The Pop Culture Teacher Types You’ll Recognize From Your Own School

As a kid, you sorted adults into three categories: parents, teachers, and everyone else. Teachers, those keepers of knowledge and red pens, held a particular mystique. Since each one came with their own set of rules, ticks, and expectations, switching between classes was more like entering different kingdoms than different rooms. Part of the game of school, then, was cracking the code for each classroom (and teacher).
Given their importance in a person’s coming-of-age, teachers also make fantastic movie and TV characters. We bet you’ve encountered some of these pop culture teacher “types,” for better or for worse, during your own school days.
If you’re lucky, you crossed paths with one (or more) teachers who changed the way you think about the world. So, in honor of National Teacher Day, let’s give a shout-out to the adults who put up with us, encouraged us, challenged us, and drove us to all-nighters. Here are the best (and worst) pop culture teachers.
1 of 18
The one who sees right through your BS.

Ms. Norbury (Tina Fey) from Mean Girls (2004)

Ms. Norbury might not have her life together — after all, she's in the middle of a divorce and her carpal tunnel has come back at the start of Mean Girls. Even so, the wise and weathered teacher guides her students through their lives, as well as math problems.

In one of the best lines of Mean Girls, Ms. Norbury tells Cady, “I know that having a boyfriend may seem like the most important thing in the world. But you don’t have to dumb yourself down to get guys to like you.” Preach, Ms. Norbury, preach.
2 of 18
The one who stares deeply into your eyes and encourages you to be your best self in an uncomfortably earnest way.

Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) from Glee (2009-2015)

As leader of the New Directions glee club, Mr. Schue spends more time galvanizing his singers and extinguishing drama than teaching Spanish.
3 of 18
Lee Daniels Entertainment/REX/Shutterstock
The one who's more than a teacher.

Ms. Rains (Paula Patton) from Precious: Based on the Novel Push By Sapphire (2009)

When Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) leaves her abusive mother, she knows there's only one adult she can turn to: her supportive teacher, Ms. Raines, who manages to pierce Precious' shy demeanor and teach her to read.
4 of 18
The one who makes you wish you were older, so you could be best friends.

Dewey Finn (Jack Black) from School of Rock (2003)

There's never been more of a rock star teacher than Dewey Finn. Instead of teaching kids at a fancy private school to read, he teaches them to rock 'n' roll.
5 of 18
The one who reads your extra-credit journal even when she promised she wouldn’t.

Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank) from Freedom Writers (2007)

Based on a true story, Freedom Writers follows an enthusiastic teacher assigned to a class of "at risk" students in 1994 Los Angeles. In classic "inspirational teacher movie" form, Gruwell inspires her students to think about their future through tactics like journaling.
6 of 18
Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock
The one who gives you a chance, even when you’re a brat.

Mark Thackeray (Sidney Poitier) from To Sir With Love (1967)

Struggling to find an engineering position, Mark Thackeray takes a job teaching a rambunctious class of white Londoners, whose antics had driven their previous teacher to resign. By the end of this tearjerker, his stern but encouraging demeanor has earned his students' respect.
7 of 18
The one whose wacky, borderline dangerous science experiments were definitely not sanctioned by the school board.

Miss Frizzle (Lily Tomlin) from The Magic School Bus (1994-1997)

In one episode, Miss Frizzle takes her elementary school classroom on a field trip in which they all turn into bees. In another, they land on Mars. You might ask what witchcraft inspired Miss Frizzle's educational techniques, but the real question at the heart of The Magic School Bus: Did the students' parents consent to these trips?
8 of 18
The one who was put on this earth to teach you life lessons.

Mr. Feeny (William Daniels) from Boy Meets World (1993-2000)

Teacher, neighbor, and wise old owl, Mr. Feeny waits until the Boy Meets World gang messes up to dole out advice, much of which is conveyed through his very expressive face.
9 of 18
The one who spends summer vacation studying conspiracy theories.

Henry Newman (David Hyde Pierce) from Wet Hot American Summer (2001, 2015)

During the school year, Mr. Newman's an astrophysics professor. During the summer, he lives next to a summer camp and helps a group of kids save Earth from a falling piece of NASA's Skylab.
10 of 18
The one who you shouldn’t stay after school with.

Ezra Fitzgerald (Ian Harding) from Pretty Little Liars (2010-present)

The devastatingly dashing Mr. Fitz mixed business with pleasure in a way that would not be recommended outside the Freeform universe. Ezra's affair with his student, Aria (Lucy Hale), definitely crosses the line.
11 of 18
The one who checked out after receiving tenure decades ago.

Mrs. Krabappel from The Simpsons (1989-2013)

Though Edna Krabappel began her teaching career with enthusiasm, the American public school system eroded her optimism away. By the time Bart Simpson reaches her class, she's inappropriate and grumpy.
12 of 18
The one who reads poetry with a dramatic accent and rolled r’s.

Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) from Dead Poets Society (1989)

Mr. Keating and the poetry of Walt Whitman: Name a more iconic duo. I'll wait.

Bursting into a highly regimented boys' prep school, Mr. Keating taught his straightly-laced students to experience literature (and the world) with excitement and joy.
13 of 18
The one who probably lives in her classroom.

Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz) from Matilda (1996)

Matilda's teacher is admirably devoted to her precocious young student. But we doubt whether Miss Honey, who's tied to her evil aunt's whims, has much of a life outside of her elementary school classroom.
14 of 18
The one who is most definitely out to get you, so why bother doing homework?

Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) from Harry Potter (2001-2011)

On the inside, Professor Snape is a total mush, still reeling from the loss of his best friend and lifelong crush, Lily Potter. On the outside, he is a grump extraordinaire with an oily hairdo.
15 of 18
The one who’s very, very, very committed to his craft.

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) from Breaking Bad (2008-2013)

Don't forget: Before he was Heisenberg, he was Mr. White.

When Walter White is diagnosed with cancer, he must turn to alternate revenue sources other than teaching chemistry support his family. Fortunately, his scientific knowledge comes in handy when starting an at-home meth business.
16 of 18
The one who’s more of a bully than your classmates.

Mrs. Trunchbull (Pam Ferris) from Matilda (1996)

Much like my own fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Trunchbull thinks childhood was something to be squeezed out of kids as quickly as possible, and adopts some pretty brutal tactics to do so.
17 of 18
The sub with a reputation.

Mr. Garvey (Keegan-Michael Key) from Key and Peele (2012-2015)

In what's now an iconic Key and Peele sketch, Mr. Garvey is the substitute teacher for a science class. When going through the attendance list, Mr. Garvey is adamant that his pronunciation of each of the students' names is correct, much to their bewilderment.
18 of 18
The one who won't give up until you get it.

Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) from The Karate Kid (1984)

Much like the math teachers who stayed after school until you could subtract fractions, Mr. Miyagi patiently mentors his neighbor, Daniel Larusso, in the martial arts, until the karate "kid" becomes a karate expert.