Best and worst teachers of TV and film

From sassy Mis-tah Kot-tah on "Welcome Back, Kotter" to Cameron Diaz's sexy educator who just doesn't care in "Bad Teacher," school's always in session in Hollywood.

When Walter White learns he has lung cancer on AMC's "Breaking Bad," he uses chemistry teacher expertise to become a meth maker and dealer. He even takes on a former student as his sidekick, providing Jesse Pinkman with a very different sort of education.

Young Wart (whose real name is Arthur) has no idea that his destiny is to be the future king of England in 1963's animated "The Sword in the Stone." But when Merlin becomes his mentor and teacher, Wart's life is changed.

Walt Disney Co.

An autodidact with an eidetic memory, Will Hunting (Matt Damon) hardly feels he needs to be educated by anyone. But psychologist Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) gives him an outlet for his frustrations and turns out to be the kind of mentor and teacher the angry young man needs to be able to pursue his dreams in the 1997 film "Good Will Hunting."


Matilda Wormwood is a lucky kid, getting Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz) as a teacher in the 1996 film adaptation of Roald Dahl's "Matilda." The teacher speaks up for her smart student in front of bully headmistress Miss Trunchbull, and urges Matilda's parents to give her some attention.

Tristar Pictures

Tina Fey scripted herself as Ms. Norbury, a math teacher who is wrongfully accused in the "Mean Girls'" "burn book" as being a drug dealer. In the 2004 movie, she forces the young ladies to confess to the lie, then make amends to their fellow students and teachers.


In the world of "Peanuts," teachers -- like most adults -- are heard but not seen. Miss Othmar was one of the few teachers' names ever cited, and Linus had a major crush on her. In 1969's "A Boy Named Charlie Brown," the trombone-voiced teacher leads Charlie Brown through a spelling bee test, which he does surprisingly well on.

As dedicated teacher (and later principal and college professor) George Feeny on "Boy Meets World," William Daniels has a devil of a time getting students including Cory (Ben Savage) and Eric (Will Friedle) to focus, but he does inspire the "Feeny Call," a shout that would draw the educator out of his house. When the show (1993-2000) signed off, he was the final character on screen and delivered the last line of dialogue: "I love you all. Class dismissed."

Touchstone Television

First seen in 1980's "Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back," Grand Jedi Master Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz) has become such a culturally iconic figure that to call someone a "Yoda" means that they are a wise mentor. In "Empire," he met Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and helped train the powerful son of Darth Vader in the ways of the force with wise lines such as "Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering."

Lucasfilm Ltd.

In some ways, the founder of the X-Men, Charles Xavier, is a student's worst nightmare for a teacher: He can both control and read minds. Fortunately, the "X-Men" film's Professor X (Patrick Stewart) is on the good guys' side, a peace-loving crime fighter in a wheelchair who helps protect the non-mutant human species.


1970s comedy "Welcome Back, Kotter" was a big success, and even its moody John Sebastian theme song became a hit. Gabe Kaplan plays Gabe Kotter, a teacher who returns to his own alma mater in Brooklyn to teach a bunch of high-school tough guys known as The Sweathogs. Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (Freddy "Boom-Boom" Washington), Ron Palillo (Horshack) and Robert Hegyes (Epstein) are shown with Kaplan. Missing is perhaps the most famous Sweathog, John Travolta, who plays Vinnie Barbarino.

Edward James Olmos plays real-life high-school math teacher Jaime Escalante in 1988's "Stand and Deliver." In the film, he wins over his troubled Los Angeles students and teaches them so well that the testing service doesn't believe the students earned their high scores, and makes them retake a difficult standardized calculus test.

"Bueller? ... Bueller? ... Bueller?" That's the repeated query from an economics teacher played by Ben Stein, in the 1986 American teen coming-of-age comedy "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," written and directed by John Hughes. He reportedly ad-libbed most of his monologue about the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act and supply-side economics.

School is often R-rated on "South Park," where Mr. Herbert Garrison (voiced by series co-creator Trey Parker) and his puppet Mr. Hat often teach Cartman, Eric, Kyle and pals things they really shouldn't be learning about.

Cameron Diaz stars in the 2011 comedy "Bad Teacher," as Elizabeth Halsey, a teacher who smokes pot, drinks, swears at her students and sleeps through class.

Columbia Pictures

Robin Williams stars in 1989's "Dead Poets Society" as John Keating, an unconventional English teacher who shakes up a boys' prep school. The character's use of the phrase "Carpe diem" ("seize the day") re-invigorated its use in American culture.

Matthew Broderick, who famously skipped school in 1986's "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," goes back to school as teacher Jim McAllister in 1999's "Election," with Reese Witherspoon playing the overachieving Tracy Flick.

Jack Black plays Dewey Finn, a rocker who turns to substitute teaching and teaches his kids to love music in 2003's "School of Rock."

Sean Penn and Ray Walston, as Jeff Spicoli and Mr. Hand, had a famous in-class confrontation when Spicoli ordered himself some pizza in 1982's "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

On "Glee," it's not just the kids who compete against each other. Sharp-tongued Cheerios coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) and glee club director Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) are constantly at each others' throats.

Harry Potter and pals have many teachers at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) was one of the most evil. She forces students who are given detention to write with a blood quill, which cuts the words into its victims as they write them.

Marcia Wallace naprovided the voice of teacher Edna Krabappel on "The Simpsons" from the show's inception in 1990 until Wallace's death in 2013. The jaded, chain-smoking teacher is always looking for a romantic partner, and ultimately finds one in Ned Flanders.