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Your Favorite Pop Culture Teachers Then and Now

Warner Bros./Paramount/Disney

While making an effort to mold young minds the pop culture teachers of our past (and recent past) succeeded in not only learning us a thing or two but also in making themselves stars. .

So let’s pay tribute and look back at some of our favorite film/TV educators then and now.

Ray Walston, ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’

Ray Walston
Universal Pictures / Associated Press

Then: Playing the uptight history teacher who always seemed to butt heads with Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn), actor Ray Walston had already been a figure in the industry before his ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High‘ appearance. He gained recognition for his role in the 1960s CBS sitcom ‘My Favorite Martian.’ Prior to that he had a successful run with ‘South Pacific,’ ‘Damn Yankees’ and ‘The Sting.’

Now: Walston accumulated some serious fans from ‘Fast Times’ and went on to appear in everything from ‘Johnny Dangerously’ to ‘Of Mice and Men’ to the 1999 reboot of ‘My Favorite Martian.’ He also played Judge Henry Bone on 80 episodes of ‘Picket Fences.’ Sadly, he passed away in January of 2001.

Tina Fey, ‘Mean Girls’

Tina Fey
Paramount Pictures / Mike Coppola, Getty Images

Then: Even though ‘Mean Girls’ was released a mere nine years ago, Ms. Norbury — Lindsay Lohan’s “drug dealing” teacher — has made quite an impression since. Prior to writing the successful film, Fey was the head writer and Weekend Update anchor of ‘Saturday Night Live.’

Now: Fey went on to create, write and star in ’30 Rock.’ She also appeared in ‘Baby Mama,’ ‘Date Night’ and the more recent ‘Admission.’ She has also hosted the Golden Globes and written a very successful book, ‘Bossypants.’

Paul Gleason, ‘The Breakfast Club’

Paul Gleason
A&M Films / Theo Wargo, Getty Images

Then: Entering the business in 1965, actor Paul Gleason initially gained popularity by playing Dr. David Thorton in ‘All My Children.’ And while he appeared in many, many films over the next decade, his role in ‘The Breakfast Club’ would become his most famous.

Now: Gleason’s resume after ‘The Breakfast Club’ was littered with film and television appearances, such as ‘Die Hard,’ ‘Murder, She Wrote,’ ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Boy Meets World.’ He semi-reprised his tough guy teacher role in 2002’s ‘Van Wilder,’ and continued to act until his unfortunate passing in 2006.

William Daniels, ‘Boy Meets World’

William Daniels

Then: After rising to fame for lending his voice to the role of K.I.T.T. in ‘Knight Rider,’ actor William Daniels was cast as Mr. George Feeny in ‘Boy Meets World.’ He would play an important part throughout the entire series, which ended in 2000.

Now: Following his Feeny days Daniels appeared in a number of film and TV shows, such as ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘The Closer’ and ‘Blades of Glory.’ He recently played Dr. Craig Thomas on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and served as the president of SAG from 1999 to 2001. And yes, he did sign on for the ‘BMW’ reboot ‘Girl Meets World.’

Embeth Davidtz, ‘Matilda’

Embeth Davidtz
TriStar Pictures / Jason Merritt, Getty Images

Then: In 1996, Embeth Davidtz played Miss Honey in ‘Matilda.’ Her film career began in 1988 and she soon found herself with a South African equivalent of an Academy Award nomination for her work in ‘Night of the 19th.’  After venturing to Hollywood, Davidtz quickly established herself within the industry.

Now: After her innocent ‘Matilda’ role, Davidtz found success in ‘Fallen’ and ‘Bicentennial Man.’ She then appeared in the HBO series ‘In Treatment’ and had a small recurring role in Showtime’s ‘Californication.’ Most recently she was seen as Rebecca Pryce on AMC’s ‘Mad Men.’

Michael Gambon, ‘Harry Potter’

Michael Gambon
Warner Bros. / Ian Gavan, Getty Images

Then: Playing the headmaster of Hogwarts, actor Michael Gambon had an illustrious career before stepping foot on the ‘Harry Potter‘ set. He stepped up after the death of actor Richard Harris (who appeared in the first two films). Prior to HP, Gambon was recognized for his roles in ‘The Singing Detective’ and ‘Maigret.’

Now: The ‘Harry Potter’ series has brought about a whole new audience for Gambon, who now has played more prominent roles in films such as ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,’ ‘The Omen’ and 2012’s ‘Quartet.’ He was also featured in the now defunct HBO series ‘Luck’ alongside Dustin Hoffman.

Robin Williams, ‘Dead Poets Society’

Robin Williams
Touchstone Pictures / Theo Wargo, Getty Images

Then: As the ‘Dead Poets Society‘ English teacher who desperately desires to introduce a love of poetry to his students, comedian Robin Williams showed us all he can do more than ramble on about random pop culture references. He could act.

Now: Since his days as John Keating, Robin Williams has gone on to hone his stand-up craft, appear in quite a few hits (even winning an Academy Award) and perform in theater. As a man who never stops both talking and working, Williams currently has multiple films coming out soon, including ‘The Butler’ in which he plays Dwight Eisenhower.

Jack Black, ‘The School of Rock’

Jack Black
Paramount Pictures / Dimitrios Kambouris, Getty Images

Then: Tenacious D’s own Jack Black made quite an impression with the part of Dewey Finn in ‘The School of Rock.’ The film is his most popular piece of work, probably because the adorable kid band actually did rock.

Now: Black has been a constant member of Tenacious D (along with Kyle Gas). He has also had continued success in film, with roles in ‘Tropic Thunder,’ ‘The Holiday,’ and ‘Bernie,’ for which he received high praise.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, ‘Kindergarten Cop’

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Imagine Entertainment / Chung Sung-Jun, Getty Images

Then: Before Arnold was telling California how to do its business, he was a film superstar. In 1990, he played officer turned teacher John Kimble in ‘Kindergarten Cop.’ The film was an absolute success, showing us all that even though Schwarzenegger didn’t speak as well as the children he was teaching, we still couldn’t get enough of him.

Now: Arnold’s days after ‘Kindergarten Cop’ remained successful for quite some time, appearing in ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day,’ ‘Eraser’ and the cluster of confusion that was ‘Batman & Robin.’ Later in his career he’d turn to politics, and we all know how that turned out. These days he’s back to mindless action fare like ‘The Expendables 2′ and ‘The Last Stand.’

Michelle Pfeiffer, ‘Dangerous Minds’

Michelle Pfeiffer
Hollywood Pictures / Jason Merritt, Getty Images

Then: Actress Michelle Pfeiffer has been catching the public eye since her debut in 1980’s ‘The Hollywood Knights.’ Her role in ‘Dangerous Minds’ garnered some serious recognition after the commercial success of ‘Batman Returns.’ Playing US Marine-turned-teacher LouAnne Johnson, the role would become one of her most remembered ones.

Now: After the surprising box office success of ‘Dangerous Minds,’ Michelle Pfeiffer found herself not only more respected as an actress but also as a producer (her company released the film). She went on to find even more respect and success with ‘What Lies Beneath’ and ‘Hairspray.’ More recently, Pfeiffer has appeared in ‘Dark Shadows’ and ‘People Like Us.’

Edward James Olmos, ‘Stand and Deliver’

Edward James Olmos
American Playhouse / Alberto E. Rodriguez, Getty Images

Then: Actor Edward James Olmos has been appearing in film and television since the early ’70s, but it was his role as James Escalante in ‘Stand and Deliver’ that would earn him his one and only Academy Award nomination. Based on the true story of a high school math teacher who truly stood as an inspiration for his students, the film has been coined as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the US Library of Congress.

Now: Olmos went on to gain success from roles in ‘Miami Vice,’ ‘Blade Runner,’ and as Commander Adama in the more recent ‘Battlestar Galactica’ TV reboot. In 2011, he turned some heads playing murderous Professor James Gellar on Showtime’s ‘Dexter.’

Ryan Gosling, ‘Half Nelson’

Ryan Gosling
Hunting Lane Films / Stephen Lovekin, Getty Images

Then: Before he was Ryan Goslingthe actor played Dan Dunne in the 2006 film ‘Half Nelson.’ He was an inner-city teacher who hide an unfortunate drug habit. Apparently he had the goods back then…we just didn’t know yet.

Now: Come on…you know all about Ryan Gosling today. You probably got here by Googling “Ryan Gosling photos.”

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