Every summer break, it happens. June turns to July, July roars into August, and before we know it, school is right around the corner. This year, we thought we’d ease the existential dread for students everywhere by creating our own bracket from TV and film’s most memorable teachers. Consider it August Madness. A Faculty Face-off. The Educator’s Olympics. You get it—whatever you want to call it, we’re calling it The Ultimate Back to School Teacher Showdown. We’ve placed our bets on the outcomes, and now it’s your turn.
Vote for your favorite teacher in Round 1 of our back to school bracket, and check back to see who’s moving onto the next round.
Walter White vs. Mrs. Krabappel
Walter White of “Breaking Bad” certainly has a lot to prove as an overly qualified high school chemistry teacher-turned-meth manufacturer and drug kingpin. After all, wouldn’t you be out for redemption if the company you founded and sold off for pennies on the dollar made your co-founders grow fabulously wealthy off of your research?
Then again, Ms. Krabappel (“The Simpsons“) has her own scores to settle. After watching her husband leave her for their marriage counselor, and picking up a drinking habit that led to her being fired from a prestigious private school and winding up at Springfield Elementary, Edna Krabappel has something to prove.
Walter White (Breaking Bad) (42 votes)
Mrs. Krabappel (The Simpsons) (30 votes)
Economics Teacher from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” vs Sean Maguire
If you still haven’t seen the now-iconic scenes from Ferris Bueller’s economics class, you’ve likely heard it referenced in pop culture. The legendarily monotone voice of Bueller’s teacher made actor Ben Stein a household name and even landed him his own Comedy Central show “Win Ben Stein’s Money”. Clearly, this teacher is about his business, as dull as he is.
On the other hand, Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), from the iconic “Good Will Hunting,” seems to be about real investment in his students, opting to be a humble professor and a community college counselor rather than the more prestigious positions pursued by his former Harvard classmates. He meets his match in Will Hunting (Matt Damon), a brilliant mind with a host of psychological issues that Maguire tasks himself to resolve so that Hunting can unlock his true potential.
Economics Teacher (Ferris Bueller's Day Off) (4 votes)
Sean Maguire (Good Will Hunting) (29 votes)
Sherman Klump vs Mr. Keating
It’s hard to beat “The Nutty Professor” himself. Sherman Klump (Eddie Murphy) is a lovable, kind-hearted, brilliant-minded chemistry professor with a secret love for his colleague Carla Purty and a mountain of insecurities about his weight. Indeed, love makes us do crazy things, and Professor Klump made the phrase literal when he created a weight loss serum that transforms him into the uber-confident Buddy Love to try to win over Ms. Purty.
John Keating is an original member of the Dead Poets Society—also the movie’s namesake!—at Welton Academy. Energetic and charismatic, he is truly a liberator of the mind, convincing his students to rebel against preconceived notions, cut ties from restrictive and prescriptive familial roles, and choose their own paths.
Sherman Klump (The Nutty Professor) (17 votes)
Mr. Keating (Dead Poets Society) (31 votes)
Mr. O’Neill vs Mr. Garrison
Mr. O’Neill, from the original dark comedy cartoon cult series “Daria”, is an interesting archetype. Perpetually sensitive and cheerful, Mr. O’Neill is an English teacher who leads a variety of counseling groups, including one called It’s Okay to Cry, and is regularly taken advantage of by his more cynical students.
Herbert J. Garrison, known simply as Mr. Garrison to his motley crew of students, is a standout character on the 2nd-longest running cartoon series “South Park“. From sex changes to political activism (watch the episode where Ms. Garrison tries to stop gay marriage by having Stan & Kyle take care of an egg) to running for president on a comedically lackadaisical platform, Mr. Garrison’s character development has been making fans cheer, laugh, and cringe, for over twenty years now.
Mr. O'Neill (Daria) (9 votes)
Mr. Garrison (South Park) (16 votes)
Deloris van Cartier vs Miss Honey
For those who haven’t gotten a chance to see “Sister Act” or “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit“, you’re missing out on incredible performances from Whoopi Goldberg in the character of Deloris van Cartier. A wisecracking, singing, dancing nun and former lounge singer, and excellent choir instructor—what’s not to love? The renditions of “Ball of Confusion” and “Oh Happy Day” performed by a young Lauryn Hill alone are enough to make any music fan rise to their feet.
On the other end of the lovability spectrum is Miss Jennifer Honey, the daughter of Dr. Magnus Honey and an unknown mother, and the teacher of Matilda Wormwood in the Roald Dahl classic “Matilda“. Miss Honey, the recipient of cruel treatment from her step-aunt Agatha Trunchbull, developed a deep well of compassion for all of her students, least of which being Matilda, who develops such a trust with Miss Honey that she confides in her about her telekinetic abilities.
We’re split on this one again. Two great women. Two great missions. One great outcome: awesome cinema. Let us know who you pick!
Deloris Van Cartier (Sister Act, Sister Act II) (106 votes)
Miss Honey (Matilda) (60 votes)
LouAnne Johnson vs Ms. Othmar
Author. Teacher. US Navy journalist. Most heroes wear one cape. LouAnne Johnson wears three (that we know of). The author of the book “My Posse Don’t Do Homework” became canonized when her book was adapted for film as the 90s power drama “Dangerous Minds“, played by an in-demand Michelle Pfeiffer and accompanied by a hit soundtrack including Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise.
Ms. Othmar, on the other hand, was unseen, the trademark existence for every adult in the classic “Peanuts“ series. Though we never got to see who she was, we learned from Linus’ undying affection that she was a special woman. Well, at least to a cartoon child with a signature security blanket.
LouAnne Johnson (Dangerous Minds) (65 votes)
Ms. Othmar (Peanuts) (96 votes)
Detective John Kimble vs Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones
Wherever trouble brews, LAPD detective John Kimble is on the case. Drug dealer Cullen Crisp (Richard Tyson) pursued his ex-wife Rachel for fleeing with his money and his son — as soon as Kimble catches wind of the plot, he goes undercover to offer Rachel immunity to testify against the infamous drug dealer. Played by a hyper-hulked out pre-Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kimble takes on the perfect disguise: a kindergarten teacher.
Dr. Henry Indiana Jones is one of modern cinema’s prototypical dreamboats. Intelligent, ambitious, but with a knack for finding trouble, Jones is captivating enough to spark one of the highest-grossing franchises of all time, making both Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford, and Steven Spielberg household names in the process.
Detective John Kimble (Kindergarten Cop) (47 votes)
Dr. Henry Jones (Indiana Jones) (107 votes)
Ms. Grotke vs Dr. Charles Xavier aka. “Professor X”
Miss Alordayne Grotke is a fourth-grade teacher at Third Street School and fan-favorite character from the popular animated series “Recess“. We love Ms. Grotke because of how ahead of the times she was: in a pre-internet, pre-Gen Z world, she was already practicing yoga, harnessing her Chi, studying martial arts, advocating for her students, and teaching about environmentalism. Some might say that Ms. Grotke is a major influence on modern liberal politics. By “some,” we mean “us.”
Dr. Charles Xavier is the brilliant son of nuclear researcher Dr. Brian Xavier, a graduate of Harvard University at age 16, and a dual Ph.D. holder in Genetics and Biophysics. He’s also a mutant with incredibly powerful telekinetic abilities and a father figure to a whole host of super mutants who, you know, save the world while battling persecution for their ability to…save it. Dr. Xavier, or Professor X, is part grandpa, part Gandhi, and part GOAT.
Miss Grotke (Recess) (49 votes)
Dr. Charles Xavier (X-Men) (97 votes)
Rupert Giles vs Jim McAllister
Everyone loves a sacrificial lamb. A passion-led prophet. A martyr. That’s what makes Rupert Giles from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer“, such a competitive Ultimate Teacher: the guy will fall on his blade (every possible pun very much intended). He ditched his prophesied familial script and became a rogue warlock, but he defied the Watchers Council in defiant protection of his mentee, Buffy. The more you learn about Giles, the more you learn how he was destined to break the rules in support of his instinct… (You’ll have to watch to find out more about that).
In walks Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick): fair but fiery. Humble but heroic. Simple yet civil. High school means high stakes, and “Election” puts us in the middle of an election season rivalry on par with, well… the 2020 election (too soon?). Mr. McAllister emerges as a voice of reason, a PTA Founding Father, and an unlikely political puppeteer, teaching everyone many valuable lessons.
Rupert Giles (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) (75 votes)
Jim McAllister (Election) (53 votes)
Dewey Finn vs Ms. Frizzle
Everyone’s favorite school bus was lead by everyone’s favorite teacher. The red hair. The vivacious spirit. The flawless bangle game. Ms. Frizzle (was there ever a Mr. Frizzle, Ms. Frizzle..?) was cute as a button and didn’t mind shrinking the bus using the Portashrinker to endear herself to her students.
Dewey Finn (School of Rock) (74 votes)
Ms. Frizzle (The Magic School Bus) (62 votes)
Jaime Escalante vs. Mark Thackery
Great characters drive great stories, and the greatest stories are the ones that are also true. Jaime Escalante, played on screen by Edward James Olmos, was a math teacher at James A. Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. He tasks himself with a simple goal: do whatever it takes to coach underperforming students into passing the AP Calculus exam.
Across the pond, we have a story about a special vessel of spirit symmetry, Mark Thackery, played by the iconic Sidney Poitier. Like the students of East Los Angeles, London is home to rebellious inner-city youth, quietly but desperately in need of guidance, wisdom, and a fighting chance from someone they respect. “To Sir, With Love“ is the story of their rise to dignity, led by an engineer on a career layover.
Jamie Escalante (Stand and Deliver) (64 votes)
Mark Thackery (To Sir, With Love) (62 votes)
Keep your eyes peeled — we’ll be back with Round 2 of the Ultimate Back to School Teacher Showdown next week!
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