Fixated as we are on our own childhoods, we tend to look back on our favorite ’90s TV kids and teenagers fairly frequently. But recently — and perhaps this is just us showing our age — our thoughts have turned to their teachers. While Mr. Feeny, Ms. Jacobs, and Coach Cutlip didn’t get nearly as much screen time as the kids on Boy Meets World, Dawson’s Creek, and The Wonder Years, they made more of an impression than their students might like to admit. Find out what’s become of ’90s TV teachers, from series regulars who shared their wisdom (or just their anger) with the younger generation to the most memorable of guest stars, below.
William Daniels, Boy Meets World’s George Feeny
Perhaps better known to your parents as Dustin Hoffman’s dad in The Graduate, William Daniels became the most memorable TV educator of the ’90s in his role as Mr. Feeny. Initially Cory Matthews’ middle-school teacher, Feeny was soon promoted to high-school principal — not to mention, to Cory’s continued horror, his next door neighbor. His firm but fair wisdom even followed his former students to college, where he eventually became a professor. But how has Daniels passed the time since Boy Meets World ended its seven-season run in 2000? You may have spotted the 85-year-old actor in any number of TV guest spots, from The Closer to Grey’s Anatomy. He’s also been known to reprise his ’80s role as the voice of KITT, the car from Knight Rider (yes, that was Mr. Feeny!), for one-off stints on The Simpsons and in that awful David Spade/Rob Schneider/Jon Heder movie The Benchwarmers.
Leann Hunley, Dawson’s Creek’s Tamara Jacobs
She wasn’t a constant presence like Mr. Feeny, but who could forget Leann Hunley’s foxy Tamara Jacobs, the English teacher who took Pacey Witter’s virginity? Ms. Jacobs skipped town when word of her and Pacey’s affair got out, but Hunley hasn’t done a similar disappearing act. Along with a few TV guest appearances over the years (remember her as Shira Huntzberger on Gilmore Girls?), she returned to a gig she began long before her time in Capeside: Days of Our Lives. Over 20 years after leaving the soap opera, Hunley resumed the role of Anna DiMera in 2007.
Dave Gruber Allen, Freaks and Geeks’ Jeff Rosso
Somewhere between Tommy Chong’s That ’70s Show character Leo and South Park’s Mr. Mackey, there was Mr. Rosso, the long-haired hippie guidance counselor on Freaks and Geeks. It may not shock you to learn that Dave Allen is known for his aging flower children characters. In the past decade, he’s been a recurring troubadour/organic farmer on Gilmore Girls, played Mr. Kwest on the TEENick series Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, and voiced a guy who goes by the name Johnny Appleseed on King of the Hill. Party Down fans will surely remember his brief but hilarious turn as sci-fi author A.F. Gordon Theodore. You may have also noticed Mr. Rosso popping up as yet another educator, nerdy Sandy Pinkus, in last year’s Bad Teacher. Off the screen, Allen is a member of the surreal comedy troupe 2 Headed Dog.
Robia LaMorte, Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Jenny Calendar
High-school computer teacher by day, technophilic gypsy by night, Jenny Calendar was a mentor to budding witch/hacker Willow and a love interest for lonely Giles. (She was also sent to break up Buffy and Angel, but hey, everyone’s got baggage.) So, what happened to Robia LaMorte after Jenny met an untimely end? The 42-year-old actress moved on to The WB’s short-lived Rescue 77 in 1999, and took a few guest spots and roles in independent films through 2005. But, despite playing a self-proclaimed “techno-pagan,” LaMorte apparently “experienced a divine intervention” while she was still on Buffy. Now, the woman who started her career as a dancer for Prince is now a minister. Listen to a 2009 interview with LaMorte about her faith here.
Roger Rees, My So-Called Life’s Vic Racine
We’ve been aware of Roger Rees for a while, of course. This versatile, 68-year-old actor is always working. He was a British ambassador on The West Wing, Dr. Marlow for a few episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, and, more recently, had a recurring role on Syfy’s Warehouse 13. Rees has also been in innumerable movies over the years, but we remember him most vividly as Owens, Lord Caldlow’s solicitor in 2006’s The Prestige. Also a stage actor who started out in the Royal Shakespeare Company, in 2010 he took over for Nathan Lane as Gomez in Broadway’s The Addams Family. What we did not realize — probably because we were so young when we saw him on My So-Called Life — is that all these characters were played by the substitute teacher who charmed Angela’s class by encouraging them to “question everything.” Hey, every high school has one, and many of them are just as disappointing as this one turned out to be.
Patrick Thomas O’Brien, Saved by the Bell’s Mr. Dewey
Bayside High teachers were a motley crew. There was daffy Mrs. Culpepper, spirited Mr. Belding rival Mr. Tuttle (sadly, Jack Angeles, who played that role, died in 2009), and Ms. Simpson, who couldn’t hear very well. We all know what the school principal is up to these days (karaoke, guest starring on Mad Men, that kind of thing), but more than any other faculty member, we’ve wondered about Mr. Dewey. Remember him, the bored math teacher who was always saying things you weren’t sure were jokes? He was delightful! Turns out Patrick Thomas O’Brien is a character actor who shows up in lots of TV shows and films. You might have seen the 61-year-old chameleon as Cupid on a few episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, or the bailiff in Intolerable Cruelty, or Mr. Hendricks in Catch Me If You Can. Betcha didn’t recognize him amid all the facial fuzz, but that’s O’Brien in the photo above, as Dr. Rose in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Twink Caplan, Clueless’ Mrs. Geist-Hall
Lest you chide us for straying from the small screen, allow us to remind you that Clueless was also a TV series, debuting on ABC’s TGIF lineup about a year after the teen movie sensation hit theaters. And while Alicia Silverstone was too big a star by then to reprise her role as Cher Horowitz (that duty fell to poor Rachel Blanchard, who just couldn’t compete), many of the film’s actors stayed on for the transition. One of them was Twink Caplan, who played the awkwardly charming Miss Geist in the movie but became Mrs. Geist-Hall after marrying Wallace Shawn’s Mr. Hall (he appeared in the TV series, too, but we imagine you haven’t lost track of him: Toy Story 3, blah blah blah, incredibly highbrow film sequel, yada yada yada). The 61-year-old actress was also a producer on the film and ABC show, and she’s done some more of that over the years alongside Amy Heckerling, along with some great guest spots (did you catch her as dance teacher Madame LeClair on Community?). She’s currently got no fewer than five movies in the works, and if you’re a Tim and Eric fan, we’re sure you were as shocked as we were to see Miss Geist get nasty in this year’s Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie. Read an interview where they discuss casting her as Katie here.
Robert Picardo, The Wonder Years’ Coach Ed Cutlip
Last but by no means least, TV’s archetypal gym teacher: the angry, fearsome task master who secretly wants kids to love him (remember Santa Claus?). Sci-fi fans will surely scoff at those who don’t know what became of Robert Picardo once his days as Coach Cutlip were through — after voicing Johnnycab in Total Recall midway through his tenure on The Wonder Years, he went on in 1995 to play the Doctor (aka Emergency Medical Hologram!) on Star Trek: Voyager, as well as in other branches of the franchise. Following a stint on NBC’s short-lived legal drama The Lyon’s Den, he returned to space in 2004, assuming the role of International Oversight Advisory rep Richard Woolsey on Stargate: SG-1 and its spin-off, Stargate Atlantis. Since that show wrapped in 2009, Coach Cutlip has been making guest appearances in such geek-friendly fare as Castle, Justified, and Chuck. Among his current projects, Picardo plays Dr. Robert Stadler in October’s Atlas Shrugged: Part 2. Do with that information what you will.