Teachers are often misunderstood. They aren't just robots who live in their classroom and obsess over lesson plans and extracurricular activities. Teachers are just as well-rounded as any other professionals.
Our favorite TV shows sometimes understand this concept, and other times they employ teachers in one-dimensional ways to support the main cast of characters. Whatever type of teacher appears in the story, you can bet they will leave a mark, reminding us of educators' influence on the world.
These are the 22 most iconic TV teachers of all time!
1 – Walter White (Breaking Bad)
Walter White’s devastating evolution from diffident Mr. White to demented Heisenberg is the best character arc in television history. As lung cancer slowly erodes Walter’s morality and principle characteristics, we can still see a slight sliver of the teacher qualities that made him a good educator. His intelligence and command of the room never waver, even as he reaches the deepest bowels of the Albuquerque criminal underbelly.
2 – Eric Taylor (Friday Night Lights)
Modern TV’s most famous football coach is a teacher of life on and off the field for his players. Like any great teacher, Coach Taylor tries to separate his personal and professional life for the sake of his students and family members, but the thin line between the two blurs in the best ways to make for truly compelling television.
3 – George Feeny (Boy Meets World)
Mr. Feeny is every millennial’s favorite teacher from their TV upbringing. He always seems to have the most astute knowledge on every topic for the students of Boy Meets World. The more the series went on, it felt like Mr. Feeny was the ideal teacher for all of our wonder years, no matter what generation we came from.
4 – Mr. Crocker (The Fairly Odd Parents)
The crazy teacher sometimes feels like more than just a stereotype, and this was never more evident than with Mr. Crocker. This cooky man’s crazed obsession with proving that Timmy Turner has fairy godparents never gets old throughout the entirety of the Nickelodeon show’s run. He also symbolizes how teachers sometimes feel like our main conflicting forces during our school years.
5 – Roland Pryzbylewski (The Wire)
Prez is one of the most interesting characters on a show filled with incredible ones. His career change from two polar opposite professions (police officer to middle school teacher) helped to illustrate how the Baltimore school system was just as messed up as the city's criminal world. Prez was a caring and conscientious teacher for the underprivileged youth, though, and his mentorship of Dukie is a melancholy mix of heartbreak.
6 – Edna Krabappel (The Simpsons)
Bart’s teacher on The Simpsons is like many other characters in the satirically brilliant animated comedy. Mrs. Krabappel is a mashup of different teacher elements, from that exasperated look in their eyes when a student has genuinely defeated them to that glint of hope that they can still make a difference. Mrs. Krabappel is truly one of the most influential TV teachers of all time, blazing a trail for future animated comedy educators.
7 – Mr. Sweeney (Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide)
There are a plethora of quirky and memorable teachers in Ned’s Declassified, but science teacher Mr. Sweeney is our favorite. His signature lab coat is a perfect way to poke fun at some instructors' seriousness in this subject matter. Mr. Sweeney’s side responsibilities, such as being a hall monitor, give an even better look at his rigidity.
8 – Jessica Day (New Girl)
Jess is a beacon of positivity in New Girl, and we can’t think of a better profession for her sunshine and optimism than the classroom. As the series progresses, Jess aspires to climb the educational ladder further, and she eventually ends up in administration. This career jump is actually the perfect way for passionate educators to change the system they love from within.
9 – Ross Geller (Friends)
Ross is one of the only college professors on this list, and signing up for his paleontology class would be a fun experience, no matter what his friends think of his dinosaur anecdotes. Whiny voice aside, Ross wouldn’t hurt a fly and has one of the most caring hearts in Friends.
10 – Coach Ben Scott (Yellowjackets)
Frequently it feels like we, as viewers, are living vicariously through Coach Ben Scott when undertaking an episode of Yellowjackets. The psychological thriller has no filter, constantly throwing new allegories and metaphysical experiences at the audience. Coach Scott tries to keep his sanity amongst the stranded teenage soccer team.
11 – Dorothy Zbornak (The Golden Girls)
The most headstrong and wise of the girls, Dorothy Zbornak is a substitute teacher in her retirement years in Miami, Florida. The same leadership energy she exudes around her mother, Sophia, and friends Blanche and Rose helps keep the students of her classrooms in check during her days filling in.
12 – Mr. Garvey (Key and Peele)
Mr. Garvey is one of Key and Peele’s funniest characters ever put to screen. A substitute teacher for a predominantly white set of students, Mr. Garvey not only can’t pronounce anybody’s name correctly, but he also outlandishly and ingeniously satirizes the racial constructs of the modern classroom.
13. Ben Chang (Community)
Professor Chang isn’t technically qualified to teach, but that didn’t stop him from becoming one of Community’s best characters. Instantly meme-able and the reason Ken Jeong rose to stardom, Ben Chang is every outlandish generalization about community college teachers all rolled up into one hilarious package.
14 – Ms. Fowl (The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius)
Ms. Fowl’s name comes from her seemingly bird-like appearance and dialogue, but she leaves an indelible mark on the memories of children who watch this unique cartoon. Even if she is a one-dimensional recurring character, Ms. Fowl will surely provide a few laughs with her inept and lazy lessons for Jimmy and company.
15 – Mr. Ajayi (Heartstopper)
While the world is hopefully becoming more of an accepting place for LGBTQ+ youth, Mr. Ajayi is the type of teacher who goes a step above for his students to make them feel loved. He provides a safe space both literally and allegorically for Charlie Spring, and his own sexual identity as a gay man shows that more LGBTQ+ teachers will do a world of good for students worldwide.
16 – Eugene Porter (The Walking Dead)
We never see Eugene as a science teacher in the classroom because he’s already pretending he’s a scientist when introduced in The Walking Dead. Eugene is originally the group’s hope for salvation due to claims that he knows about a cure for the zombie apocalypse, but even after being revealed as phony, he still shows determination to live through the end of the world using brains over brawn.
17 – Mrs. Puff (SpongeBob Squarepants)
SpongeBob’s beleaguered boating school teacher can’t seem to shake her most tenacious student, no matter how often he fails to get his license. Mrs. Puff’s off-the-cuff remarks about SpongeBob in the classroom and behind the wheel add some mature levity to the most famous cartoon ever put on Nickelodeon’s airwaves.
18 – Gabe Kotter (Welcome Back Kotter)
Mr. Kotter is one of the most relatable teachers on this list. His struggles in school before he entered into education allowed Gabe Kotter to more fully understand the plight of his students, leading to some wholesome 1970s sitcom storylines. Welcome Back Kotter was one of the first shows to place a teacher into the role of the protagonist.
19 – Ms. Alice Landers (Leave it to Beaver)
Like everyone on Leave it to Beaver, Ms. Landers was the idyllic elementary school teacher for suburban American television in the mid-20th century. Beaver’s teacher was an almost too-perfect woman who viewers loved to imagine as their own instructor, someone who seemed to have advice that was just right for any situation.
20 – Rick Mellor (The Goldbergs)
The hard-nosed, always hilarious gym teacher on The Goldbergs is the perfect foil to Adam’s unathletic impulses. Whether he’s forcing the kids to run laps or being invited over to the Goldberg house for dinner, Rick Mellor brings hardcore energy to the table at an incessant pace.
21 – Manish Kulkarni (Never Have I Ever)
Never Have I Ever prides itself on showing all the different aspects of the Indian-American experience. Watching Mr. Kulkarni fight back against some of the stereotypes surrounding Indian Americans in education by having a thriving personal life and a light-hearted rapport with his students does the heart a lot of good.
22 – Janine Teagues (Abbott Elementary)
We could put every teacher from Abbott Elementary on this list, but Quinta Brunson’s protagonist is too apparent to ignore. Seeing Ms. Teagues try her best to navigate school and romance without letting professional aspirations cloud her judgment is a weekly thrill for us at home. She is the ultimate fictional elementary school teacher, and we can’t wait to see where her story goes.
Shawn Laib is a writer who has loved all things pop culture from a young age. Growing up playing classic Nintendo games and being introduced to a variety of movies and shows, he always enjoyed analyzing and getting to the bottom of the point of a story. As he went into high school, basketball and sports in general became a main focus. Shawn decided to put his skills in English class to good use and majored in the subject area at the University of Washington, graduating with a B.A. in 2020. He began his freelance writing career after college with sites like SUPERJUMP, Den of Geek, and Quote.com. He now remains a fixture with publications like The Manual and Wealth of Geeks.