It's National Teacher Appreciation Day today, May 3, and it has us thinking back to some of our fondest school memories, which we owe to our favorite teachers. Those teachers who combined education, fun, and inspiration into each lesson plan, motivating us to reach our full potential. While we certainly appreciate our former educators, we would be lying if we didn't admit that we longed to sit in the classrooms of quite a few of the teachers we saw in movies. Seriously, who wouldn't want to be a math student in Ms. Norbury's class in Mean Girls (above)? We could have used some of her self-depreciating humor as we struggled through our real life calculus equations.
So in the spirit of honoring teachers everywhere, we compiled a list of our favorite movie mind-molders. Keep scrolling to relive some of the best pop culture classrooms.
1. Dewey Finn in School of Rock
Few teachers could compete with Jack Black's Dewey Finn (aka Mr. S) for the title of Coolest Teacher Ever in School of Rock. The accidental, and as a result, unconventional substitute teacher steals his prep school students' hearts with his charming mix of real talk and disregard for all standard curriculum in favor of band practice. While he does manage to inadvertently throw some inspiring life lessons, biology and world history don't make the lesson plan cut.
2. Elizabeth Halsey, Russell Gettis, and Scott Delacorte in Bad Teacher
In Bad Teacher, former miserable middle school teacher Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) must return to a job she hates teaching students she hates with coworkers she hates even more after her rich fiance unexpectedly dumps her. When cute, super nerdy substitute Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake) catches her eye, she's motivated to up her teaching game. All while pushing off the advances of the down-to-earth gym teacher Russell Gettis (Jason Segel) because, well, he's a gym teacher.
3. Professor Snape in Harry Potter
No teacher inspired equal parts fear and love in us like Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) of the Harry Potter movie franchise. The sarcastic Potions professor gives Harry a hard time from the get-go and Harry becomes convinced Snape is associated with Voldemort despite headmaster Dumbledore's consistent trust for the professor. It isn't until the end of the final book that the depth of Snape's loyalty and moral character are revealed, securing him a place as one of the series' most beloved characters.
4. John Kimble in Kindergarten Cop
Okay, so technically Kindergarten Cop's John Kimble (Arnold Schwarzenegger) isn't a real teacher, but the detective goes undercover as one for a major LAPD investigation. Although immediately overwhelmed by running his own kindergarten class (and understandably so!), Kimble ultimately rises to the challenge and not only takes control of his class, but actually begins to love his new position and his rambunctious students.
5. John Keating in Dead Poets Society
English teacher John Keating (Robin Williams) begins to teach at an all-boys preparatory school well-known for its rigorous standards and traditional values in Dead Poets Society. Keating's students all face overwhelming pressure from their school and parents. He employs unorthodox methods—including tearing apart their textbooks—to teach his lessons and reach out to his students (including a baby-faced Ethan Hawke), encouraging them to break free from the status quo and follow their dreams.
6. Erin Gruwell in Freedom Writers
Inspired by true events, Freedom Writers tells the story of Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank), a white high school teacher who takes a position that requires her to teach a class of at-risk boys and girls in a school where most students either don't graduate or don't pursue education beyond high school. Gruwell breaks through to her students by teaching material and assigning reading relevant to the struggles they face outside of school, as well as encouraging them all to keep journals.
7. Melvin B. Tolson in The Great Debaters
In The Great Debaters, powerhouse Denzel Washington plays Melvin B. Tolson, a forward-thinking and inspirational professor at Wiley College in Texas in the 1930s. Based on a true story, Tolson encourages his black students to create the school's first debate team during a time that, not only were African Americans not recognized by the debate society, but Jim Crow laws and lynching were still pervasive.
8. Katherine Watson in Mona Lisa Smile
In Mona Lisa Smile, UCLA graduate Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts) takes a job as an art history teacher at the all-female Wellesley College in 1953, a time when women were less encouraged to seek career success in lieu of finding marital success. Watson, however, wants to push her students to challenge these outdated social roles and breaks from the traditional coursework, encouraging the girls to study modern art, including the meaning behind the Mona Lisa's smile.
9. Miss Marquez in Jack
A young Jennifer Lopez plays Miss Marquez in the film Jack, which is about a boy born with an exaggerated version of Werner syndrome, causing his body to age four times faster than his years. At 10 years old, Jack (Robin Williams) attends school in the body of a 40-year-old and falls for his teacher, Miss Marquez. Marquez is sincere and compassionate, giving Jack all the support and individual attention he needs. However, Jack is still technically a 10-year-old boy and, as so many elementary school flings do, his crush ends in heartbreak.