Pop Culture Teachers: Who Makes The Grade?


This week Gwyneth Paltrow joins the cast of Glee as a substitute who takes over for a sick Mr. Schue (let the naughty nurse fantasies commence!).

It got us thinking -- there may never be another fictional faculty as gorgeous and funny as McKinley High’s, but there are myriad (you’re welcome, Westerburg High English department) pop culture profs who paved the way for Sue, Schue, Bieste, and Figgins. Here, we grade the most memorable pre-Glee educators from TV and film:

Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), American History, Fast Times at Ridgemont High
This strict, severe disciplinarian loses points for torturing Sean Penn’s utterly adorable Jeff Spicoli, but if you don’t secretly love the curmudgeonly Mr. Hand, you people must be on dope.
Grade: C+

Mr. Katimski (Jeff Perry), English and Drama Club, My So-Called Life
The socially awkward, sweater-vested Mr. Katimski 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.
Grade: A

Miss Cross (Olivia Williams), Elementary school, Rushmore
The lovely, ethereal Miss Cross avoided Mary Kay Letourneau territory by wisely rejecting the advances of 15-year-old Max Fischer, despite his sweet beret.
Grade: A-

Mr. Hall (Wallace Shawn), Homeroom/Debate, Clueless
Unmoved by menses, Mr. Hall was way harsh, especially when it came to Cher’s presentation on the Haitians. But once he found love with Ms. Geist he became downright giddy, and gullible.
Grade: B- (Cher was dumb and should have kept the C)

Mr. Collins (Steven Gilborn), Math, The Wonder Years
Mr. Collins may have been a hard-ass, but he believed in Kevin’s abilities, which made it all the more heartbreaking when he passed away unexpectedly in a tear-jerker of an episode that made polynomials seem poignant for the first time in history.
Grade: B+

Detective John Kimble, Kingergarten, Kindergarten Cop
While going undercover to find the wife and son of a powerful drug dealer, Kimble teaches his six year-old charges some valuable lessons, ranging from medical diagnosis (“It’s not a tumor!!!”) to Descartesian philosophy (“There is no bathroom!”), proving he’s a big ol’ softy in the process.
Grade: B+

Mrs. Teasley (Denise Dowes), Vice Principal, 90210
Strict but compassionate, with a collection of pantsuits that would make Hillary Clinton weep with jealousy, Mrs. Teasley guided the toothsome teens of West Beverly High through countless ethical dilemmas.
Grade: A- (points off for almost not letting Donna Martin graduate!)

Ms. Fleming (Penelope Milford), Guidance, Heathers
Westerburg’s hippie-dippy guidance counselor meant well, but her sense of righteous indignation was as off-putting as her fluffy feathered mullet.
Grade: D

Mr. Keating (Robin Williams), English, Dead Poet’s Society
O Captain! My captain! Mr. Keating ripped books, climbed desks, shunned rules, and inspired his students to live life to the fullest, to mixed results (cue hysterical weeping). He probably needed to be medicated, but damn if he wasn’t fun to watch.
Grade: A- (points off for Neil’s suicide)

Mr. Cooper (Mark Curry), Substitute (Science, Driver’s ed, P.E.) and basketball coach, Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper
Former NBA star Mr. Cooper was too cool for school, literally (might we remind you that hangin’ is not studyin’), but he was good with the kids. (Plus, his ties were truly epic.)
Grade: B

Ms. Krabappel (Marcia Wallace), 4th grade, The Simpsons
World-weary, disgruntled, drunk, and perpetually horny, Ms. Krabappel is one of pop culture’s worst -- if most entertaining -- role models.
Grade: F

Freddy Shoop (Mark Harmon), P.E./Remedial English, Summer School
He let a cute blonde student move in with him, screened The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for his class, and covered up for their underage drinking. This dreamy gym teacher may not have known how to teach, but he sure made us want to shoop. (Sorry, we had to.)
Grade: D+ (Points for not putting the moves on any students against all odds)

Mr. Belding (Dennis Haskins), Principal, Saved By The Bell
Bumbling, balding, and desperate to be accepted as one of the kids, Mr. Belding tried to put the ‘pal’ in principal but ended up putting the ‘ass’ in classroom.
Grade: C-

Kenny Powers (Danny McBride), Substitute (P.E.), Eastbound and Down
Lewd, mean, stupid, and dropping more F-bombs than Sue Simmons on the 11 o’clock news, Kenny Powers makes Coach Bieste look like Mother Theresa in cleats. Principal Cutler should throw Kenny’s own catchphrase back at him: “You’re fucking out!”
Grade: F

Ms. Norbury (Tina Fey), Math, Mean Girls
Little-known fact: Before she was head writer for TGS, Liz Lemon taught high school math and (allegedly) sold drugs in this cult classic comedy. Nerdy but wise, Ms. Norbury teaches her students that nice girls finish first.
Grade: A- (Points off for ultimately failing to rehabilitate Lindsay Lohan)

American actor Gabe Kaplan speaks to an unidentified actor in a still from the television series, 'Welcome Back Kotter,' 1977. (Photo by ABC Television/Getty Images)

Mr. Kotter

(Gabe Kaplan), Remedial education, Welcome Back Kotter
With his magnificent 'fro, corduroy jackets, and sweet ‘stache, Mister Kah-tare turned the Sweathogs into sweethearts with good-humored tough love.
Grade: A

Economics teacher (Ben Stein), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
We wish we 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 a moniker! Oh, well. At least we’ll always have the -- anyone? Anyone? -- Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act.
Grade: D

Whose class would you most like to audit? Did we miss anyone? Do you want to contest a grade? Sound off in the comments!


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