But I never had that. Don't get me wrong, most of my teachers were great at their jobs (what up, Ms. Jawanda! You complete me!), and the ones who weren't so great succeeded, at least, in not totally scarring me, with the exception of my elementary school gym teacher, Mr. Hyman (the cruelest part is that I WAS TOO YOUNG TO KNOW IT WAS FUNNY*), whose sudden-death basketball tournament still haunts my dreams.
*I also had a teacher named Ms. Klitnick. Same school. True story.
So I'm left to worship the all-time great teachers I've had courtesy of film and television. Choosing my top ten was hard, so I had to throw down some basic rules:
1. They have to be traditional school teachers, i.e. no Mr. Miyagi or Yoda-style spiritual guides, no administrators à la Mrs. Teasley from 90210 or Principal Skinner, and no impostors like Arnold Schwarzenegger's iconic role as Detective John Kimble in Kindergarten Cop. Sads, I know.
2. No teachers who headline their own show or movie. They have to be scene-stealing supporting players. Sorry Mr. Kotter, Mr. Cooper, Mr. Holland, Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous
Races Minds, and my personal dreamboat Mark Harmon.
3. No one who helped Haley Joel Osment pay it forward (you know who you are).
4. No teachers from books. Because, you know, ugh, PAGE WORDS. (My teachers are so proud of me.)
Who does that leave? My all-stars. To wit:
1. MR. HAND (Ray Walston), American History, Fast Times at Ridgemont High
OK, so this severe disciplinarian (some might say... dick) loses points for torturing Sean Penn’s completely lovable Jeff Spicoli, but if you don’t secretly love the curmudgeonly Mr. Hand, you people must be on dope.
2. MS. KRABAPPEL (Marcia Wallace), 4th Grade, The Simpsons
World-weary, disgruntled, drunk, and perpetually horny, Edna Flanders (née Krabappel) is the yellow-skinned gold standard for bad teachers.
3. COACH CUTLIP (Robert Picardo), Gym, The Wonder Years
So, I guess I really have a thing for deeply unhappy bullies. Or I just really enjoy pointing out that Coach Cutlip led a double life as a sexy, spray-tanned cowboy in Innerspace:
4. MR. KATIMSKI (Jeff Perry), English and Drama Club, My So-Called Life
The socially awkward, sweater-vested Mr. Katimsky may not have been able to get Ricky’s name right, but in a few short episodes he proved that his heart was as big as the inexplicable pauses he took between words.
5. MR. KEATING (Robin Williams), English, Dead Poet's Society*
O Captain! My captain! The original manic hippie man-child, Mr. Keating ripped books, climbed desks, shunned rules, and inspired his students to live life to the fullest, to mixed results (SPOILER ALERT: points off for Neil's suicide). He probably needs to be medicated, but damn if he wasn’t fun.
*I know it seems like I'm breaking my second rule here, but even though he's the biggest star in the movie, he's not the protagonist. So I'm including him on a technicality.
6. MR. COULSON (Michael Vartan), English, Never Been Kissed
I KNOW, I KNOW. SHUT UP AND JUST LOOK AT HIM.
P.S. Are pop culture English teachers every anything but angels sent straight from heaven? How does analyzing Shakespeare correlate to innate decency and beautiful hair? Discuss.
7. MR. JELLINECK (Paul Dinello), Art, Strangers With Candy
An authority figure "with the mind of a child," prone to turtleneck sweaters, secret gay liaisons with Stephen Colbert, and disfiguring injuries, Mr. Jellineck has the soul of an artist and the scalp of Tony Manero.
8. ECONOMICS TEACHER (Ben Stein), Self-explanatory, Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Not the most creative choice, maybe, but arguably the most memorable. I wish I could repeat this guy’s name over and over again in a miserable nasal monotone, but the most iconic teacher in film history doesn’t have one! Oh, well. At least we’ll always have the--anyone? Anyone?--Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act.
9. MR. WHITE (Bryan Cranston), Chemistry, Breaking Bad
Say what you will, but the man knows his chemistry. Am I right, Pinkman?
10. PROFESSOR ROSS GELLER (David Schwimmer), Paleontology, Friends
I'm not gonna lie, this was a close one between Dr. Geller and How I Met Your Mother's Ted Theodore Mosby, but A) I'm breaking my second rule again (oops) ; and B) the man thought of Jurassic Park before Michael Crighton. AUTOMATIC A.
Ugh, I'm already regretting narrowing this list to ten. I could do another list with just guidance counselors. Or principals! Or janitors!
But that's homework for another day. Right now I'm working on getting this guy up to ten: