Michael Jacobs Productions
25 memorable TV teachers
Choosing from the plethora of memorable TV teachers is not quite as simple as ABC. Teachers are not only a part of the fabric of our everyday lives, they make a huge impact on our development and personal identities as we grow. When you think back on your younger years, the cast of characters from your life is sure to include at least a few teachers—from those who inspired you to love learning to others who maybe had the opposite effect. It’s not surprising that many TV shows reflect the important place teachers hold within our communities and our hearts.
Ahead of World Teachers’ Day on Oct. 5, Stacker surveyed television history and chose 25 memorable teachers from a wide variety of TV shows including animated series, teen dramas, and iconic sitcoms, presented here in alphabetical order by the last name of the teacher.
Any show attempting to capture the experience of childhood or adolescence would be incomplete without a teacher among its cast. From sources of inspiration and wisdom to comedic relief, as well as from protagonist to villain, teachers have played a variety of roles throughout the history of television. If you’re feeling nostalgic, keep reading to be reminded of these 25 memorable teachers from TV.
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20th Century Fox Television
One of the most beloved characters in “How I Met Your Mother” is Lily Aldrin (Alyson Hannigan), the energetic and quirky wife of Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel). Throughout the show, Ted Mosby (played by Josh Radnor and voiced by Bob Saget for the narration from the future) recounts the story of how he met the mother of his children with his group of friends. Lily’s profession as a kindergarten teacher is a source of many comedic moments throughout the series.
NBC Television // Getty Images
Based on the iconic book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the TV show “Little House on the Prairie” captures the bucolic family life of the Ingalls in 1800s Minnesota. All three Ingalls daughters attend school in Walnut Grove, where they meet teacher Miss Beadle (Charlotte Stewart). The sweetheart teacher known for her caring manner eventually elopes with Adam Simms (Joshua Bryant), the father of one of her students.
Peter Engel Production
With a title like “Saved by the Bell,” it is no surprise that this early ’90s sitcom makes this list. Set in the fictional Bayside High School in Los Angeles, the show depicts a group of high schoolers as they navigate their teenage years. The show was originally named “Good Morning, Miss Bliss” and centered around teacher Carrie Bliss (Hayley Mills) and was inspired by former NBC president Brandon Tartikoff’s sixth-grade teacher.
Krasnoff Foster Productions
Writer-producer Dan Harmon created the comedy sitcom “Community” to reflect his experience attending community college. The NBC show takes place at a community college in Colorado, where a former lawyer creates a study group for his Spanish class. The teacher of that class is none other than Señor Ben Chang (Ken Jeong), a sadistic, unstable instructor who may not even know Spanish.
New World Television
Starring Fred Savage as Kevin Arnold, a young boy growing up in the late ’60s, “The Wonder Years” is a classic American series. Throughout the show, Arnold’s math teacher, Mr. Collins, holds him to a high standard and pushes him to develop a strong work ethic. The actor who played Mr. Collins, Steven Gilborn, was actually a professor before he turned to acting.
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Elizabeth Meriwether Pictures
“New Girl” stars Zooey Deschanel as the new girl Jessica Day, the newest roommate to move into an all-male Los Angeles apartment. Deschanel’s quintessential quirkiness defines the character, who begins the series as a middle school teacher at Coolidge Middle School before shifting through various roles including server, substitute teacher, and principal.
Michael Jacobs Productions
Any ’90s kid would be hit with a wave of nostalgia when hearing the name Mr. Feeny, portrayed by William Daniels in “Boy Meets World.” The sage-like neighbor of protagonist Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) serves as a middle school teacher, high school teacher, principal, and even a college professor for the main characters, for whom he always has a nugget of wisdom.
Cult classic “Freaks and Geeks” may have been canceled after one season, but the show’s legacy lives on. The series centered around a brother and sister attending William McKinley High School who each join one of the show’s titular cliques. Despite appearing in just six episodes, physical education teacher Coach Fredricks (Tom Wilson) made his mark on his students. Like the tender treatment it gives to the rest of its characters that sets the series apart, Coach Fredricks goes from a one-note bad guy to a multifaceted, sympathetic character with his own pathos.
South Carolina ETV
Known for her vibrant frizzy red hairdo and bold-patterned purple dresses, Ms. Frizzle (voiced by Lily Tomlin) is the star of the 1990s animated children’s series “The Magic School Bus.” Throughout the show, the oddball elementary school teacher takes her students on imaginative, educational adventures aboard a magic school bus.
The adult animated sitcom “South Park” follows a motley crew of fourth-grade boys in their nonsensical exploits around a small Colorado town. Mr. Garrison (voiced by show creator Trey Parker) enters the show as a teacher but throughout the series eventually becomes president of the United States.
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In one of the most memorable episodes of the popular sketch comedy show “Key and Peele,” Keegan-Michael Key plays Mr. Garvey, a Black substitute teacher who mispronounces every white suburban students’ names. As they so often do, Key and Peele manage to make their audience laugh while also considering the broader implications of that humor.
Dr. Ross Geller
One of television’s most noteworthy nerds, Dr. Ross Geller (David Schwimmer) is a member of the close-knit New York City clique around which the show “Friends” revolves. Ross is the group’s token brainiac and works as a paleontologist and professor. Some devoted fans even took the time to make him a Rate My Professors page on social media.
Eilenna Productions Inc.
The 1980s TV show “Fame” tells the story of the New York City High School for the Performing Arts. In addition to following the artistic students in their arduous hunt for fame, the show also showcases the dedication of faculty members like Lydia Grant, a dance teacher portrayed by Debbie Allen who pushed them along the way.
Ron Galella Collection // Getty Images
As its name suggests, “Boston Public” is a show about a public school in Boston, specifically focusing on the complex storylines of the school’s teachers and students in and out of the classroom. One of those teachers is Marla Hendricks (Loretta Devine), a social studies teacher who struggles to manage her mental health.
“King of the Hill” is a popular adult animated sitcom that ran for more than 250 episodes between the years 1997 and 2010. The show focuses on the adventures of protagonist Hank Hill (voiced by Mike Judge), a propane salesman living in Texas with his eclectic family. Hank’s egotistical yet caring wife Peggy (voiced by Kathy Najimy) holds many jobs throughout the series—from writer to sculptor—though her primary gig is as a substitute teacher at a middle school.
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Played by the brilliant Viola Davis, Annalise Keating is the protagonist of the Shondaland production “How to Get Away with Murder.” Keating is an esteemed professor of law and defense attorney who, along with a group of star students, gets involved in a murder plot.
The Komack Company, Inc.
“Welcome Back, Kotter” is a ’70s sitcom that tells the story of Gabe Kotter (Gabe Kaplan), who returns to his own high school to teach a class of disobedient kids known as the “Sweathogs.” Having been a part of the remedial class himself, Kotter is dedicated to helping his students and determined to make changes at the school.
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20th Century Fox Television
“The Simpsons” holds many records, including the longest-running cartoon show in TV history. The adored series tells the story of the Simpson family and is set in the ambiguous U.S. town of Springfield. A prominent resident is the middle-aged, chain-smoking fourth-grade teacher Edna Krabappel (voiced by Marcia Wallace), who is characterized by her cynicism.
Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions
Rory (Alexis Bledel), the main character of the American sweetheart dramedy “Gilmore Girls,” attends Chilton Preparatory School, where much of the series takes place. Mr. Medina (Scott Cohen) is the beloved English teacher at Chilton who eventually becomes romantically involved with Rory’s mother, Lorelai.
What happens when a drug addict and high school dropout decides to return to high school at 46 years old? That’s what Comedy Central’s “Strangers with Candy” explores in this three-season comedy series. Played by one of the series creators, Stephen Colbert, Chuck Noblet is the disgruntled, closeted high school history teacher who is having an affair with another teacher.
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9 Story Media Group
PBS show “Arthur” is an animated children’s series that follows eight-year-old aardvark Arthur and his menagerie of friends. The show aims to inspire a love of learning and reading, so it’s no surprise that one of its main characters is the third grade teacher Nigel Ratburn (Arthur Holden). In the show’s 22nd season in 2019, Mr. Ratburn came out as gay and married an aardvark named Patrick.
Brad Falchuk Teley-Vision
Taking place at the fictional William McKinley High School in Lima, Ohio, the musical comedy “Glee” tells the story of Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), a high school Spanish teacher who decides to take over the glee club. The show revolves around the glee club’s diverse members and their complex high school lives, while also diving into Mr. Schuester’s personal and romantic life.
The beloved, short-lived series “My So-Called Life” mirrored the experience of many ’90s teenagers. The daring show pushed the envelope for young adult dramas of the time, tackling everything from homophobia to censorship. The show’s sweet Mr. Katimski (Jeff Perry) teaches English and runs the drama club at Liberty High School. He also delivers much-needed empathy for the drama erupting regularly throughout the show.
20th Century Fox Television
Spirited and enthusiastic, Cameron Tucker (Eric Stonestreet) is one of the main characters in “Modern Family” and is the near antithesis of his husband Mitch. Aside from his past positions as a clown and a college athlete, Cameron also holds various teaching stints throughout the show.
High Bridge Productions
Everyone’s favorite terminally ill, meth-selling chemistry teacher is Walter White (Bryan Cranston), the main character of AMC’s violent, riveting, and shocking drama “Breaking Bad.” White’s many transformations—from a downtrodden chemistry teacher to a feared drug lord—are what make the show so addictive.
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