Most Iconic Teachers In Cinema


Mr. Hand- Fast Times and Ridgemont High (1982) “You’re absolutely right, Mr. Spicoli. It is our time. Yours, mine and everyone else’s in this room. But it is my class.”

“Where is Jeff Spicoli?” That is the million dollar question for most of the movie, and one that runs Mr. Hand to the end of the Earth. While his part is small, his personality is not. The cress Mr. Hand makes it clear that he means business. His incredibly high expectations are matched by equally low effort from the laid back California students, specifically one Jeff Spicoli. The most iconic of his time on screen is shared with Spicoli, and a large cheese pizza. Finally tired of all the time wasting done in his classroom, Mr. Hand decides that Spicoli will make up for it with an eight hour one-on-one session. While the tutor session is never shown, one thing is clear Mr. Hand means business.

Mr. Vernon- The Breakfast Club (1985) “Don’t mess with the bull young man. You’ll get the horns.”

Dealing with the Brat pack is no easy task, especially during a Saturday morning detention. Mr. Vernon is a no nonsense type of guy and believes in strict discipline. He corals the students in the library and assigns a 1000 word essay as punishment for each individuals crime. What ensues is far from what Mr. Vernon expected; he hears a ruckus in the library and is forced to investigate the noise. From there, he spends the rest of the movie lecturing the students and assigning more detentions, not to mention running around the halls trying to chase the unruly band of high schoolers. The Assistant Principal experiences one head ache after another, and is proof that sometimes the more you try to contain students, the more they try to push back.


Mr. Keating- Dead Poets Society (1989) “No matter what anybody tells you, words and idea’s can change the world… Seize the day boys”

Mr. Keating did not teach a generation of students he inspired them. From his antiquated lectures atop his desk, to his desecration of standardized English volumes, Jon Keating fought the system he believed was smothering creativity and individualism. He encouraged his class to rebel against the formal powers and search for passions where they were forbid to look. Mr. Keatings lessons explained that poetry cannot be quantified, and love cannot be taught; like most things they must be experienced, they must be felt. What remains with his class and the audience long after the credits roll are most assuredly the Latin phrase, Carpe Deim. “Seize the day boys,” he proclaims in one of his lectures. He asks his students to take chances, and experience things rather than read about them. While the movie ends in tragedy, the lesson taught my Mr. Keating is pure; there is no substitute for experience.

Dewey Finn- School of Rock (2003) “You listen to me! These kids have worked their little fingers to the bone just to play one song for you so you just sit down, shut up and listen!”

What I believe is the contemporary of Dead Poets Society, Dewey Finn, employs a teaching strategy self-described as stick-it-to-the-man-neosis. His disregard for authority and distain for ‘the man’ clashes with the culture of the rigid Horace Green Elementary School. Dewey is sickened by the system of gold stars and demerits that are used to rate students. His use of rock and roll in the classroom is the perfect way to illustrate that obedience is not synonymous with education. He helps show his students, their parents, and even the administration that allowing for individual expression is the cornerstone of a satisfied mind. Zachary Mooneyham  a quiet and shy student transforms into a rock star flush with confidence under the lead of Dewey Finn. The transformation of Zach is such that it illustrates the merit of stick-it-to-the-man-neosis, that obeying isn’t the same as learning and that education doesn’t always require a blackboard.

Ms. Norbury- Mean Girls (2004) “I know having a boyfriend might seem like the only thing important to you right now, but you don’t have to dumb yourself down in order for a guy to like you.”

Whether it was the dreamy-eyed senior, the battle for popularity, or the ever present fear of public humiliation Ms. Norbury see’s it all. In the 2004 comedy Mean Girls, Tina Fey takes the role of a math teacher caught in the middle of a clique war in an all too true to life high school drama. She see’s her students tank quizzes as a way of flirting, pray on the weak to seem cooler, and in the worst cases lying to themselves about who they truly are.  At the climax of the movie, Ms. Norbury is asked to speak to the female student body. She expresses that all of the pettiness of high school diminishes what it means to be a woman, and that each person is beautiful in their own way.

Author: Thomas Walker

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