School is back in session, much to the delight of millions of parents and the dismay of millions of kids. Of course, the real heroes of the school year are the teachers, the resourceful and hardworking men and women who act as educator, counselor and authority figure during children’s formative years. Everyone has that one special teacher who made a major impact in their lives, providing extra attention on a tricky subject, encouraging new passions and hobbies, or just giving guidance during an emotional rough patch.
In the superhero world, several superheroes have had day jobs in the education field. We’ve run through five of our favorite superhero/teachers, many of whom made major impacts in their students’ lives both in and out of the classroom.
[Note: This article focuses on schoolteachers and not college professors. While they both involve teaching, schoolteachers and professors have wholly different responsibilities. So don’t complain about us leaving Ray Palmer out of the article in the comments!]
After Jefferson Pierce became a gold medal winning Olympic athlete, many thought he would use his newfound fame to escape the poor Suicide Slum neighborhood in which he grew up. Instead, Pierce earned an English degree from college and returned to his old high school, becoming a teacher. When his first attempts to protect his students from drug dealers and criminal organizations left one of his students dead, Pierce became the superhero Black Lightning to clean up the streets and draw attention away from his school. Pierce later became the Secretary of Education under Lex Luthor, a position he accepted in part to keep tabs on the allegedly reformed supervillain.
While Peter Parker’s traditional occupation is freelance photography, he became a high school science teacher during J. Michael Straczysnki’s run on Amazing Spider-Man. Parker was a part time teacher for his alma mater, Midtown High, which gave him the flexibility to fight crime and pursue a steady career. Joining Parker was his old classmate/bully/friend Flash Thompson, who taught gm and coached football at the school. Although many of his students and coworkers raised an eyebrow at his frequent injuries, Parker juggled his teaching and superhero responsibilities until he outed himself as Spider-Man during Civil War. Spider-Man would briefly teach at the Jean Grey School as a favor to his late friend, Wolverine. In the Secret Wars tie-in Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, Parker returns to teaching after quitting superheroics to protect his family from the supervillain Regent.
Emma Frost has been both superhero and villain during different parts of her career. However, the one constant in her adult life is teaching. While her teaching style is blunt, countless young mutants have learned to better use their powers under Emma’s tutelage. Emma first appeared in Uncanny X-Men to recruit Kitty Pryde for her Massachusetts Academy, a school secretly funded by the Hellfire Club. Frost taught the Hellions, a group of young Hellfire recruits who acted as rivals and occasional allies for the New Mutants for many years. The Hellions’ death turned Emma towards the side of angels and she used her academy to house the Generation X team before moving to Genosha to open a school on the mutant island nation. After Sentinels destroy Genosha and her school, Emma joins the X-Men as a teacher and administrator of the Xavier Institute and eventually rises to the position of headmistress after Professor X leaves the school.
Although her violent and unpredictable nature makes it hard to believe, the Huntress (Helena Bertinelli, not Helena Wayne) is a trained school teacher. Typically shown teaching high school, the Huntress struggled to keep a steady job due to her extracurricular activities as a vigilante. However, after becoming a member of the Birds of Prey, Oracle arranges for a new teaching gig for Helena, which helps to temper Helena and cause her to mature. In the New 52, Helena Bertinelli is again shown as a schoolteacher at a European boarding school as part of her cover working for the spy organization Spyral.
While all the other heroes on this list are model teachers, William Burnside, the Captain America from the 1950s, acts as a warning about the dangers of how a teacher can manipulate his students. An amateur historian, Burnside discovered Captain America’s true identity as well as an incomplete formula to making the supersoldier serum that gave Steve Rogers his powers. Burnside decided to adopt Rogers’ identity, legally changing his name and undergoing plastic surgery to mimic Rogers’ looks and voice. While the FBI initially backed Burnside’s plan, they later shut him down and moved him to a private high school as a teacher. Instead of giving up on his quest to become Captain America, Burnside recruited one of his students, Jack Monroe, to help him recreate the serum and later injected them both with the serum to fight the Red Skull. The two posed as Captain America and Bucky for a short period, until the formula caused both to go insane, forcing the US government to intervene and put them in suspended animation. Maybe the FBI shouldn’t have placed a delusional and obsessed man in a role where he could manipulate and affect children.