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Remember your favorite teacher? The one that inspired you to dissect a frog/understand Shakespeare/try out for the Mathletes? The teacher whose class you wanted to attend? We’d give ’em all gold stars if we could. But today, we celebrate the next best thing: a round-up of 40 kick-ass fictional teachers.
From ruler-wielding disciplinarians who demand respect to nurturing mentors who instill worldly wisdom to nutball professors who ignore the syllabus; these teachers get our shiny red apple of approval.
1. Ms. Norbury, Mean Girls
Ms. Norbury ushers Cady away from the cliquey Plastics and into the Mathletes, but her finest moment may be telling the female student body to lay off the sexist insults.
Available at Amazon for $4
2. Miss Honey, Matilda
After bonding over their disastrous childhoods, Miss Honey adopts Matilda as her own, in an idyllic student-teacher happily-ever-after.
3. Miss Crabtree, Little Rascals
Her name may have been crabby, but beautiful Miss Crabtree has the patience of a saint. Who else could put up with the Rascals’ pranks — like the time they swapped their history books for joke books?
4. Dumbledore, Harry Potter
The head of Gryffindor House; the Headmaster of Hogwarts; the greatest wizard in the world: is there anything Albus Dumbledore can’t do?
5. Mr. Collins, The Wonder Years
After inspiring Kevin to strive for an A in math class, strict Mr. Collins dies tragically from a hidden illness, leaving a life-shaping impression on young Kev.
Available at Amazon for $12.96
6. William Forrester, Finding Forrester
Recluse author William Forrester mentors smart-but-lazy Jamal in his writing, spurring an overly-quoted catchphrase: “You’re the man now, dog!”
7. Miss Nelson, Miss Nelson Is Missing!
Nicey-nice Miss Nelson goes incognito as strict Viola Swamp to teach her students a lesson in appreciation.
8. Miss Bliss, Saved by the Bell
Did you know Saved by the Bell was originally titled Good Morning, Miss Bliss and starred Miss Bliss, the loveable and sensible English teacher of Bayside High? Neither did we.
9. Mr. Miyagi, The Karate Kid
Only Mr. Miyagi could turn the mundane task of car-waxing (“wax on, wax off”) into an invaluable karate lesson for his young prot’g’.
10. Sam Coulson, Never Been Kissed
Dreamy Mr. Coulson teaches nerdy under-cover reporter Josie the big high school lesson: popularity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Available at Amazon for $3.74
11. Melvin B. Tolson, The Great Debaters
In an effort to gain equal rights for his historically-black debate team, strict Melvin Tolson exhausts all resources in the name of his students.
12. Mr. Feeny, Boy Meets World
Despite Feeny’s hard exterior and biting sarcasm, he has a soft spot for troublesome trio Corey, Shawn, and Eric. And for that, we have a soft spot for him.
13. Miss Canfield, Leave it to Beaver
Despite Beaver’s antics, Miss Canfield always remained calm and collected. Sadly, the pretty teacher left after only four episodes; better salary perhaps?
14. Professor Jennings, Animal House
Yeah, the pot-smoking professor isn’t exactly a good example, but at least he’s honest. He freely admits he finds Milton as boring as his students do.
15. Miss Harris, The Great Gilly Hopkins
With the help of her patient sixth grade teacher, Gilly breaks down prejudices, excels in school, and learns that her real name-Galadriel-comes from Lord of the Rings!
Available at Amazon for $5.20
16. Mr. Kotter, Welcome Back, Kotter
You can’t go back and fix your own childhood, but Mr. Kotter comes closer than most of us ever will when he returns to his roots to teach the “unteachable” Sweathogs.
17. Johnny Castle, Dirty Dancing
Sure, he’s not a teacher in the traditional sense. But when he declares, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” we think he teaches Jennifer Grey waaay more than any textbook could.
18. Mr. Holland, Mr. Holland’s Opus
After his music program’s been canceled, Mr. Holland discovers his former students have learned the notes to a symphony he’s been writing for more than 30 years. Now that’s an act of love.
19. Mr. Cooper, Hanging with Mr. Cooper
Funny and laid back, Mr. Cooper is the substitute teacher we all wish we had.
20. Economics Teacher, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Young Ben Stein isn’t particularly inspirational, but he does give an anthem to class-cutters everywhere with his monotone role call: “Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?”
Available at Amazon for $5
21. Andie Bergstrom, Space Camp
When their spaceship accidentally lifts off, NASA instructor Andie Bergstrom doesn’t just teach her kids science; she teaches them how to stay alive.
22. Dewey Finn, School of Rock
Sure, he’s a tad self-motivated, but rocker Dewey Finn recognizes his kids’ musical talent and transforms them into a band, complete with rock history lessons.
23. Miss McKay, The Mighty Ducks
A tutor that covers as a make-shift hockey coach when Gordon Bombay bails? Now that’s the kind of lady we want enlightening our youth.
24. Charles Xavier, X-Men
He promotes mutant rights, he’s the go-to man for the Marvel Superhero community; he’s a visionary and promoter of peace. Need we say more?
25. Jaime Escalante, Stand and Deliver
Available at Amazon for $5.09
26. Mrs. Jewls, Sideways Stories from Wayside School
Compared to Wayside School’s other quirky faculty, sweet Mrs. Jewls and her tub of tootsie pops seem downright normal.
27. Roberta Guaspari, Music of the Heart
Roberta Guaspari demands her students to live up to their full potential: What starts as struggling strings program ends at a concert in Carnegie Hall.
28. Mrs. Edmunds, Bridge to Terabithia
Hippie music teacher Mrs. Edmunds is a make-shift Mom to troubled Jesse; she recognizes his artistic potential; and gives him the much-needed affection his family does not.
29. Miss Frizzle, The Magic School Bus
The Friz, as she’s affectionately known by her students, has the best classroom motto ever: Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy! Plus, it’s hard to compete with a school bus that’s magic.
30. Merlin, The Sword in the Stone
The wizard teaches squire-in-training Wart lessons about gravity, the opposite sex, and the power of flying by transforming him into animals. Where do we sign up?
Available at Amazon for $9.99
31. Bill Rago, Renaissance Man
Anyone that uses Shakespeare to soften up a group of army brats has major teacher cojones.
32. Katherine Watson, Mona Lisa Smile
Feminist Miss Watson teaches the gals of Wellesley College in the 1950s an invaluable lesson: marriage and career are not mutually exclusive.
33. Miss Binney, Ramona the Pest
As Ramona says herself, “Kindergarten would not be Kindergarten without Miss Binney.” The smiley teacher compliments Ramona’s Q’s, praises her for raising her hand, and patiently explains confusing words.
34. Mr. Hand, Fast Times At Ridgemont High
Proving that teachers have a sense of humor too, Mr. Hand pranks ultimate prankster Jeff Spicoli with an impromptu history lesson right before Prom.
35. Mr. Garrison, South Park
He’s got dozens of classroom-inappropriate issues, but he and Mr. Hat tell it like it is: “There are no stupid questions. Just stupid people.”
Available at Amazon for $10.99
36. Christy Huddleston, Christy
Kellie Martin played an inspirational stick-to-her-guns woman who comes to teach in the Appalachian Mountains. Never heard of her? The series was sadly canceled after 20 episodes.
37. Mother Superior, The Trouble With Angels
Think a Catholic nun can’t possibly relate to rebellious teenage girls? Think again. Despite Mary Clancy’s repeated pranks on Mother Superior, she never gives up on her high-spirited pupil.
38. Professor Bhaer, Little Women
The soft-spoken professor from Germany can teach all ages. He’s the beloved tutor of Mrs. Kirke’s children and he encourages Jo March to ditch the tabloids and write from the heart.
39. Professor Keating, Dead Poets Society
Any professor that tears chapters out of textbooks, and actually gets his students to learn more, is one whose class we’d gladly take.
40. Mrs. Olinski, The View From Saturday
After being paralyzed, Mrs. Olinski loses confidence in her teaching ability. But by the time she’s ushered her Academic Team to victory, she and the students have taught each other more than a textbook ever could.