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The Worst Teachers in Fiction

The Worst Teachers in Fiction

By Melissa Albert

By now you're probably back in school, settling into a routine, learning the best hallway routes for crush-stalking purposes, and trying to figure out which of your teachers has the scariest bad side. But take heart: no matter how nutty your teachers are, we bet they can't hold a candle to the flat-out sociopaths found in the school systems of literature. Here are some of the most notorious teachers in fiction:

Dolores Umbridge (Harry Potter series). Five words for you: "I must not tell lies." Umbridge is a bigoted, backward-thinking witch who uses her powers in government to stem progress—and to be placed as a spy and interim headmaster at Hogwarts, where she preaches a "theoretical" magical education, ensuring students be helpless against Ministry forces (and Voldemort).

Hannah Schneider (Special Topics in Calamity Physics). Have you ever had one of those teachers who acts like she's still a student? The kind that sucks up to the popular kids...and it's reallysuper awkward, because you start to suspect she wishes she was one of them? Yeah, Hannah's that kind of teacher. She's beautiful and mysterious, and she's chosen six students out of the entire school to mold into her own little clique, of which she's the over-aged queen bee. As if that wasn't enough, she takes her group of Plastics on a treacherous field trip, then up and dies on them in mysterious fashion. So irresponsible!

Miss Trunchbull (Matilda). This sociopathic schoolmarm could only have come from the brilliantly twisted mind of Roald Dahl. Her flights of creative child abuse include hammer-tossing a little girl (she didn't appreciate her pigtails) and making students serve time in the Chokey, a skinny cupboard studded with nails and broken glass.

Mrs. Gorf (Wayside School series). Mrs. Gorf majorly gamed the system: if a student answered a question wrong or otherwise annoyed her, she'd wiggle one ear, then the other, then stick out her tongue—thus turning them into an apple, which she'd add to the pile on her desk. No teacher who gets that many apples from her students could possibly be bad, right? By putting the evidence of her evil in plain sight, Mrs. Gorf gets away with her witchcraft for ages—until her students trick her into turning the spell on herself. She's then eaten. Yeah, this series is dark, which is a big part of why we still love it.

Mr. Smith/Broxholm (My Teacher is an Alien). In this grade-school classic by the awesome Bruce Coville (you are NEVER too old to read Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher), a mean science teacher is revealed to be...an alien! What I remember best about this book is how much the cover freaked me out when I got it from the bookmobile around age 9. I had to pile Babysitters Club books on top of it just to handle its presence in my room. Over the course of a four-book series (ending with the excellently titled My Teacher Flunked the Planet), aliens continue sniffing around an American grade school in sinister fashion—but their motives are revealed to be more complex than KILL THE HUMAN CHILDREN.

Professor Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Final Problem). Before he left academia to devote himself full-time to Nefariousness, Moriarty was a promising mathematician, and a professor at a "smaller universit(y)." What, summers off weren't enough time to bring all of London's underworld under your methodical iron grip? Apparently the "criminal strain" in his blood won out over the desire to grade term papers for the rest of his life.

Who's your vote for the scariest teacher in fiction?

Topics: Books
Tags: teachers, harry potter, school, books we love, scary things, sherlock holmes, fictional characters, matilda

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About the Author
Melissa Albert

Melissa Albert reads books, worries about other people’s dogs (they look thirsty), and eats horrible candy for fun and profit. When not wearing her extremely tasteful Sparkitor hat, she’s an editor for the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. You can find her on Twitter @mimi_albert, or in the hot pretzel section of your local cafeteria.

Wanna contact a writer or editor? Email contribute@sparknotes.com.