This Video of One of the Coolest English Teachers Ever Will Make You Smile

Greek epics have never been so relatable.
Aug 12, 2014·
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

His students call him Schmo, Mr. Schmo, Big Daddy Schmo, or Pimp Daddy Schmo—and he’s pretty much the teacher we all wish we had.

Los Angeles native Barry Smolin has been teaching English for 28 years. Lately, using a light saber, he’s been convincing ninth graders at Hamilton High School Humanities Magnet in Los Angeles that really, there’s no difference between them and young Telemachus in the Odyssey. Over the decades he’s had a profound impact on his students; many of them have gone on to become English teachers themselves. (He taught author Edan Lepucki, who recently published her first novel, California.) Funny, passionate, and brilliant, Smolin does the great names of literature justice while opening up (or as he says, "blowing away") young minds. Just never mention to him the saying “Those who can’t do, teach.”

Smolin is one of many dedicated teachers who work hard and take immense pleasure in finding creative ways to inspire students every day. Through the eyes of four similarly dedicated public school educators, Davis Guggenheim’s documentary TEACH gives audiences a peek inside the American classroom—showing that at the heart of every great education is great teaching.

Did Barry Smolin’s story bring back memories of your favorite teacher? If so, submit your story about the educator who’s had the biggest, most positive influence in your life. We’re donating upwards of $10,000 to the schools of those teachers with the most and best entries.

This article was created as part of the social action campaign for the documentary TEACH, produced by TakePart’s parent company, Participant Media, in partnership with Bill and Melinda Gates.