first year at Hogwarts. Hagrid reveals Quirrell changed ever since he took a year off to get first-hand experience and later we learn that's because of Voldemort. Playing host to the dark wizard naturally works against him in my ranking, but I would have at least put him higher up if he actually taught something useful at the same time! Unfortunately, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, his classes are described as "a bit of a joke" so he doesn't place any higher than here.
Barty Crouch Jr. as Alastor 'Mad-Eye' Moody
If the former Auror had the chance to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts, the students probably would have learned a lot. What they received instead was Barty Crouch Jr. pretending to be Moody. Still, they probably learned a few things from the imposter, especially about the Unforgivable Curses. He used the curses on spiders to show them what they were up against, though it's obviously also a way for him to unnerve those in his class. Despite this, maybe it was helpful to some of them in some way to see what these curses were like even if Crouch had other motives.
Lockhart is a fraud who knows nothing about Defense Against the Dark Arts. All he cares about is fame and attention. To say he's self-centered is probably a huge understatement. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, his classes mostly spend their time learning about Lockhart, his fake accomplishments and how he can't seem to do anything he apparently did in the past. Even though he didn't teach his students anything, he earns this spot for at least not working with Voldemort or doing anything sadistic to the kids.
Ghost Professor Binns taught History of Magic, which most considered to be the dullest class at Hogwarts. He often called students by the wrong names and didn't try very hard to make the subject interesting for those he was teaching. Instead he tended to just drone on during lessons. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, he eventually gives in and answers Hermione's question about the legend, leading to what was probably the most exciting class he ever gave. Other than that, though, Binns didn't exactly inspire his students in the classroom with his teaching methods. The ghost doesn't appear in any of the films but he can be seen in the LEGO video game.
Professor Snape didn't exactly treat his students well. Unless you were a Slytherin, for the most part you were never going to be thought of very highly in his class and quite a few students had to deal with an unacceptable amount of abuse, especially Gryffindors and those who were friends with Harry. However, the one thing Snape had going for him was that he was extremely knowledgeable in the areas of Potions and Defense Against the Dark Arts. He knew what he was talking about when it came to these subjects so you may have been able to learn something worthwhile in his classes if you could pay attention and avoid his ire!
After Umbridge dismisses Professor Trelawney in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore hires Firenze to take over teaching Divination. We first met the centaur in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and in the fifth book his agreeing to work for Dumbledore leads to his banishment from his herd. The students seem to enjoy his lessons as they examine the stars and look for shapes and symbols in the fumes of burning sage and mallowsweet. I don't think we have enough information to say whether or not these were better than Trelawney's lessons, but they were certainly something different and intriguing for the students to learn. After that year Firenze continued to teach at Hogwarts, sharing Divination with Trelawney.
Burbage taught Muggle Studies at Hogwarts and that ultimately led to her death at the hands of Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows where we see her ask Snape for help before she's killed in a meeting full of Death Eaters. In her class, students learned that muggles weren't that different from wizards and witches. She also wrote a piece in The Daily Prophet in defense of muggles, which did not go unnoticed by Voldemort. Outside of this, we don't know much about her or her teaching but she earns her place here because she clearly cared about her subject and wanted her students to know the truth, even if it was an unpopular opinion with some in the magical community. With her death, Hogwarts and the wizarding world lost a brave, good witch.
Professor Trelawney isn't entirely a fraud, but for the most part she is. In Divination, she mostly makes predictions that aren't true such as constantly seeing Harry's death. Even though most of what she says is nonsense, she does possess some talent and occasionally makes actual predictions. She is also rather passionate and clearly cares about the subject, so those students that want to be drawn in and learn whatever it is she's teaching certainly get something out of her classes. You also can't help but feel bad for her when Umbridge fires her and tries to kick her off the Hogwarts grounds in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Trelawney tries her best as a professor and clearly has a love for and deep connection to Hogwarts. She even gets involved in the Battle of Hogwarts and drops crystal balls on the heads of the enemy!
Slughorn was a skilled and knowledgeable Potions professor. We only knew Slughorn once he came out of retirement to return to Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but compared to Snape his teaching tactics seemed to make Potions a much better class all around for the students. He played favorites, but not in the way Snape did. He never treated students who weren't his favorites poorly. It was much more about making connections for the future in his Slug Club than anything else. He may have shown poor judgement in telling Tom Riddle about Horcruxes and answering his question about splitting a soul seven times, but overall he seemed like a decent professor who was good at his job and knew what he was doing.
Flitwick was the head of Ravenclaw House and an excellent Charms professor. He was extremely well-versed on the subject and trusted by Dumbledore and the other professors. Flitwick was there to help, whether it was an enchantment to protect the Sorcerer's Stone or to decorate for the holidays! He taught charms that came in handy over the course of the series and cared deeply about his students. The professor was supportive of Harry and the others, helped mess with Umbridge when she was at the school and even cried when Ginny was taken into the Chamber of Secrets. It's clear the students learned a lot from Flitwick and were lucky to have him as a teacher during their time at the school.
Sprout taught Neville's favorite subject at Hogwarts: Herbology. The head of Hufflepuff House was a skilled witch who like Flitwick was respected and liked by her colleagues. She also helped protect the Sorcerer's Stone and with her fellow heads of the houses and made plans to defend the school against Voldemort to give Harry time to do what he needed in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. She even led students in throwing Mandrakes over the walls during the fight! Her classes always involved students getting their hands dirty with lessons about repotting Mandrakes or squeezing Bubotubers so they could learn first-hand about the topic. Sprout was also deeply passionate about the school remaining open for students to learn even when things grew darkest with Dumbledore's death, insisting that if even a single pupil wanted to attend the school it should remain open for them ... just as the late Headmaster would have wanted.
Originally the Hogwarts gamekeeper, Hagrid began teaching Care of Magical Creatures in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Even before becoming a professor, Hagrid took an interest in the well-being of those who attended Hogwarts and that spirit remained when he became their teacher. He wanted his students to learn and introduced them to many wondrous creatures, including some that might have been a bit too dangerous and potentially illegal! Still, what better experience is there than hands-on experience, right? There may have been some unfortunate setbacks that may have impacted his teaching style for a time, but in the end Hagrid’s classes were probably among the most fascinating at the school ... in part due to the fact that he was already passionate about magical creatures before becoming a professor.
No Defense Against the Dark Arts professor lasted more than a year and so Remus Lupin was only at Hogwarts during Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. However, during that time, he made quite an impression. He gave his students their first practical lesson with a Boggart and the lessons involving Red Caps and kappas held their interest. He was kind and patient, and his students didn't hesitate to defend him when Snape took over while he wasn't feeling well that year. In fact, Dean Thomas continued to defend Lupin years later saying he was the best teacher they had in the subject when Umbridge referred to him as a dangerous half-breed. During Lupin's time as a professor, he made the topic interesting and engaging, and by allowing his students to get practical experience he certainly prepared them for what they might face more than any other professor who taught the class.
The Transfiguration professor, head of Gryffindor House and deputy headmistress is the very best teacher Hogwarts has to offer. McGonagall is an extremely talented witch who has a lot to share with her students. She may be stern, but she's always fair. Throughout the series, we see that she has the students’ best interests at heart and is willing to do what she can to protect them from the likes of Umbridge or the Death Eaters that temporarily teach at the school. McGonagall had the loyalty of her peers and was liked by the other professors and staff, who she was more than willing to stand up for, whether it be Hagrid or Trelawney. Her leadership helped Hogwarts get through the dark times and her skills played a vital role in Voldemort's defeat. Any witch or wizard lucky enough to sit in McGonagall's classroom and see her in action surely left with powerful knowledge.
Tell us who your favorite Hogwarts professor is in the comments!