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October 13, 2015

Inspiring TV Teachers: Real-Life Educators Pay Tribute

by TV Squad Readers, posted Aug 31st 2010 1:00PM
William DanielsWe've all had that one teacher who really drove us to do well in school, to reach for our dreams and to succeed. Sometimes in the life of a TV fanatic, that teacher may be a character on your favorite series.

To salute those inspiring educators -- both real and fake -- we asked real-life teachers to tell us what TV teachers they hold close to their hearts.

From Mr. Kotter on 'Welcome Back, Kotter' to Mr. Feeny on 'Boy Meets World,' read on to find out which characters have left a lasting mark on the molders of today's youth.

For me, Mr. Feeny on 'Boy Meets World' was a constant source of inspiration. He was there for his students -- he had a firm but loving demeanor that helped his students survive middle school and high school. Those are tough years for anyone, but especially so for the characters of 'Boy Meets World.'

One thing that sticks out in my mind is he always encouraged his students to go above and beyond. When Cory and Shawn wanted to do the bare minimum, he was there to push them further and harder than anyone else ever could have. He was a constant source of wisdom for Topanga and was supportive of Eric when he wanted to give up.

The thing about him that inspired me to become a teacher was his tough love approach. He made his students try their hardest but he was also there when they needed help. He helped Cory and Shawn out of many scrapes and saved them from trouble more than once. As a teacher, I seek to serve as a source of inspiration for my students. Although I teach preschool and elementary school, there is a great responsibility to those young minds. It is even more important to be inspirational and supportive when the children are new to academia.

I hope that my students will think of me fondly in the future, and think of me as someone who motivated them to do their best. -- Brianna Soloski

Melissa GilbertI never dreamed I'd be a teacher. It seemed like such a stuffy job and I felt I had a lot of life in me. My whole perspective changed when I saw Laura Ingalls Wilder from 'Little House on the Prairie' wrestling Nellie Olson in the mud as her class cheered her on. Nellie had started a vicious rumor about Laura and she was defending her moral code of honor, something she prided herself on. 'Little House On The Prairie' had been a favorite show of mine growing up and I happened to catch an episode during classes in college.

When the mud scene came on the screen, I knew what I was meant to be. I realized at that moment that your personality doesn't have to change to become a teacher. You are still the exact same person. If you were feisty before being a teacher, you were going to be feisty after. I wanted to be just like Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I changed my major the next day to Elementary Education and finished Catholic University with a B.A. in Elementary Education. I was ready to conquer the world and I felt confident I could do it. I promised myself to always remain true to who I was and my students would respond. They would see in me a person with gusto and confidence and the ability to teach them about living a good and honest life. I went on to teach middle schoolers for 4 years before having my first child. It was the best 4 years of my life, a gift. Thank you, Ms. Wilder, for teaching me how to live life to its fullest and share it with my students. -- Roey Ebert

Matthew MorrisonMany teachers have inspirations from their childhood such as that high school teacher that always took in interested in all her students, or perhaps that college professor that seemed harsh and cold at a first glance but possessed a passion for teaching so great that he could make anyone interested in learning. All these inspirations have something in common. They are all "real" people. They are physical human beings that we have had interactions with.

However, once in a while, a fictional character in a TV show, an actor and assumes the role of a teacher, has such a powerful effect that he inspires us. For me, that inspiration was Will Schuester from 'Glee.' Mr. Schuester is the choral director that has a passion to inspire students through music during the most difficult time of their lives: high school.

Through each episode, Mr. Schuester is not only a teacher, but a mentor to his students as he leads them through difficult, every day, high school problems. More importantly, he constantly fights his students' battles for them, especially against the notorious Sue Sylvester, the cheerleading coach bent of distroying the Glee club. Schuester stands up for his students and motivates them at every turn.

The biggest reason Mr. Schuester inspires me is that he is not without flaws. Throughout the show, Schuester shows moments of weakness and bad judgement. The important thing is that he does not let these moments discourage him or slow him down. He bounces back and continues to do his best. How I teach high school Physics. No, I am not a music teacher, but I take the lessons that Mr. Schuester has taught me and translated them into my teaching.

When I make mistakes, I don't doubt myself as a teacher and just use my mistakes as a opportunity to be a better teacher. A teacher is not only an authority figure. He is a friend, a mentor, and most importantly an inspiration to his students. -- David Park

Ken HowardAlthough I had long decided to become a teacher, the television character that inspired me to continue my education was Ken Reeves from 'White Shadow.'

'White Shadow' was about a white basketball coach/physical education teacher at Carver High School in Los Angeles. This program was produced, at a time, when segregation was being broken up in our country.

It showed me the many challenges, that teachers have to face on a daily basis. There was a lot of distrust during this period of time between minorites and the white establishment. I not only loved the game of basketball, but I loved the idea of working with students from different social backgrounds. The show gave me the confidence that I needed, to accept the challenges that would come my way.

Now that I have retired from a successful coaching and teaching career, I continue to try to motivate young individuals to go into the profession of coaching and physical education. I now work for a midwestern college as a Physical Education student teacher supervisor. Without the television character of Ken Reeves, I might never have had the career that I had. -- Carl Benjamin

Howard HessemanAs a definitely non-honors student who was suffering at a small town middle school, I used to watch 'Head of the Class' on ABC, and smile because even smart kids in the big city had problems. The situations that the students in the IHP class at Monroe High School got themselves into were familiar, their teacher was not. Charlie Moore from 'Head of the Class,' an out-of-work actor turned history teacher, was everything my teachers were not: cool, intelligent and caring. Like many things during those years, I eventually lost interest, forgot about the TV show, and moved on to college and life.

A few years into college, I had 3/4 of an English diploma, and no clue what I wanted to do when I graduated. Sitting in the dorm one late night, I caught a back-to-back rerun of 'Head of the Class,' and thought "Wow, what a really bad show." But the character of Charlie Moore was still intriguing. I thought, "I can do that." I started to research teaching, and decided that after graduating I would get my teaching credentials.

Two years later, I was in San Francisco with my teaching credentials, and an urge to travel. I spent the next seven years teaching across Asia, spending time in Vietnam, South Korea, and Indonesia. I taught many students, and I hope that I was an intelligent, caring, and yes, even a little cool teacher. -- Jared S. Bernstein

Gabe KaplanBack in high school, I never missed watching Gabe Kotter on 'Welcome Back Mr. Kotter.' He was so different from my teachers. In class, he joked around with the students but he didn't stop being a teacher when he left the school. He cared about students long after that last bell rang. He taught the "unteachable" kids and he made it fun.

Fast-forward 30 years. The dean has just come into my classroom to tell me that it sounds like my students are having too much fun to be learning anything. I am told, yet again, that as the remedial English teacher, my students have to learn if they were ever going to succeed in school. Obviously, with all the laughter, they must not be learning. I think the dean never watched Welcome Back Mr. Kotter.

I can't say with certainly that watching the Sweathogs learn about history, and along the way life, is why I decided to become a teacher. I was, like so many other girls, in love with Vinnie Barbarino. His "up your nose with a rubber hose" sounded like brilliant prose to a 15-year-old. Yet, over the years, I have noticed that my way of teaching aligns closely to that of Mr. Kotter's. My students know that my concern and care for them is not tied to a letter grade. They know that I too was once considered "unteachable." Most importantly, I laugh with my students, a lot. If we learn, even when we are not trying to, then I owe a thank you to Mr. Kotter. On Tuesday nights he taught me that being a teacher means more than offering a student a chance to succeed in school; it means offering them a chance to succeed in life. -- Tonia Steinkamp

William DanielsI am not yet a teacher, but I am in college to be one. Mr. George Feeny from 'Boy Meets World' is my No. 1 inspiration of how I would like my students to feel about me. Mr. Feeny didn't just teach because he felt like it, he taught them because he saw a passion and light in his students that he never wanted to go out. His patience with Eric was completely remarkable, and his tolerance of the shenanigans Cory, Topanga and Shawn pulled is out of this world.

What sets Mr. Feeny apart from the normal teacher is how much he cared about his students outside of the classroom. Whether it was guiding them in their love life (and as we found out, he was quite a silver fox himself!), helping them through family troubles, or just being a friend- you knew you could count on Mr. Feeny. I hope to be half the teacher he was to his students, and want all the respect and love his students had for him.

The episode that proves how adored Mr. Feeny is, is the very last episode. Eric, Cory, Shawn and Topanga are all getting ready to move to New York. Mr. Feeny is the last person they say good-bye to before leaving town. They beg him to tell them he loves them, and after they leave the room he whispers "I love you all." I don't know many teachers who are 100 percent able to admit to themselves their students are not just their students, but a part of their life they will never get back. Feeny inspired me to know that even if I had a very rough day with my students, I can close the door at night and love them all.

Thanks (in the words of Eric) FEENY!!!!!! --Melissa Schick

Which TV teachers inspired you?

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