Top 10 Best Teachers On TV (And Movies, Too!)

You might have seen the video that’s circulating the internet which stars a young man named Jeff Bliss. Jeff, who didn’t realize he was being videotaped, (politely) told off one of his teachers whose methods of teaching required handing out packets of paper. “There’s kids in here who don’t learn like that. They need to learn face to face,” Bliss argues. “You gotta make ‘em excited.”

As a kid who grew up in a family of teachers (count ‘em: Dad, Mom, uncle and cousin), the profession was definitely considered for myself at some time. But I knew that had I gone that route, I would have ended up just like Unspecified Packet Teacher.  The job holds a lot of weight – as Bliss notes, you’re in charge of molding the minds of kids, and have to “touch [their] freakin’ heart..”

I applaud Jeff for taking such a bold stand. It’s rare for a kid to act up in class based on the quality of their education, and it took a lot of courage to say what he said. Plus, he didn’t do it to get his fifteen minutes of fame, which is typical in most viral phenomenons of today. (And I have to say it – I’m a bit jealous of his hair. It’s just luxurious.)

In honor of Jeff and the teachers out there who know it’s a passion and not just a paycheck, here’s my list of Top Ten TV and Movie Teachers who I find to be quite brilliant – and who Jeff would probably approve of as well.

1. Mr. Hand – Fast Times at Ridgemont High

While a lot of people might credit Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) for taking the spotlight in this film, I think his interactions with Mr. Hand are what made it a classic. I mean, this guy makes the word “aloha” seem threatening. Yet he was so dedicated in making sure Spicoli learned something from his American History class that he showed up at his house on the night of the graduation dance and stated that since he wasted a total of eight hours of “his time” at school, he’d be making up for it during Spicoli’s free time. That’s one dedicated teacher.

While every quote is honestly a gem, here’s my favorite:

Mr. Hand: What’s the reason for your truancy?
Jeff Spicoli: Just couldn’t make it on time.
Mr. Hand: You couldn’t, or you wouldn’t?
Jeff Spicoli: See, there was a full crowd at the food lines.
Mr. Hand: Food will be eaten on your time. Why are you continuously late for this class, Mr. Spicoli? Why do you shamelessly waste my time like this?
Jeff Spicoli: … I don’t know.
Mr. Hand: [Mr. Hand goes to blackboard and writes the words ‘I Don’t Know’, then underlines them]
Mr. Hand: I like that. ‘I Don’t Know.’ That’s nice. ‘Mr. Hand, will I pass this class?’ Gee, Mr. Spicoli, I don’t know! You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to leave your words right up here for all my classes to enjoy, giving you full credit of course, Mr. Spicoli.
Jeff Spicoli: All right!

2. Mr. Belding – Saved By The Bell


Oh, how I miss writing recaps for this show. When I did, I covered one of my ultimate favorite episodes – “The Fabulous Belding Boys“. This was the episode where the audience met the never-before-seen (and never-mentioned-again) Rod Belding, Mr. Belding’s hip and sexy brother. Long story short, Rod promises to take the kids white water rafting and the gang is so into it that they ditch Belding’s already-planned idea for a class trip in a matter of two seconds. Day of, Rod abandons the kids because he met a stewardess (in these days, they’d be known as flight attendants), and Belding offers to take them on the rafting trip despite the fact that he’s the cool one who thought up the idea in the first place. Belding just liked his students. And despite the amount of trouble that Zack got into on a weekly basis, Belding still rallied behind him. I’d be honored if he was my principal.

3.  Mr. Feeny – Boy Meets World

Not only was he their neighbor, but he pretty much followed Corey Matthews throughout his entire middle and high school years! This is… well, highly unlikely in the real world, but I can understand why the show wanted to hold onto Feeny. He was an excellent teacher and mentor. Also, he had a good sense of humor. I mean, he never called the police on Eric Matthews over the Feeny Call.

4. Jess Day – New Girl

Who else is amped that Jess might get to teach kids again? Our girl Zooey is an absolute natural while portraying Jess in a classroom. Remember how heartbroken she was when she was laid off? It’s because teaching is Jess’s passion – and the best teachers know their second home is at school.

When Jess was cyberbullied by one of her students, it’s simply because she wanted to help one of her more unpopular students become accepted through the power of song.

She took an interest in him beyond her classroom teachings, which is an admirable trait for someone in her profession. Her district made a huge mistake in letting her go in the first place.

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  • Caitlin Margaret Stokes

    May I add?

    John Keating, Dead Poets Society
    Professor Mcgonagall, Snape, and Dumbledore, Harry Potter
    Ms. Frizzle, Magic School Bus
    YODA, Starwars

    that’s just a few off the top of my head

  • Jenny Lonussen

    Agree with the Harry Potter ones Caitlin mentioned. Also another Zooey D character the teacher from Bridge to Terabithia (even though that movie makes children cry 😉 ),

  • Brad Olinger

    I have to just say bravo to the kid on the video. Some kids do want to learn, and that needed pointing out. From the list, my favorite is Jess(who aside from being portrayed by Zooey Deschanel, who makes watching the role even more fun with her quirkiness), simply because that is how a teacher is supposed to be. I was lucky enough to have some really great teachers who actively engaged their students, especially in Drama, English, and Science, back when I was in high school(in a small town, ya’ll), so I know how much the right teachers can contribute to the future of a child or teenager.

  • Gwendolyne Ch

    may I suggest “The English Teacher” movie starring Julianne Moore
    She is awesome in that character!
    Now in theaters!!

  • Paul L. Gaba

    Any list of this nature is incomplete without mention of both music teacher Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss) of “Mr. Holland’s Opus” fame and Gabe Kotter (Gabe Kaplan) of the 1970s “Welcome Back, Kotter.”

  • Beth Louise MacKenzie

    How can you forget Mr Keating from “Dead Poets Society”? Or the beloved Principal Skinner from “the Simpsons”?

  • Angie Boyce

    So Dead Poets Society doesn’t even get a mention (possibly the best and most inspirational teacher ever depicted in film)? Hilary Swank in Freedom Writers is just AMAZING. Mr. Holland’s Opus? Heck, even Mona Lisa Smile? I know this is hello giggles, but come on – Jess on “New Girl” is cute, but a Johnny Come Lately and hardly on par in terms of depth, substance/genuine emotion or even screen time ‘teaching’!

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