25 of the most memorable TV teachers

11 of 26

Jess Day – New Girl

Although Jess’ career has taken a recent turn, she spends most of the series as an underappreciated middle school teacher and then as an overworked principal. Her endless cheer and optimism may seem dangerous among a bunch of kids on the cusp of puberty. They can be a rough bunch.

Even outside of the classroom, Jess uses her teacher skills on her three hapless male roommates. Much like corralling the middle schoolers, Jess often has to diffuse their interpersonal dynamics. In fact, she probably uses some of the same classroom management skills on Winston, Schmidt and Nick. They certainly behave like middle schoolers most of the time, so it seems Jess’ job is never done.

Perhaps because she’s a fictional character who’s never stood in front of actual students, she kind of seems like the perfect teacher. She’s upbeat, dedicated, never ceases to connect with her students, and doesn’t really grapple with burnout. She’s not a real representation of teachers in reality, and maybe that’s why we love her so much. It also might be all those adorable A-line dresses and sensible flats.

Quite frankly, I think the character of Jess Day, played completely adorkably by Zooey Deschanel, has single-handedly changed teacher fashion. Her style is both winning and comfortable, and her cardigans have done for female teachers what elbow patches did for male college professors. She might not have any real teaching chops, but she’s sure looking good while she pretends.

You can catch up on all the seasons on Hulu and Netflix. New episodes air on FOX on Tuesday nights.