Ryan Gosling, Jennifer Garner and More On-Screen Teachers Who Passed the Acting Test

Happy World Teachers' Day! Check out Zooey Deschanel, Viola Davis and more actors who did their homework before taking on teaching roles on the big and small screen.

By Cathy Campo Oct 05, 2021 5:01 PMTags
Watch: Teachers Share Uplifting Messages to Students Amid Coronavirus

Pop quiz! What do Zooey Deschanel, Ryan Gosling and Julia Roberts have in common? They've all played teachers.

In honor of World Teachers' Day Oct. 5, we're celebrating the stars who gave extra credit-worthy performances for their roles as educators

In case you need a refresher for the exam: Zooey was quirky middle school instructor, Jess, in New Girl. Similarly, Ryan stunned with his 2007 portrayal of a troubled history teacher in Half Nelson. As for Julia, she deserved an apple on her desk for playing a devoted Wellesley professor in Mona Lisa Smile.

These stars have certainly taught us a thing or two about good acting. Movies can serve as a form of education, but singer-songwriter John Legend agrees that there's nothing that can replace the real deal.

"My English teacher, Mrs. Bodey, was instrumental in the educational journey that carried me through school and into my career," the EGOT winner wrote for Huffpost in 2017. "Mrs. Bodey, along with a few other teachers, helped me gain confidence in my skills and pushed me to challenge myself...They pushed me to earn a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, to hone my writing as an English Major and, ultimately, toward a successful career as a songwriter."

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Whether you're taking in lessons from fictional teachers or real ones, keep scrolling to study up on more A+ Hollywood performances. We'll need a three-page analysis on our desk by Monday morning.

Morgan Freeman

With his soothing voice, we'd want him as our teacher too. Morgan stunned as former teacher and current principal Joe Clark. Based on a true story, it's up to Principal Clark to institute some serious changes to ensure that the majority of the students can pass basic skills testing.

Harrison Ford

Professor by day, Indiana Jones by night. Harrison Ford plays the ever daring, ever afraid of snakes adventurer in all four Indiana Jones films.

Ryan Gosling

Stepping away from his usual role as a heartthrob, Ryan stars as a high school teacher (and secret drug addict) in the 2006 drama Half Nelson.

Richard Harris

Though his time in the role was short, Richard's stint as Professor Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films reminded us that there is good in everyone, and that Gryffindor deserves all the house cups.

J.K. Simmons

Teaching music and inspiring students isn't all fun and games, as J.K. shows us in the 2014 Oscar-winning film Whiplash.

Richard Dreyfuss

Playing a classical composer turned high school music teacher, Dreyfuss stars as Mr. Holland in the 1995 film Mr. Holland's Opus.

Alan Rickman

The late star played the ever creepy defense against the dark arts professor, Severus Snape, in all eight Harry Potter films.

Viola Davis

Viola Davis played ruthless educator, mentor and defense attorney Annalise Keating in ABC's hit show How to Get Away With Murder.

Cameron Diaz

Cameron plays a gold-digging, foulmouthed and just all around beyond bad educator in the 2011 comedy Bad Teacher.

Matthew Morrison

You can't have the TV series Glee without someone in charge of the singing group. Will Schuester is not only the director of the Glee club, but he's also McKinley High's Spanish teacher.

Jennifer Garner

The actress plays Julia Fitzpatrick, an elementary school teacher in the 2010 romantic comedy Valentine's Day.

Ian Harding

Just about everybody was hot for Ezra Fitz, the supersexy (former) teacher on Pretty Little Liars.

Julia Roberts

The rom-com queen is an enthusiastic art history professor in the 2003 drama Mona Lisa Smile, and she also played a professor in the 2011 film Larry Crowne.

Jack Black

In the 2003 film School of Rock, Jack plays a hopeful rocker who poses as a substitute teacher for some cash and ends up turning his classroom into a rock band .

Gwyneth Paltrow

A Glee favorite. Gwyneth is Holly Holliday the interesting substitute teacher who takes over for the Spanish teacher and Glee club director while he's sick. Holly delivers an unforgettable version of Cee Lo's "Forget You" tune.

Hugh Dancy

Watch out for FBI Academy teacher and FBI profiler Will Graham who is on a nonstop mission to solve serial killer crimes in the TV series Hannibal.

Zooey Deschanel

We adore Zooey and her role as the bubbly and quirky teacher in the TV series New Girl.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

The former California governor played a tough badass police officer gone undercover in the 1990 flick Kindergarten Cop.

Jane Lynch

Jane stars as Sue Sylvester in Glee. She is the head coach of the Cheerios cheerleading squad at William McKinley High School, and of course, Sue isn't particularly fond of the Glee club.

David Schwimmer

Of course we can't forget to mention Friends fave Ross, a NYU paleontology professor.

Alyson Hannigan

We all remember Lily Aldrin. The kindergarten teacher and problem-solving pal out of the How I Met Your Mother's bunch in the laughter-filled TV series.

Justin Timberlake

Justin plays the new, attractive (of course) and secretly rich junior high school teacher that all of his women colleagues are fighting over in the 2011 comedy Bad Teacher.

Kate Hudson

Stunner Kate guest stars as the fiery, not-so-nice dance instructor Cassandra July on Glee.

Russell Crowe

Russell Crowe is brilliant in the film A Beautiful Mind as genius mathematician John Nash.

Jason Segal

The actor joins Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake in the hilarious 2011 flick Bad Teacher as a junior high school gym teacher.

Michelle Pfeiffer

Tough ex-marine gal Louanne Johnson is hired as an inner-city high school teacher in the 1995 film Dangerous Minds.

Bryan Cranston

The 57-year-old actor plays a high school teacher who secretly turns to producing crystal meth in order to provide for his family on the hit TV series Breaking Bad.

Ken Jeong

Ken plays Señor Ben Chang, a Spanish teacher at a local community college in the hilarious TV series Community.

Dot Jones

Dot Jones is Shannon Beiste, aka one tough cookie. Beiste is McKinley High's football coach on the TV series Glee.

Robin Williams

Robin is inspirational English teacher John Keating who teaches his students poetry and the mantra "Seize the Day" in the 1989 classic Dead Poets Society.

View More Photos From Stars Playing Teachers

This story was originally published on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 at 4 a.m. PT.