Ah, it’s that glorious time of year where freedom is restricted and we find ourselves daydreaming of those campfires gone by. As the seasonal melody, eternalized by Danny Zuko and Sandy Wilson, reminds us: summer dreams are ripped at the seams. School is back in session and our educators have emerged from the staffroom after months of hibernation to teach us how to read, write and do good. Many of these teachers become mentors, role models or lifelong inspirations for many of us. In our favourite television shows and films, that role ranges from dark professors of wizardry to burned-out substitutes. To honour those who know it’s a passion and not a paycheck, here are ten teachers that we wish that we had.
1. Sharon Norbury – MEAN GIRLS
Spending her time split between teaching twelfth grade calculus at North Shore High School and bartending at TJ Calamity’s, Ms. Norbury is a “successful, intelligent, caring, graceful young woman.” She ushers Cady Heron away from the menacing Plastics, while coaching her Mathlete team to state championships. Though her pinnacle moment comes with the level-headed advice she gives that rambunctious collection of high-school girls.
“You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores.”
2. Mr. Hand – FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH
Brilliantly named. Menacingly strict. Mr. Hand is the representation of the old-guard teacher that most of us are familiar with. His disciplinary approach doesn’t bode well with the perma-stoned Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) who is late to class and orders pizza, but is ultimately matched by Mr. Hand with an impromptu history lesson before prom. That’s dedication.
3. Melvin B. Tolson – THE GREAT DEBATERS
Teachers often go beyond the academic into issues of race, class, generational conflict to help guide their students to overcome. Tolson goes beyond when his all-black-college debate team cannot compete in a national tournament, he lets them know that their struggle is personal and leads them to beat Harvard: “You are my students. I am your teacher. That is a sacred trust.”
“Debate is blood sport. It’s combat, but your weapons are words.”
4. Jeff Rosso – FREAKS AND GEEKS
Guidance counselors assess your skills and interests, setting your school day goals into gear and in most cases, they often have some great snacks to share. Mr. Rosso’s wisdom, once denied by network overlords, has gained new life in the Netflix era as the laid-back hippie counselor of William McKinley High School with patience, appreciation and relatable references to shock-rock icons that undoubtedly pushed James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel into international box-office acclaim. (NOTE: That is an undeveloped theory.)
“There’s two ways you can look at anything in this life. Take my job for instance. I could get up every morning and go “I don’t wanna go and help a bunch of kids. I’m tired.” But I don’t. I get up, and put on my shirt and my tie and I say, “Hot dog! Lemme at ’em.””
5. George Feeny – BOY MEETS WORLD
Arguably the most lovable television teacher of all time with a lethal balance of sarcasm and hard-shelled patience. It could be argued that following three kids from elementary school to college is deemed as criminal harassment, but his incredible knowledge and ability to recognize anybody who cross-dresses trump that notion. FEENY CALL!
“You see Mr. Matthews, education is not about obscure facts and little test scores. Education is about the overall effects of years of slow absorption. Concepts, philosophies, approaches to problem solving. The whole process is so grand and all-encompassing that it really can’t be threatened by the occasional late-night no-hitter. It is important that a boy spend time with his father.”
6. John Keating – DEAD POET’S SOCIETY
Knicked by the school’s headmaster for unorthodox methods of teaching is pretty standard Hollywood plot development for teachers who demonstrate care. Robin Williams’ memorable performance as the free-spirited English teacher is likely to blame. His poetry appreciation breathed life to Welton Academy and generations who watch the film. Who doesn’t wish they had a teacher who orders their class to rip pages out of their books?
“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”
7. Glenn Holland – MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS
When Mr. Holland begins teaching at John F. Kennedy High School, it is a side-gig to make some cash to fuel his own musical pursuits. He finds himself teaching for three decades, only to have his program cancelled and his orchestral dreams tarnished. In a true act of love, his former students performed his orchestral symphony that he had been working on all of those years. Emotion, baby. Raw emotion.
“Playing music is supposed to be fun. It’s about heart, it’s about feelings, moving people, and something beautiful, and it’s not about notes on a page. I can teach you notes on a page, I can’t teach you that other stuff.”
8. Dewey Finn – SCHOOL OF ROCK
Mr. Holland’s Opus for the devil’s music – rock ‘n roll! Dewey is motivated by financial gain at the beginning, to become a teacher and win the Battle of the Bands. Even though that intent doesn’t waver too far, his ability to encourage rebellion instilled a relationship that results in a kickass performance. His impact hit so hard that they reunited a decade later for an encore.
“You could be the ugliest sad sack on the planet, but if you’re in a rocking band, you’re the cat’s pajamas.“
9. Valerie Frizzle in Magic School Bus
The Friz! She has a magic school bus. That is all.
“Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.”
10. Professor Indiana Jones – INDIANA JONES
Falling under the questionable shenanigans category (see: Walter White of Breaking Bad and the beloved Simpsons educator, Edna Krabappel) for their consistent inconsistency in displaying… well, consistency, Mr. Jones lives and breathes his passion with a worn fedora and bullwhip. Besides, name another teacher that has been a popular child’s Halloween costume for over two decades!
“Archaeology is the search for fact… not truth. If it’s truth you’re looking for, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall.”
Carrie Bliss in Saved By The Bell; Ned Fellows in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; John Kimble in Kindergarten Cop ; Gabe Kotter in Welcome Back, Kotter ; Michele MacKay in D2: The Mighty Ducks; Minerva McGonagall in Harry Potter; Kesuke Miyagi in The Karate Kid; Charles Xavier in X-Men