Welcome to this week’s installment of Geek Girl Authority Crush of the Week, wherein we shine a spotlight on strong women who inspire us. Now, this not only includes fictional female characters in geeky media, but creators as well. These ladies are a prime example of female empowerment and how crucial it is for young girls to have said example to follow.
DISCLAIMER: The following does not contain any spoilers, just a love for Professor Frizzle and how she operates. To catch her in action, check out the original The Magic School Bus children’s book series (written by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degan) and the cartoon of the same name from the 1990s. You can also check out Netflix‘s revival cartoon, The Magic School Bus Rides Again.
Professor Valerie Frizzle, PhD
Professor Valerie Frizzle, Ph.D., (voiced by Lily Tomlin) started as Ms. Frizzle, a fourth-grade teacher at Walkerville Elementary School. She loved her job and her passion for learning showed. Whatever the lesson of the day or week or unit, she fully immersed her students in the topic by how she dressed, how she decorated her classroom, and by taking them out on fun-filled field trips. By 2017, Ms. Frizzle’s desire for learning led to her acquiring a few advanced degrees and she has now been promoted to Doctor Valerie Frizzle, though she prefers Professor Frizzle, Ph.D.
The Real Deal
Described as “the strangest teacher in school,” Professor Frizzle would bring a unique perspective to all of her lessons. She tended to dress according to the subject matter at hand. Her clothing broadcasted a hint on what that topic may be. Her classroom and even class pet Liz (a chameleon), would get in on the fun by changing to suit the topic, as well. Professor Frizzle’s most known method of teaching, however, was the field trip. With the help of her shape-shifting magical yellow school bus, she advocated for learning by doing and exploring.
Educational field trips take on a whole new meaning with the aid of magic tech. The bus has the ability to do wonders with the push of a button or flip of a switch. It’s all controlled by Professor Frizzle’s wishes. Among all the adventures, Frizzle could shrink the students down, provide the correct safety gear for dangerous excursions and give all the information required to navigate some new (to the students) unknown. Often, the field trips that relate to the lesson go awry with minor mishaps, especially when the students make their own choices – but she easily saved the day and imparted a bit of wisdom along the way. No matter what, at the end of the school day, Professor Frizzle sent her students home in one piece with a smile and full of new knowledge and facts.
At some point, between The Magic School Bus and The Magic School Bus Rides Again, Frizzle graduated with multiple degrees, including several doctorates. She left Walkerville Elementary School in the capable hands of her sister, Fiona Frizzle. However, though she has left, she still pops by to give support and teaches through other means, like asking students questions about the lessons learned.
Why She Matters
Professor Frizzle stepped outside the teacher stereotype and refused to fit the mold of an educator. She did everything with her own style. Professor Frizzle was the science teacher of our childhood dreams. She would take charge and lead her class with pizzazz and yet, she allowed her students to make mistakes and get into troublesome situations. Professor Frizzle actively encouraged teamwork and individual freedom while pushing exploration and hands-on learning. She consulted with experts, talked with knowledgeable friends and found hard evidence to inform new ideas. Through it all, Professor Frizzle did so with a genuine smile, happy to be involved in the learning process. Teaching and learning are so ingrained in who she is, even after leaving her post as teacher, Professor Frizzle remains available to the students.
Be like Ms. Frizzle: Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy! As long as you are actively having fun, you won’t mind that you’re learning. Never stop asking questions and look for an expert when possible. No matter what, look out for your fellow classmates: if you see someone making a mistake, don’t discourage them or gloat; help guide them to safety and move on to the next lesson together. If possible, do all this in your own way without conforming to society’s expectations. You may end the day a little smarter and happier.