Teachers: Miracle Workers Through the Years

While seeking an interesting topic for schooldays and teachers, I googled movies about teachers. I found a lot of them I liked, but one in particular resonates with me because the story is profound and amazing and true.


The Miracle Worker is based on Helen Keller’s autobiography, The Story of My Life (1903).  American playwright William Gibson wrote a play for a 1957 Playhouse 90 broadcast.  The original Broadway production opened at the Playhouse Theater in October 1959 and won the 1960 Tony Award for Best Play. Anne Bancroft who won the 1960 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her role as Annie Sullivan and Patty Duke as Helen Keller recreated their stage roles in the movie.


I never see either of them without remembering their performances in this movie. Recently I watched the Hallmark movie, Homecoming, with the still-beautiful Anne Bancroft. Okay, I confess, Mrs. Robinson flitted before my eyes for a second there, too.


Television remakes were done in 1979 and 2000. many of you might remember the Melissa Gilbert version, where Melissa plays Helen and patty Duke plays Anne Sullivan.


At the age of nineteen months Helen Keller lost her sight and hearing during an illness, historically surmised to be  scarlet fever or meningitis. Pampered and spoiled by her parents from then on, Helen got her way by hitting, kicking, and throwing tantrums. Giving their daughter one last chance before she is institutionalized, her parents send for a teacher from the Perkins School for the Blind. Annie Sullivan was once blind herself, but after nine operations on her eyes gained sight. Against all odds, Annie determined to break through Helen’s world of darkness and silence.


One of the most moving scenes is when Helen finally understands the connection between the finger spellings and the objects they represent. Teacher and student show Helen’s parents what she has learned. There is much excitement and hugging, after which Helen pokes Annie, asking for her name. Annie spells t-e-a-c-h-e-r.


Helen pats the pocket on her mother’s dress, asking for the keys she put there. Helen takes the keys and offers them to Annie, a sign that Helen is finally willing to welcome Annie as her teacher. We are moved by the overwhelming emotions of each person. Helen who has lived in a frustratingly dark  and silent world, unable to communicate has just found a way to connect with the world. Annie has finally given Helen the keys to rich and fulfilling life. And while Helen’s mother is grateful to Annie and joyous for Helen, she must feel like the outside now.

In the final scene, just before bedtime, Helen comes into Annie’s room and kisses her cheek. They rock together for a while, as Annie spells out i-l-o-v-e-h-e-l-e-n. This is a teacher who will forever be remembered for her persistence and tough love. It blesses me to know teachers like Annie are still helping special needs children. It takes a special gift and a willing heart to commit to children in similar circumstances.

If you haven’t seen The Miracle Worker for a while, give it a watch. If you’ve never seen it, treat yourself.

+ posts

15 thoughts on “Teachers: Miracle Workers Through the Years”

  1. This was a great movie.. Very moving, yet it was a hard movie to watch. But it goes to show what a good teacher is made of. I had a few teachers like that im my life and was all the better for it.

  2. Good morning, Elizabeth and Margaret! Yes, Anne was a hero. It’s amazing what a big difference one person can make in the world, isn’t it? I’m glad you’re watching it again, Margaret!

    Kathleen, it’s lovely to hear teachers made your life better. We don’t appreciate them enough, do we?

  3. I can’t even imagine being not only blind but deaf also. What a thing to have to overcome. Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan are both remembered for their devotion and perseverance. True heroes. Thanks for an interesting post.

  4. Definitely two of my most admired people. And let’s hear it for teachers. I come from a family of them!

    Peace, Julie

  5. I come from a family of teachers too and my middle daughter is a 3rd grade teacher! So proud of her. My youngest daughter is in college now to become a high school teacher (she’s all of 5 foot 3 inches – good luck to you, girl!) so the tradition continues. I just wish teachers were more valued in our society! Thanks for the post!

  6. Hi Cher, Oh I loved both of these productions. When I taught school. we studied the Miracle Worker and my mom was able to obtain some Braille pages from church (they put the Bible together in Braille). Wow did the kids love both the paper pages and the metal plates. Thanks for this wonderful post. xoxo

  7. Hi Cheryl,
    I’ve been watching ‘Education Nation’ on TV (MSNBC), all weekend. How inspiring these teachers are. They are all working together to come up with ideas to get our system rolling in the right direction. So many GREAT teachers.
    Thanks for this reminder about Helen Keller.

  8. It has been ages since seeing any of the Helen Keller movies. Somewhere in my memory there is a scene at a water pump when she first connects the spelled words to a concrete object.

    I trained as a teacher and have worked in a teaching capacity many times over the years. It really is exciting when you see that moment when a child makes the connection and “gets” what you have been teaching.

  9. I can remember reading that book when I was fairly young and it made quite an impression on me. And the movie was just as remarkable. I am still amazed by the tenacity and accomplishments.

Comments are closed.