May 6 is National Teachers Day. The origins of National Teachers Day are somewhat murky. In 1944, Arkansas teacher Mattye Whyte Woodridge began corresponding with political and education leaders about the need for a national day to honor teachers. Woodridge wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt who, in 1953, persuaded Congress to proclaim a National Teacher Day. The National Education Association (NEA), along with its Kansas and Indiana state affiliates and the Dodge City (Kan.) Local, also lobbied Congress to create a national day to celebrate teachers.
Read Related: National Teacher Day: Thank You to All Educators
Lee Iacocca once said that, “In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less.” Many of our thoughts and feelings about teachers have been developed from the teacher characters we’ve seen on television. These teachers have run the gamut of old and young, black and white, serious and silly, geniuses to buffoons. They’ve all taught us some life lessons over the years. But maybe these 10 have taught us more than most.
1. Mr. Katimski (played by Jeff Perry), My So Called Life: Mr. Katimski was one of the first openly gay characters on television. But no one was more concerned about the welfare of the young people on the show than he was. When a bisexual character is thrown out of his home, Mr. Katimski takes him in. He taught us that acceptance can come from surprising places.
2. Lydia Grant (played by Debbie Allen), Fame: Lydia Grant was the tough-talking dance teacher at the High School of Performing Arts. She was one of the few actors who was in both the show and the 1980 movie. As the cane-tapping dance master, she taught us that success requires hard work.
3. Mr. Cooper (played by Mark Curry), Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper: Mr. Cooper was a likeable substitute teacher and basketball coach. He understood his students because he was a big kid himself. As a presence in his students’ lives, he taught us that responsibility includes commitment.
4. Mr. Schuester (played by Matthew Morrison), Glee: Mr. Schuester is the beloved Glee Club director who loves his Gleeks as much as we do. His heartfelt commitment to their wellbeing and success shows us that one great teacher can change your whole life.
5. Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston), Breaking Bad: When faced with marital problems, raising a disabled son, bankruptcy and cancer, Walter White turns to running his own meth lab to make money. As the show progressed, Walter committed ever greater crimes. He taught us that the line between good and evil is very thin.
6. Mr. Kotter (played by Gabe Kaplan), Welcome Back Kotter: Mr. Kaplan was an ultra-hip high school teacher who took a job at his old high school. As a teacher, he faced a new generation of slackers and disinterested kids (called Sweathogs), who reminded him of himself when he was young. He taught us that anyone can make a difference.
7. Mr. Feeny (played by William Daniels), Boy Meets World: George Feeny started out as title-character Cory’s somewhat distant 6th-grade teacher but soon becomes a beloved mentor. He eventually became school principal and then a college professor, delivering sage advice to the show’s characters along the way. He taught us the importance of being a great mentor.
8. Mrs. Krabappel (voiced by Marcia Wallace), The Simpsons: Mrs. Krabappel was Bart Simpson’s 4th grade teacher. Outside of school she was a mid-life, chain smoking boozer who was always looking for the right man but often had to settle for Mr. Skinner, the school principal. As the series progressed, she married Ned Flanders, the Simpsons’ Bible-quoting next door neighbor. Tragically, the character was written out after actress Marcia Wallace’s death. Mrs. Krabappel taught us that true love eventually finds everyone.
9. Miss Bliss (played by Hayley Mills), Good Morning Miss. Bliss and Saved by the Bell: Few people remember that the hit sitcom Saved By The Bell, started out on the Disney Channel as Good Morning Miss Bliss. Miss Bliss was an imaginative junior high school teacher whose methods did not always please the school principal. She juggled the troubles of her personal life with the responsibility of teaching her students. She taught us the necessity for balance in our lives.
10. Miss Crabtree (played by June Marlowe), Little Rascals: Miss Crabtree is the lovely, but stern elementary school teacher in the 1930s TV series Our Gang/The Little Rascals. She generally accepts all of the hijinks that the kids get into, getting mad only three times during the series’ run. She eventually moved in as a boarder in one of her student’s homes, before exiting the series. She taught us the importance of tolerance.