Today is World's Teacher Day -- a global event launched by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in which students and families get to honor the other essential workers of our communities.
With the return of back to school season (during a worldwide pandemic), educators have been under intense pressure to do their jobs, keep a positive attitude and teach the next generation of leaders how to be well-functioning adults. But with all the work that they put into our communities, teachers barely get paid anything close to what they're worth --- they rarely get acknowledged outside of the classroom in today's society.
One teacher took to Twitter to share an emotional encounter she recently had, writing:
"The receptionist at my Dr.’s office just thanked me for all the hard work we’ve been doing through the pandemic as teachers and I nearly burst into tears right there in the waiting room. Gratitude can go along way and mean so much"
In the media, educators are often portrayed as devoted, valuable members of society. Teachers like Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus and Miss Bliss from Saved By The Bell inspired many young people to want to teach a class and take students on a magical field trip.
But when it comes to Black teachers in television, it's very rare to see any sort of representation. In a case of art imitating life, the representation gap between Black educators and Black students still remains wide, according to a new report from the Center For Black Educators. The same report revealed that although 15% of U.S. public school students identify as Black, Black teachers account for only 7% of public school educators.
In honor of World's Teacher Day, let's take a look at some of the best Black educators in television and film history.
Steve Hightower (played by Steve Harvey) The Steve Harvey Show
Although Mr. Hightower was the cool music teacher, he did all he could to make sure his students felt heard and safe.
Vivian Banks (played by Janet Hubert) The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air
Mrs. Banks taught English Literature at an unnamed University. At one point, she took a temporary job as a teacher for a month in Black History at the predominately White, Bel-Air Academy, where nephew Will and son Carlton attended. Needless to say, she taught the entire student body a thing or two about what Black History truly means.
Sister Mary Clarence (played by Whoopi Goldberg) Sister Act & Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit
If it wasn't for Sister Mary Clarence, the student would have never known their full potential beyond Catholic school, and the beloved St Thomas Aquinas Church would have been shut down.
Melvin B. Tolson (played by Denzel Washington)The Great Debaters
Mr. Tolson was a Black Professor during the Depression years, who coached his debate team to a nearly undefeated season. That in itself is greatness.
Annalise Keating (played by Viola Davis) How To Get Away With Murder
Professor Keating was a strong, confident, complex woman who, through her mere existence, allowed Black women and their many facets, to be seen and admired on a national scale.
Mr. Cooper (played by Mark Curry) Hangin' With Mr. Cooper
Mr. Cooper was everyone's favorite teacher/basketball coach. Student's could always count on the larger-than-life gym teacher to help them through life's trials and tribulations, all while making them laugh.
Lydia Grant (played by Debbie Allen) Fame
From 1980 to 1987, Ms. Grant made students (and viewers) believe that all they had to do was dream big to make it far in life.
Professor Oglevee (played by Dorien Wilson) The Parkers
The professor may not have been fond of students Nikki and Kim Parker at the beginning of their matriculation; but through their years of wild adventures, they wound up teaching him things about love and life-- and not the other way around.
Sherman Klump (played by Eddie Murphy) The Nutty Professor
Professor Klump not only made it cool to be a nerdy, University level, science teacher --- he ultimately made it cool for viewers to be themselves.
Joe Clark (played by Morgan Freeman) Lean On Me
Before becoming the Principal of East Side High, Mr. Clark was another Black educator, trying to change his community and lead students down a better path. His militant style ultimately lead to him doing just that.