The new school year has The Jimbo List thinking back to classic film and television teachers of all time. Some of them are inspiring and some of them are vile – just like in real life.
EDWARD JAMES OLMOS IN “STAND AND DELIVER”
Not only does Olmos convey the quiet passion good teachers embody, he also rocks one of the worst comb-overs in cinematic history. Here, he’s introducing students to “cal-culus.”
JOHN HOUSEMAN IN “THE PAPER CHASE”
Born to play this role? I think so. Houseman’s forbidding law professor, Kingsfield, was a career-defining role.
TINA FEY IN “MEAN GIRLS”
Fey, as math teacher Ms. Norbury, is just brilliant. Without detracting from the main characters or plot, she manages to present a teacher who is smart, vulnerable, absurd and compassionate.
MORGAN FREEMAN IN “LEAN ON ME”
His methods were highly debatable, but there’s no getting around the fact that Principal Joe Clark made a lasting impression. Freeman and his bullhorn saw to that.
MICHAEL GAMBON IN THE HARRY POTTER MOVIES
Gambon’s Dumbledore, the head honcho at Hogwarts, was everything we need teachers to be: a mentor, a protector and a champion of our individual potential.
JANE LYNCH IN “GLEE”
She’s conniving, she’s malicious and she’s a wrecking ball of sarcasm. That’s why we can’t get enough of Lynch’s psychotic cheerleading coach, Sue Sylvester.
ROBERT DONAT IN “GOODBYE MR. CHIPS”
This film and performance are about as far removed from today’s styles as possible. Yet the eternal struggle to gain control of a classroom remains relevant.
BEN STEIN IN “FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF”
This is always funny because we all relate to it. For a little bit more teaching energy, we give you …
DEBBIE ALLEN, ET AL, IN “FAME”
As teachers at a performing arts high school in New York City, Allen & Company hammered home the need for discipline, diligence and desire in finding success.
LLOYD HAYNES IN “ROOM 222”
Another TV ensemble, this time from the early 1970s. Haynes was inspiring as a teacher at a Los Angeles high school.
DONALD PLEASENCE IN “THE TWILIGHT ZONE”
The episode here, called “Changing of the Guard,” is admittedly hokey. It’s about an old teacher whose former students “come back” to show him the difference he made in their lives.
RICHARD DREYFUSS IN “MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS”
I’ve got to think this is every teacher’s dream: To end a lengthy career with a send-off that brings together students of several eras in appreciation. Dreyfuss plays a feisty music teacher who grudgingly takes a teaching gig in the 1960s and eventually makes it his life’s work.
SIDNEY POITIER IN “TO SIR WITH LOVE”
Mr. P. did smoldering intensity better than anyone. Perfect casting.
Class dismissed. But feel free to add to the List!