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..”
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.
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.
5. Mr. G – Summer Heights High
Summer Heights High is an Australian mockumentary that gained a lot of attention when it aired in 2007. Created by Chris Lilly, who plays three characters (including the one highlighted here), it was a parody of high school life that included non-actors as background players.
The character of Mr. G is an effeminate 37-year-old drama teacher at the school who believes he’s extremely well liked – so he’s somewhat of a dramatic Australian Michael Scott.
While he might not be as kind as the aforementioned teachers, he definitely has a passion behind the musical he wants to produce at school – based on a student’s unfortunate death based on drugs, yet somehow named Mr. G: The Musical.
Good news, everyone! Every list of great teachers deserves one mad scientist. While a bit senile, the Professor has put at least one parallel universe in peril with his inventions – yet he never let the bad days take away his dream of being the best scientist out there. (Hear that, Odgen Wernstrom? He’s just not giving up.)
Farnsworth makes the list because while being a bit dim, he has helped the crew during many an episode. While I unpopularly love the “Jurassic Bark” episode where Fry tries to rejuvenate a mummified version of his loving dog Seymour, it’s Farnsworth who creates the device to make it possible.
(And it fails because of Bender. I won’t explain it further, as I’ve been near tears since the start of that second paragraph.) (It’s just an emotional episode, okay?)
7. Dewey Finn – School of Rock
I always liked Jack Black, but School of Rock is one of his projects that has impressed me the most. When he’s kicked out of his band in the beginning of the movie and threatened to be evicted by his two roommates, Ned and Patty, based on his lack of a job, Dewey pretends he’s Ned on the phone and accepts a substitute teacher assignment. While not being fit to teach kids, his interest in the classroom grows once he realizes his students are musically talented.
Long story short, the kids form a secret band with Dewey and end up kicking a lot of butt at a Battle of the Bands. And while their parents are ticked off at Dewey for not teaching their children academic studies and for running away from them to play a show, they realize he’s harmless and the kids are having an amazing time.
8. Syrio Forel – Game Of Thrones
Sure, Syrio wasn’t on the show for long, but his amazing fencing skills were passed onto everyone’s favorite character, the young Arya Stark. Syrio trained Arya using wooden swords filled with lead, and also mentored her on how to think like a warrior: to be perceptive, move with grace, and command her fear.
While Syrio’s teachings may have lead to a lot of bruises, (as he says, every hurt is a lesson and every lesson makes you better), Arya refuses to learn under anyone else.
In turn, Arya turned out to be one of the most fearless members of the Stark family.
9. Lily Aldrin – How I Met Your Mother
Lily makes some questionable choices as a teacher and might have badmouthed a few of her students while trying to figure out a baby name with her husband Marshall, but she’s a tough little firecracker who seems content with her job. I mean, with activities like coloring, finger painting, show and tell, nap time and sharing, what’s there to be sad about?
Lily also has a Career Day, where she brings some of her buddies (Robin and Barney) in to talk about what they do for a living. As a running gag, it’s still never revealed as to what Barney does for a living. Instead of writing it on the chalkboard under his name, all it said was “not the purple one”.
10. Prof. Grady Tripp – Wonder Boys
First thing’s first – if you’ve never seen this movie, please do. This was back when Tobey Maguire was still boyishly cute, and not in the midst of a scary dangerous Seabiscuit weight plummet. But this is about Grady – played by the wonderful Michael Douglas.
Grady is so influential as an English professor that Tobey’s character, James Leer, uses him as a mentor without him every officially accepting the job. Grady’s also a writer, working on a follow-up to a best selling novel. And as many writers who feel the pressure of their second big hit, which has been in an “incomplete” status for many years, there’s a sadness in Grady.
While he might not make all of the right personal choices, Grady isn’t jarring or dimwitted – he’s human, and quite an amazing character.
Who makes your list of top teachers? Do you have any teachers you’d like to give props to in the comments? We’d love to hear about some of the strong people who’ve taught and inspired you!