I, like most teachers I know, was very heavily influenced by the educators in my life. I have been lucky to have a great number of quality teachers while in school. However, I didn’t just draw inspiration from my own educational experience, or even real life. I was also inspired by a variety of fictional teachers from books, movies, and television.
Being a millennial, I had no shortage of fictional teachers to choose from: Ms. Bliss from Saved by the Bell, Mr. Cooper from Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, Charles Xavier of the X-Men, and many, many others. However, my personal life trajectory…and lack of cable television narrowed my list down significantly to one teacher who stood above the rest, Mr. Feeny of Boy Meets World.
Mr. Feeny is the best fictional teacher of all time and here are the reasons why:
1. Great classroom instruction and behavior management
As a teacher in real life, I often find myself criticizing fictional depictions of teachers. I catch myself saying things like, “That would never work,” or “You can’t teach like that in real life.” However, when it comes to Feeny, I never say those things. On the contrary, I am always pleasantly surprised to see just how well his lessons translate to real life. I have even used some of his lessons in my class.
And it goes without saying, he handles difficult students like Cory and Shawn masterfully. He realizes that getting buy-in from class clowns is critical to a successful lesson. Consequently, many plotlines revolve around Feeny using unconventional methods to get Shawn or Cory invested in the lesson.
2. Teaches inside and outside of the classroom
We know Mr. Feeny is a great teacher of academic lessons, but he may be even better at teaching life lessons. You wouldn’t exactly expect a classroom teacher to teach their students about love, honesty, parenting, sex, and technology, but Feeny addresses all of those topics in lessons outside of the classroom.
Feeny often goes above and beyond the call of duty with the main characters of the show. Cory, Shawn, and Eric get impromptu life lessons from Feeny whether they want it or not, but I suppose that’s what happens when you live next door to the Matthews family.
3. Pillar of the community
On TV, teachers often stay in the same school and community for a very long time. Mr. Feeny epitomizes the idea of a lifelong community teacher. He knows every student that has come through his school and remembers key aspects about them. You would expect him to know Cory and Eric since he lives next door to them, but as you watch the show you quickly realize that he knows many of his other students just as well. This extends to former students too. In one memorable episode, he was able to blackmail the parent of the school bully because he remembered his “real” name. That student was a senior, meaning Feeny was able to vividly remember things about students upwards of 20 to 30 years later!
Additionally, Feeny stayed in the same district for basically his entire career in spite of the fact that he had other more lucrative opportunities as evident by becoming a college professor following the gang’s graduation.
4. Good principal and instructional coach
Feeny moves up to become the principal of the high school starting in season two. Such a move obviously increased his responsibilities, but Feeny was able to take these changes in stride. He quickly established a successful culture at John Adams High School. Feeny’s winning formula is highlighted by his hiring and mentoring of young teachers, specifically Jonathan Turner and Eli Williams. Just like he was able to do with his students, Feeny frequently pushed Mr. Turner and Williams to be the best they could be with great results.
Furthermore, Mr. Feeny did all this and still taught at least a couple sections of history in the classroom. Principals teaching classes is actually a popular trend now, but Feeny was ahead of the curve.
For my money, Mr. Feeny is the best fictional teacher there has ever been. I aspire to be a Mr. Feeny every day in my class. More importantly, I aspire to be a Mr. Feeny outside of my class too.