Well, with school just around the corner, I thought that I would pay some lip service to the fictional teachers who we all got to know and come to love so well. Those teachers who either brought something funny, absurd, insightful or educational into the world of their students and made them all better for it. Now, I couldn’t restrict this to any one genre, but I am saying this – only one teacher per franchise. That way, I don’t have half of the teachers from Hogwarts that I liked. That said, here are my personal favorite teachers from fiction. Let me know who you like in the comments section.
10. Mr. Garrison
Probably the only person who has ever been able to reign in the absolute dick-hole nature of Eric Cartmen, Mr. Garrison is fun on so many levels. I still have fond memories of the scene where Mr. Garrison tries to teach the class about endothermic reactions by shoving a glass tube and then Lemiwinks up Mr. Slave’s ass. He was a horrifically awful teacher who was just so much fun to watch. Yet, despite his flaws, he was still there for his students, and was a part of the gay community in South Park, which made him even more interesting. While not a great teacher by any stretch, he still did his best. Being a totally perverted dick just happened to be a part of that.
9. Mrs. Krabappel
It was a sad day when I heard that the women who did the voice of Mrs. Krabappel, Marcia Wallace, had passed away. Much like Mr. Garrison, Mrs. Krabappel was the only person who could reign in the antics of another famous problem-child, Bart Simpson. On the surface, she sounds continually bored by her job, wanting to be anywhere but there. However, she does have a certain soft spot for Bart. There is an early episode where she is about to flunk him unless he retook a test. Bart studied like crazy and actually put his very best into the test. And yet, he failed. It was an emotional scene when he tells her how hard he tried, yet still didn’t succeed. A lesson that so few shows teach kids – that that can happen. She was moved by him and decided to let him pass. Not only was she a fun teacher, but seeing this woman’s on-again off-again relationship with Principal Skinner was hilarious. Marcia Wallace leaves behind a legacy of an amazing character, and she will be missed.
The Sword in the Stone
This whole film was a lot like being at school. And what better teacher than the wizard himself, Merlin? This is a fun guy to learn from. Not only does he put his magical talents to use to show Arthur how the world is, but he also gives valuable lessons on what it takes to be a good king. He’s a fun old man who enjoys being out in the wilderness and being able to be all magical and whatnot with his young pupil. It is a role that feels very much like being an English schoolboy and listening to teacher give you your lesson. I wonder what the English kids think about it? Something to ponder, I guess. In any case, not much to say other than – he’s a lot of fun, and it’s a very laid-back film.
7. Roland Pryzbylewski
This is one of my favorite characters on the show. Originally, it is for the quiet and analytical mind that he brings to the table in the cases he works on. He becomes a kind of protegee to Lester Freamon, he becomes one of the most valued assets of the investigations he is involved in. After an incident on a case where he ends up shooting a black man, he is under investigation for what the department believes to be a racially motivated action on his part. Rather than fight it, Pryz decides to ditch police work. He becomes a teacher in the poorer part of Baltimore, and it is here that you see how good of a man he really is. Rather than just teaching a dry and boring curriculum, he tries to engage students. When he sees some of the hard-luck cases in his classrooms, he goes out of his way to try and help. It is part of the cruel reality of the series when you realize how all his effort is for naught, as he is still just one man, against a system that is cruel and uncompromising. Still, he is a great teacher and one of my favorite characters.
6. Miss Trunchbull
What’s that? Why not Miss Honey? Well, I’ll tell you why – because this woman was so much fun! It’s clear that the woman who played her was having a lot of fun too, because this role was one of the most deliciously-evil villains I have ever seen. The head of the school that Matilda ends up going to, she rules with an iron fist. Any student who steps out of line is dealt with in the most severe way possible. She flings one girl over a fence by her pigtails! She also makes a kid who stole some of her personal chocolate cake eat an entire cake on his own, the goal being to either make him sick, explode or pass out. Sure, this woman is about as pure evil as it gets, but you can’t help but love to watch it. I’m glad that the woman who played her enjoyed the role as much as I did watching it. I hope she went on to have a good career.
5. Ms. Grotke
If there is a more enjoyable and wholesome teacher to watch, I can’t think of it. Ms. Grotke is a child of the 70’s, who never really left her hippie roots behind. She brings that belief structure into the classroom with her, but doesn’t let that allow her to slide in her dedication to being a good teacher. Not only does she teach differently, she is also very tight with her students. It’s clear that she cares very deeply for each of them, and you see in the Recess film that parting with them is hard for her. But that dedication is paid back in full. Her class is dedicated to her as well. When a substitute comes into class when she is away for surgery, TJ steps up against the man who very quickly becomes popular to the class. This woman was a lot of fun to watch, and I also have missed being in her class in the mornings when I ate cereal and waited for the bus.
4. Ms. Frizzle
Magic School Bus
If there was a class that I wished I could attend, it would have been this one. This woman is 8 different kinds of cool! With her catchphrase being “let’s take chances, make mistakes and get messy!” she shows that she is all about living life to the fullest. This translates into her students and their classroom activities. Every day must just be so fun in her class. Granted, I’m sure that some days must be less exciting than the days where they are going on their regular “field trips,” but still, I doubt that anything in the class has students being like “ugh, not this again!” A dedicated woman who I wish I could have had as a teacher back in the day, she is loyal to her students and despite putting them in extreme situations, she is always in control. She wouldn’t let anything happen to one of her pupils.
3. Albus Dumbledore
Harry Potter (series)
The definitive awesome teacher, this guy is arguably the most dedicated to his students as well. The headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Professor Dumbledore is an eccentric wizard who loves to be ridiculous. However, he never once takes his responsibilities to the students anything but seriously. Known for being a soft-spoken man, he can get enraged and very unpleasant when he wants to. Following the revival of the Dark Lord, he becomes the leader of the new Order of the Phoenix. His battle against Lord Voldemort eventually leads him to having to sacrifice his life, knowing that he has put the elements in play for his plan to be completed. The thing that stuck out most about Dumbledore, though, was his dedication to Harry Potter. Becoming a kind of surrogate parent, he sees that boy like the son he never had. A wise, brilliant and tragic man, he was loved by so many, before he passed on.
2. Walter White
Nothing like a teacher who is willing to break rules, right? As a teacher, Walt’s talent was wasted. A brilliant chemist who ended up having to become a teacher to pay his bills, Walt hates his life and wants it to change. He gets his wish when he is diagnosed with lung cancer. Following that, along with the fear that he will have no money to leave his family, a darker life begins, with him pursuing new world as a meth manufacturer and eventually distributor. Thus begins his long battle between him and his ruthless alter-ego, Heisenberg. The tragic descent of both characters into this new life, with it gradually consuming more and more of his world is a brilliant tale that should be counted among the greatest of American tragic films. Alas, it won’t be. Too bad.
And my favorite fictional teacher is…
1. Charles Xavier
The founding member of the X-Men, he established the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. On the surface, it appears to be a school for really smart kids, but in reality it is a safe place for mutants. The school has all kinds. It has kids whose parents want them to get help with their abilities, those who were thrown out by their families and those who are a danger to themselves and others, looking for a way out. A wise man who cares very much for his students, like Dumbledore, Professor Xavier will do anything to protect them. God help anybody who fucks with the school. While he prefers to handle things without violence, Xavier has a special team of agents who will do whatever must be done to not only protect his people, but the normal people as well. It’s one thing to stand up for your friends. It’s another to stand up for your enemies. Xavier was the most intelligent, kind-hearted and wise teacher who has ever been, and that earns him his spot here.
Remember to be grateful for the teachers in your real life who are better than the average dipstick. And make sure to thank them for all their hard work. Their wages and the public at large treat them like shit. I’m sure they could use the praise.
Until next time, a quote,
“These lights represent every living person on the planet. These white lights are the humans… and these are the mutants. You see, Logan? We’re not as alone as you think.” -Charles Xavier, X2