Grading 16 of TV’s Most Memorable Teachers

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Clockwise from left: ABC Photo Archives/ABC/Getty Images; Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images; Bill Records/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
A new school year has begun, so it's the perfect time to look back at the different TV teachers who have taught fictional classes (and by proxy, viewers) on the small screen through the years. But not all teachers have been the apple of our eyes—as with educators in real life, their television counterparts are a mix of the good...and bad. See who gets an A+ ... and who gets an F.
Boy Meets World - Ben Savage and William Daniels
ABC Photo Archives/ABC/Getty Images

Mr. Feeny (Boy Meets World)

The best teachers don’t just teach what’s on the class syllabus, they also make you a better person. Mr. Feeny certainly did that for Cory, Shawn and Topanga. He advised and guided them through middle and high school and, eventually, college—all while being just a “Feeny call” away. And if Cory’s choice of profession is any indication, Mr. Feeny’s influence endured long after he stopped teaching his favorite students.

Our Grade: A+

Teachers-Friday Night Lights
Bill Records/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Coach Taylor (Friday Night Lights)

Coach Taylor may not have had his own classroom, but he certainly taught more than his fair share of lessons on and off the Texan football field at East Dillon High School. He instructed the young men in his care—as well as his own two daughters—to live their lives with integrity, honesty and hard work. In other words, “Clear eyes. Full heart. Can’t lose.”

Our Grade: A+

A Different World - Glynn Turman as Col. Bradford 'Brad' Taylor, Dawnn Lewis as Jaleesa Vinson Taylor, Lou Myers as Vernon Gaines, Charnele Brown as Kimberly 'Kim' Reese, Kadeem Hardison as Dwayne Cleophus Wayne, Jasmine Guy as Whitley Marion Gilbert Wayne, Darryl M. Bell as Ronald 'Ron' Johnson, Cree Summer as Winifred 'Freddie' Brooks
NBCU Photo Bank

Colonel Taylor (A Different World)

East Dillon High had Coach Taylor; Hillman College had Colonel Taylor. The college was defined by its high academic standards, which Colonel Taylor definitely helped keep up. The stern math professor, nicknamed “Dr. War,” constantly pushed his students, particularly Dwayne Wayne, to bring their A game to class, never settling for anything less. And his rigorous approach definitely paid off as Dwayne not only graduated school, but he eventually became a math professor himself—before going off to invent the flip phone at Kinishewa Electronics.

Our Grade: A

The Fosters - Sherri Saum
Eric McCandless/ABC FAMILY/Getty Images

Lena Adams Foster (The Fosters)

Lena may not have been at the front of a classroom for a few seasons, but that hasn’t stopped her from using teaching skills to raise five children with her wife Stef and maintain their marriage. An educator through-and-through, Lena gives her kids a chance to voice their concerns and issues before gently advising them on what to do. Most recently, she focused her inner teacher role into instructing her youngest son Jude on safe sex.

Our Grade: A-

Welcome Back Kotter - Ron Palillo, Robert Hegyes, John Travolta, Gabe Kaplan, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs
Everett Collection

Mr. Kotter (Welcome Back, Kotter)

Mr. Kotter’s return to his Brooklyn alma mater, James Buchanan High School, saw him tasked with teaching the “Sweathogs,” a group of high school tough guys, one of whom was played by John Travolta. A former Sweathog himself, Mr. Kotter drew on his experience and used it to form a rapport with his students, enough so that they often visited his apartment and hung out with him outside the classroom.

Our Grade: A-

Teachers-Doctor Who
Simon Ridgeway/BBC America

Clara Oswald (Doctor Who)

When she’s not off exploring the furthest reaches of space and time, Clara Oswald can be found at her day job, teaching at Coal Hill School. But as her adventures with the Twelfth Doctor revealed, Clara doesn’t need a classroom to inspire young minds. A trip to the Doctor’s distant pre-William Hartnell past showed her calming down a soon-to-be Time Lord and inspiring in him the beliefs (“A soldier so brave he doesn’t need a gun.”) that would come to define the Gallifreyan’s character for centuries to come.

Our Grade: B+

Teachers-The Magic School Bus
Nelvana/Everett Collection

Ms. Frizzle (The Magic School Bus)

Some teachers are great at bringing their lessons to life, but none more so than Ms. Frizzle, who used the Magic School Bus to help her students better understand scientific principles. Ms. Frizzle showed how things worked in the larger world, either by shrinking her students into miniature versions to explore the human body or by turning them into animals to learn city wildlife.

Our Grade: B+

Teachers-The Wire

Roland Pryzbylewski (The Wire)

Initially a hot-headed, incompetent cop, “Prez” eventually traded in his badge and gun for a teaching certificate and a math textbook. Once he became the head of a middle school classroom, the former cop’s abrasive personality gave way to his caring and attentive side. He adapted to the flawed school system and became invested in his student’s success, even going as far as providing one of his neglected-at-home students, Duquan “Dukie” Weems, with food and clothing.

Our Grade: B+


Edna Krabappel (The Simpsons)

Edna Krabappel may have started out bright-eyed and optimistic for her future career in teaching, but years of dealing with the public education system, as well as multiple seasons of teaching Bart Simpson, turned her into a jaded fourth grade teacher who did the bare minimum. Despite her changed outlook on teaching, the episode “Bart Gets an ‘F'” demonstrated that, somewhere deep down, there was still a caring teacher: Mrs. K recognized that Bart had studied for the test and gave him the extra point needed to pass.

Our Grade: C+

Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Senor Chang (Community)

The Greendale Community College’s “Introduction to Spanish” class may have bonded the ragtag study group at the heart of the NBC sitcom, but with the totally unqualified “Senor” Chang as a teacher, the adult students were guaranteed to really not learn anything—well, except for “Donde esta la biblioteca?”

Our Grade: C

Pretty Little Liars - Lucy Hale as Aria Montgomery and Ian Harding as Mr. Fitz
Eric McCandless/ABC Family/Getty Images

Teacher’s Pet, Girl Aria Montgomery (Lucy Hale, Pretty Little Liars)
Yeah, she is TOTALLY hooking up with Mr. Fitz. Not that anyone would blame her.

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad - 'Live Free or Die'
Ursula Coyote/AMC/Everett Collection

Walter White (Breaking Bad)

Teaching high school chemistry is a thankless job, and Walter’s students definitely weren’t as enthusiastic as he was about the wonders of science. So when he was diagnosed with lung cancer, he took his expertise out of the classroom and into an RV—to start his own drug empire, in the hopes of making enough money to provide for his family’s future. To Mr. White’s credit, though, he was successful at teaching former student Jesse Pinkman something—even if it was how make crystal meth.

Our Grade: C-

SUMMER HEIGHTS HIGH, Chris Lilley (as Mr. G), (Season 1)
John Tsiavis/Princess Pictures/HBO/Everett Collection

Mr. G (Summer Heights High)

Part of teaching is listening to your students, but the prone-to-melodramatics drama teacher Mr. G certainly didn’t do that. When a student he didn’t know died of a drug overdose, he not only wrote a musical about it (sadly, not the first in a long list of musicals with poor taste), but he made the situation all about how him when her parents objected to the script.

Our Grade: D+

Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester in Glee
Adam Rose/FOX

Sue Sylvester (Glee)

McKinley High School’s arts programs didn’t just struggle against budget cuts, they also had to contend with Sue Sylvester. The not-afraid-to-play-dirty cheerleading coach didn’t just have a vendetta against Mr. Schue and his glee club, but she often bullied members of the student body (as well as a few teachers) in her many attempts to take down the club she despised so much.

Our Grade: D

Adam Scott as the teacher Mr. Rooks in Veronica Mars

Mr. Rooks (Veronica Mars)

When Veronica’s favorite teacher was accused of having an affair with a student, she used her investigative powers to prove his innocence. Unfortunately for Mr. Rooks, Veronica revealed that he did indeed sleep with and impregnate a student—it just wasn’t the one who accused him.

Our Grade: D

The Night Lila Died - How to Get Away With Murder - Viola Davis
Mitchell Haaseth/ABC

Annalise Keating (How to Get Away With Murder)

What started out as a great opportunity for the “Keating Five” to gain first-hand professional experience under a seasoned defense attorney quickly became something else entirely. The tough-as-nails Annalise Keating not only encouraged her students to work slightly outside the law to help her win cases (the least of her offences), but she also manipulated her handpicked, guilt-ridden student legal team into covering up her husband’s murder…which still incriminated them in another.

Our Grade: F (As in Fear for Your Lives)

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