Mother Teresa

3, 4, 5

This lesson will help students identify the attributes of a hero as related to acting for the common good. The students will identify Mother Teresa as a hero for her philanthropic work and highlight examples of her work and character. While written for a Catholic Elementary School, this lesson may be easily adapted for public school use.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Thirty-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • list characteristics of a hero.
  • describe the work of Mother Teresa and her ministry with the poor.
  • identify heroes in current day.
  • Student copies of Handout, Mother Teresa of Calcutta Quiz (Spanish version available)
  • read aloud copy of Mother Teresa, Sister of the Poor by Patricia Reilly Giff (see Bibliography)
  • The Children's Book of Heroes by William J. Bennett (see Bibliography)
  • Bennett, William and Michael Hague. The Children's Book of Heroes. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986. ISBN: 0684834456
  • Biography: Mother Teresa
  • Giff, Patricia Reilly. Mother Teresa: Sister to the Poor (Women of Our Time). Viking Press, 1986. ISBN: 0670810967
  • Manternach, Janaan and Carl J. Pfeifer. This Is Our Faith. Parsippany, NJ: Silver Burdett Ginn, Inc., 1998.
  • Mother Teresa Briefing Paper /resources/mother-teresa
  • Time,9171,991258,00.html (a good site for a summary of Mother Teresa's life as well as links to other resource sites)


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Read the following quote by Mother Teresa and talk about who Mother Teresa is. 

    Give! Give the love you have received. To those around you. You must love with your time, your hands and your hearts. You need to share all that you have. -Mother Teresa, from Hearts of Joy

    Discuss whether we can share all that we have. What does it mean to love with your time, love with your hands?

  2. Review the definition of a philanthropist. Discuss the above poem as it relates to philanthropy. Discuss in what ways Mother Teresa was a philanthropist and a hero.

    Brainstorm a list of words or phrases that describes a hero who shows love with their time and their hands. Today's definition of hero: a person who is admired for great courage, special achievements, or noble character.

  3. Read the story from The Children's Book of Heroes about Mother Teresa or Mother Teresa: Sister to the Poor by Patricia Reilly Giff. Review the story and discuss the fact that all over the world Mother Teresa was known as a person of good character with personal virtue. Discuss the importance of personal virtue, good character, and ethical behavior for ourselves and what that reasonably looks like. 

    Give students the Mother Teresa of Calcutta Quiz handout.

  4. Have students write about Mother Teresa. They may write a poem, a song, a biography, or a comparison with a hero of their choosing, possibly a nurse or firefighter. Students should incorporate their ideas about philanthropy and heroes in their writing.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark E.3 Discuss the importance of personal virtue, good character, and ethical behavior in a democracy.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.4 Give an example of how citizens act for the common good.