Search form

TIME 100: The Teaching Resource of the Century!


Celebrate the 100th issue of Education World by introducing your students to 100 individuals who shaped the world we live in. We provide Web resources to help your students get to know the men and women (and others!) who made TIME magazine's "100 Most Important People of the 20th Century" list! Included: Suggested activities to help your students get to know some of the "most important people."

Recently, TIME magazine marked the end of the millenium by profiling The 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century. This week, to celebrate the 100th issue of Education World, we've provided 100 Web Sites and 10 Follow-Up Activities to help you introduce your students to the 100 men and women TIME selected -- all of whom, in one way or another, have shaped our lives.


Visitors to the TIME 100 Web site can vote for the Person of the Century -- "that person who, for better or worse, most influenced the course of history over the past 100 years." But we wondered what some kids thought. So a few of Education World's Principal Files Principals asked students in their schools to choose. Many of the students' answers were thoughtful, insightful, and prematurely wise. Some, of course, were also funny!

Principal Ron Tibbetts, from the Henry Barnard School in Providence, Rhode Island, sent this note. "I asked our sixth-grade teacher, Dr. Elizabeth Ruggiero, to ask her students who they thought was the most influential person of the last 100 years. The answers ranged from sports heroes to politicians. My favorite answer was 'Ben Franklin because he invented light, and without it, we would all be in the dark.'" Other responses included these:

  • Jimmy D. -- "Martin Luther King Jr., because he helped unite whites and blacks. If it wasn't for him I wouldn't have some of my best friends. "

  • Brandyn A. -- "Bill Gates, because he invented computers."

  • Christine G. -- "Mother Teresa, because she was so kind and loving and set a great example."

  • John L. -- "Albert Einstein, because without him we wouldn't have learned many things and he inspired many people."

  • Ahmad S. -- "Jackie Robinson, because he was the first African American baseball player in the majors."

  • Victoria J. -- "Princess Diana, because even though she had a short life, she made an impact on everyone by helping people all over the world and doing good deeds."

Bruce Hudson, principal of Asir Academy, a K-9 American school in southwestern Saudi Arabia, shared these responses from two eighth graders:

  • Letitia B. -- "Dr. Martin L. King should most definitely be the candidate of the century. He did a lot to fight for the freedom of blacks. If it weren't for people like Dr. King, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, etc., there might be a good possibility that I could be in the fields picking cotton and getting beaten! He wanted us all to be equal, not be judged by the color of our skin but by the content of our character."

  • Ash H. -- "I feel that Martin Luther King Jr. should be the man of the century. He led the black people to freedom and changed America for years to come. When he started the civil rights movement, he changed everything. Dr. King helped America open its eyes when they were closed and kept them open from that point on."

John Grady, principal of Fairgrounds Junior High School (Nashua, New Hampshire), got help from teacher Ralph Sommers, who sent along these replies from two of his eighth graders:

  • Jackie C. -- I think the most influential person of the 20th century is Martin Luther King Jr. He had the courage to stand up for his rights and what he believed. Dr. King changed the point of view of many people throughout the world. Martin Luther King Jr. was willing to give his life for what he believed.

  • Dao C. -- I think the most influential individual of the 20th century is Princess Diana. She cared about people! The princess went to poor countries and helped out poor people. She passed away, but I still believe people all over the world still admire how she helped people in need.

Karen Linden, principal of Oliver School in Edmonton, Canada, sent several extremely thoughtful responses from Arlene Lipkewich's ninth-grade students. The essays were too long to print in their entirety, but some of the highlights include these:

  • Melissa S. -- "Mother Theresa is the most influential person of the 20th century because she cared for lots of sick and dying people, even when she was sick herself. She was not interested in being a center of attention. Her main focus was upon God."

  • Kate M. -- "I think that Albert Einstein was the most influential person that lived in the 20th century. He has been credited with changing the scientific thought without conducting a single experiment. He was a brilliant man with many ideas stored in his head, and the world is very lucky that he was willing to share his rich knowledge of science."

  • Melissa A. -- "I consider Oprah Winfrey to be one of the most influential people of the 20th century. One of her major accomplishments is that she has brought a respect for African Americans to the United States mainly though her television show."

  • Tania C. -- "Walt Disney was one of the most important people of the 20th century. When times were rough during the period of the Depression, Walt's animation became a relief to the people of the time."

  • Katherine L. -- "One person has demonstrated to me her outstanding influence on the people of today. Her name is Mother Teresa. Devoting her entire being to her work, clothing the needy and feeding the sick, she not only gave them life but hope as well."

  • Carlie P. -- "Although his impact on the world was a negative one, I believe Adolf Hitler has been one of the most influential people of the 20th century. He built up the infamous Nazi war party and began World War II in 1939. He looked on his fellow humans as pawns and building bricks in his structure he would build and use to take over the world. Hitler's worldly impact was destructive and brutal, and nothing he built or formed survived."


Who would your students choose? Invite them to visit the TIME 100 Web site and explore the lives of some of the 100 men and women profiled there. Challenge them to write a brief essay -- as the students above did -- explaining why they feel one of those people is the most influential of all.

Each biographical profile on TIME's site includes a timeline, a biography, photographs or illustrations, audio and video clips, articles from TIME's archives, and links to online resources. The site also contains an online chat area, a bulletin board, an interactive quiz, a Place-the-Face game, and a comparison of the world in 1900 and today in areas such as population, employment, life expectancy, and natural resources. In addition, students can vote for the Person of the Century, the Event of the Century, the Greatest Frauds and Phonies of the Century, and the Worst Ideas of the Century.


Quite apart from the information provided, the TIME site provides a fascinating and revealing look at the current state of technology and its educational applications. It's certainly a great place to visit! Of course, you may not want to live there. Exploring the site is a daunting task and not all the information is appropriate for all students. To make your job a little easier, we've provided 100 sites -- one for each individual profiled -- that will allow you and your students to investigate some of the people TIME has profiled without navigating the entire TIME 100 site.


Leaders and Revolutionaries

"The history of the world is full of men who rose to leadership, by sheer force of self-confidence, bravery and tenacity."
  -- Mahatma Gandhi

Artists and Entertainers

"I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being."
   -- Thornton Wilder, playwright

Builders and Titans

"Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get."
  -- Ray Kroc, McDonalds founder

Scientists and Thinkers "Everything that can be said, can be said clearly." -- Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher

Heroes and Icons

"A hero is someone who overcomes [his or her] innate limitations to lead and accomplish something extraordinary or leaves an extraordinary legacy behind."
  -- Alexander C. Sanger, Planned Parenthood president and grandson of Margaret Sanger.


After exploring the TIME 100 site or investigating the Web sites above, encourage your students to participate in one of these activities:

  1. Write an essay about a Hero for the Red Land High School Interactive Technology site, or about a Peace Hero for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

  2. Create a Web site about your school's namesake.

  3. Hold a debate on whether good or evil has a more lasting effect on the world.

  4. Create your own lists of "bests" and "worsts" of the century or the decade. Vote for the winners and graph your results.

  5. Start up the Biography Maker from Washington's Bellingham Public Schools, and write a biography of a world figure.

  6. Choose one person from the TIME 100 site, and create a timeline of his or her life. Continue the timeline past the person's death or into the future to show how that person's life has and will continue to affect the world.

  7. Make a list of your talents and goals. Then create a timeline or write a biography of your own life, from birth through the next century.

  8. Nominate someone for the TIME poll, backing up your nomination with facts. Create a multimedia presentation about your nominee.

  9. Ray Kroc believed that, "Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get." Search online and in print resources for a quote that will inspire you to achieve your goals. Print the quote, and illustrate it -- or write your own!

  10. Choose one person from the site and list several facts about that person. Challenge your classmates to identify the person based on the clues you've provided.

Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © 1999 Education World