By Jordan Bienstock, CNN
(CNN) – Teachers play a tremendous role in shaping how we view the world. But who – or what – shapes our view of teachers? For me, and I’m guessing for many of us, the answer is entertainment.
We may spend years in the classroom with real-life teachers and professors, but the hopes and aspirations we assign to them are just as likely to come from their fictional counterparts.
To that end, the Schools of Thought blog has put together a list of some of our favorite TV teachers. This is by no means a complete list, nor a ranking, and we’re sticking strictly to television teachers (sorry, Principal Skinner and Coach Reeves).
Gabe Kotter (Gabe Kaplan), “Welcome Back, Kotter”
Gabe Kotter returned to his alma mater in Brooklyn, taking on the task of teaching the Sweathogs, a group of remedial students. Kotter refused to accept that his students were destined to be underachievers, especially since he was part of that same group when he was in high school. His faith in their potential made believers out of the Sweathogs themselves, and prepared them for a brighter future.
Charlie Moore (Howard Hesseman), “Head of the Class”
Mr. Moore walked into almost the exact opposite situation from Mr. Kotter. Initially a substitute teacher assigned to a class of gifted students, Moore didn’t need to push his charges to focus on academics. Rather, he inspired them to recognize that life isn’t found solely in textbooks, and he encouraged them to pursue and celebrate other aspects of life, helping them navigate the often emotional perils of high school life.
Carrie Bliss (Hayley Mills), “Good Morning, Miss Bliss”
Eventually folded into the high school sitcom “Saved by the Bell,” many of that show’s characters started out on this short-lived middle school show, which centered on Miss Bliss as an inspirational eighth-grade teacher. Often faced with moral dilemmas – both hers and her students’ – Bliss always took the high road and met her students’ concerns with caring and understanding.
George Feeny (William Daniels), “Boy Meets World”
Some teachers’ lessons may stick with students for years, but Mr. Feeny did one better by sticking around himself, joining his students on their journey through middle school, high school and college (plus, he was their neighbor). Despite his constant rejoinders about maintaining a line of demarcation between teachers and students, it was a line he often crossed to be a mentor to the rest of the characters on this show… even if it did mean jumping through some plot hoops to keep him in their lives.
Mr. Collins (Steven Gilborn), “The Wonder Years”
This last one is a sentimental pick, since Mr. Collins appeared in only three episodes as Kevin Arnold’s math teacher. His belief in Kevin, despite Kevin’s lack of faith, served as a reminder that teachers choose this profession in order to instill not just knowledge but confidence, and of the extraordinary dedication they have to their chosen field. Kevin acts out defiantly after Collins cancels a tutoring session before a major exam, and even though the character dies, he offers Kevin the opportunity to redeem himself and prove that their work together was meaningful and successful.
So, that’s our short list of some of our favorite teachers from the small screen. Which educators made a mark on your life, either as a student or a teacher?