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    Miss Muriel P. Finster 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/character_finister.jpg
Debut: "The Break In"

Voiced by: April Winchell

The school's lunch and recess monitor. She has zero tolerance for rule-breaking .... but she does have a softer side she keeps hidden.


  • Arch-Enemy: To the Recess Gang, since she's the one who deals with their hijinks most directly.
  • Badass Teacher: She helps save the day in School's Out.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: She was the redhead to Prickley's brunet and Benedict's blond.
  • Boxing Battler: In Recess: School's Out, she's shown training on a heavy bag in her living room. She later puts these skills to good use leading the teachers to attack Benedict's operation, punching out The Dragon herself.
  • Breakout Character: She's surprisingly popular with the fanbase despite her earlier Sadist Teacher characterization, to the point where later seasons go out of their way to humanize her.
  • Characterization Marches On: She was a Jerkass in the first season, relishing the psychologically torturing of kids. From the second season and onward, while still a Sadist Teacher, she became a Sugar-and-Ice Personality Jerk with a Heart of Gold and never went to the extremes she used to.
  • Child Hater: To an extent in the first season, save for Randall. Subverted later on, when it becomes clearer that it's just a part of her job. Off the clock, she loves kids.
  • Contralto of Danger: Courtesy of April Winchell. And apparently, she's had it since the '60's.
  • Cool Old Lady: On a good day, as Spinelli learns a few times ("Weekend at Muriel's" being an example).
  • A Day in the Limelight: "To Finster, With Love", "Weekend at Muriel's", and "The Fuss Over Finster"
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: In some of the later episodes and in season two's "Weekend at Muriel's".
  • Did You Think I Can't Feel?: Implied in "That Stinking Feeling," when she tells Spinelli that most people don't expect "tough" people like the two of them to sense emotions like love and heartbreak.
  • The Dragon / The Lancer: To Principal Prickly. She does most of the heavy lifting, and he only gets involved when things get too out of hand.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Finster doesn't have much of a problem coming with harsh but fair punishments, but she thought Phillip Fitzhugh's decision of separating the Main Six permanently in other schools was taking too far.
    • While in season one she was more of a Sadist Teacher, she makes it clear that no one hurts the kids on her playground. As the Bald Guy found out when he threatened T.J..
    • She also was upset with Benedict in the film for wanting to destroy recess. It was revealed in the film, she once had a relationship Benedict but broke up with him for wanting to ban recess, which would have put her out of a job.
    • She immediately steps in to defend T.J. when Principal Slicer mocks him and calls him "Captain Sappy," especially since T.J. had been trying to empathize with her over how depressed she's been since Prickly announced he was leaving the school.
  • Evil Laugh: In a few episodes, most notably "The Box," "Rainy Days," and "Principal for a Day."
  • Evil Old Folks: Not really "evil" (unless season one counts), but still the main antagonist for the series.
  • Fan Disservice: Is prone to this. Miss Finster still thinks she's sexy. She's...not, to say the least.
  • Fiery Redhead: She was a redhead when she was younger, but still very fiery.
  • Friend to All Children: Believe it or not, she was one back in the 1960's, as shown in "The Barnaby Boys" and Recess: School's Out. When Mikey reads about how well-liked she was by her students in 1966, TJ dismisses it as a misprint.
  • Friendly Enemy: Sums up her dynamic with the Recess Gang, and the 3rd Street School kids in general. Yes, she's a tough disciplinarian, but she does care about them and does her best to keep them safe; similarly, the kids seem to respect her as just doing her job, instead of being actively cruel.
    • It's most apparent in "The Fuss over Finster," when Muriel sprains her ankle and can't keep up with the children like she usually does. At first, T.J. is thrilled, because it means that they can all do whatever they want—but the Gang quickly realizes that it's no fun pulling off schemes and pranks if there isn't an antagonist trying to stop them. T.J. then lampshades the trope when he assembles the students to hold a playground-wide truce of perfect behavior, calling Muriel "a mighty lion" that he can't take advantage of. The episode even ends with T.J. warning Miss Finster that once she's healed up, it will be "business as usual" between them—and Muriel is clearly happy about it.
  • Girly Bruiser: On the surface, she's an old lady with prissy habits and a floral dress. But she's also a multi-martial arts master. This allows her to empathize with Spinelli.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Keeps the playground in order for the children's own good as she considers them hopelessly lost "without her gentle guidance". The problems occur when her demand for discipline makes her overstep her bounds and authority. Still, whenever she's temporarily out of commission (as when she sprained her ankle or when she was dating Hank), the playground dissolves into chaos and the kids end up wanting her back.
  • Guttural Growler: A rare female example: she speaks with a raspy Contralto of Danger.
  • Hidden Depths: At school she's an authoritarian taskmaster. Out of school she's a friendly Reasonable Authority Figure. She also really wants to be seen as cool by kids, to the point of reaching Totally Radical or New-Age Retro Hippie levels. The Movie also shows that she's appalled by the notion of getting rid of recess. In addition, she enjoys wrestling.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: With Randall. There are plenty of episodes that show that the two have a real friendship between one another. Randall even gives up being popular in one episode for her. Also has a slight one with Spinelli, as seen in "Weekend at Muriel's", "That Stinking Feeling", and Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade. Ms. Finster has been known to give Spinelli advice and seems to respect her for her toughness.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Occurs platonically in "Prickly is Leaving." Though she's clearly upset about the prospect of Principal Prickly moving on to a middle school job, she won't say anything about it. When the kids ask why, she explains that he's her friend, and friendship means supporting people in achieving their dreams, no matter your personal feelings.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: In Recess: School's Out, she's proven to be this in the `60s (she has the same voice, however due to her voice actress using her "normal" voice for T.J.'s mom)
  • Jerkass: Mainly in the first season.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: She's not the world's nicest person, but she does have a soft side. When she was younger, she broke up with Benedict because she didn't like the idea of taking recess from kids.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: She acts the way she does under the belief that if she did not then the school would devolve into anarchy. As it turns out she's right. Both times she was not able to dispense her authority (once because she was in a whirlwind romance with Hank and the other time because she thought she had a broken leg) the playground looked like something out of Mad Max.
  • Mama Bear:
    • In spite of her authoritarian methods of disciplining children, she actually does come to their need when they're in danger. For example, in the movie, she punched out the Ugly Bald Guy for trying to harm TJ.
    • It shows up in the series, too. In "The Library Kid," she goes into immediate panic mode upon seeing the title character trapped on top of a flagpole, summoning the fire department and generally taking charge of the situation before any serious damage was done.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: She is the Masculine Girl to Prickly's Feminine Boy.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Though more a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but she's not so bad once you get to know her.
  • Not So Above It All:
    • Even Finster thought when Spinelli accidentally called Miss Grotke "Momma" was hilarious.
    • In Taking the Fifth Grade, she reveals that she still dresses up for Halloween and goes trick-or-treating. It turns into An Aesop for Spinelli, who'd begun to think she was "too old" for celebrating the holiday—if you enjoy something safe and fun, you shouldn't let age or social convention dictate if you can or can't do it.
  • The One That Got Away: Benedict calls her the only woman he ever loved, and when they meet again decades later, he immediately offers her a chance to be by his side again. Naturally, her response was a defiant, "I'd rather eat playground dirt!"
  • Not So Different: Invokes this trope with Spinelli in "That Stinking Feeling." While everyone is mocking the girl for having her first crush, Miss Finster takes her aside and offers some helpful advice, remarking that people don't expect "tough girls like them" to have feelings or fall in love. She's also shown to share Spinelli's love of wrestling and Halloween.
  • Pet the Dog: Gives respect to Miss Grotke in The Movie. Also shown when she's given Spinelli advice on more than one occasion.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: With Principal Prickly. In the episode where he got promoted to being a middle school principal she became depressed because they've been working together for so long. Benedict once accused Prickly of stealing her from him, but they never show signs of being anything more than good friends.
  • Punchclock Villain: Her iron fisted authoritarian attitude is purely to make sure the school ground doesn't devolve into anarchy. Off the clock she is one of the nicest people you could meet.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Not the best example, but if you got trouble and have proof, she will listen.
  • Retcon: In one episode we see a picture of her classroom in the late 1960s where she looks to be in her 40s and is similar to her appearance in the present. In the movie however she appears in a flashback taking place in 1968 and is much younger and more attractive looking.
  • Sadist Teacher: Though she was much more sadistic in season one. Back then she took great pleasure in punishing children and breaking their spirit.
  • Skintone Sclerae: The only character with this trope in effect.
  • Spit Take: In "My Fair Gretchen", after Gretchen tells her that she's finished her test in under five minutes.
  • Stern Teacher: She mellows into this later on. She's still a real hard ass, but she's more tough-but-fair.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Mainly after the first season due to Character Development.
  • The Heavy: Often plays this role in the series. Subverted in that she does have a nice side, and isn't even "evil" anyway (Well, with the exceptions of some instances in season one).
  • Took A Level In Cynicism: Like Prickly she started out as a highly idealistic hippie teacher. Compare that to her ... current personality. Recess: All Growed Down reveals before the show started she was the kindergarten teacher, who while keeping her class on a very tight leash, still was overall nice. So what happened? Gus transferred to his class (and left just as quickly because his dad had to move) and inspired the kids to act ... well, like kids. Randall exaggerated this that the kids had become anarchists which was the catalyst for Ms. Finster's current personality.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: She's a little nicer to the kids as the series goes on, and has more reason to punish them than before.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: She went to school and worked with Prickley and Benedict who, at the time, were best friends. It all fell apart when Benedict was fired and Prickley became the new principal.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: An old photo shows her swinging from the statue of Thaddeus T. Third III when she was ten years old.
  • Villainous Breakdown: At the end of "The Box" when she freaks out over T.J. not being broken by her punishment.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With Miss Grotke. The Movie and "Prickly Is Leaving" reveal that she and Prickly were pretty close as well.
  • Vocal Evolution: She didn't sound as sinister in the first few episodes.
  • Would Rather Suffer: In the movie, when Phillium Benedict tries to make amends with Miss Finster, Finster replies that she'd "rather eat playground dirt."

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    Principal Peter Prickly 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/character_prickley.jpg
Debut: "The Break In" (Mentioned), "The Great Jungle Gym Standoff"

Voiced by: Dabney Coleman

The apathetic principal, who isn't as stuffy as he seems.


  • Alliterative Name: Peter Prickly.
  • Apathetic Teacher: Most of the time, Prickly doesn't care about what happens as long as law and order is maintained.
  • Ascended Extra: He gets a bigger role in Recess: School's Out.
  • Berserk Button: He's put up with a lot of crap T.J. threw at him, but he draws the line at accusing him of not caring about summer vacation.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: He was the brunet to Muriel's redhead and Benedict's blond.
  • Breakout Character: In later seasons and the movie.
  • The Chains of Commanding: There are several hints that Prickly used to be a lot calmer, happier, and more lenient before the pressures of being principal got to him.
  • Characterization Marches On: In "The Great Jungle Gym Standoff", he's another Sadist Teacher in the series, which isn't seen again for the rest of the show (with him being apathetic instead.) This could've been because the episode was one of the earliest ones made.
  • Child Hater: In Season 1, Prickly thinks that he's this and that he would rather be a Junior High principal than an elementary school principal. Later in the series, however, Prickly learns that he's neither of the above. In "Prickly Is Leaving," Prickly gradually realizes that he wouldn't want to run a middle school, since Teens Are Monsters, Goths, or hormone-addled. Finally, Recess: School's Out permanently shoots down the myth that he originally got into teaching for his own selfish interest, instead revealing that he did it to help little children.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Like Butch, Hustler Kid and Miss Grotke, he doesn't appear after "The Terrifying Tales of Recess". He comes back for Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade.
  • Closet Geek: Is revealed to be one for Senor Fusion.
  • A Day in the Limelight: "The Hypnotist", "The Challenge", "Principal for a Day", "Buried Treasure", "The First Picture Show", "The Principals of Golf", and Recess: School's Out.
  • Expose the Villain, Get His Job: In 1968, after telling the superintendent about Phillium Benedict's plan to abolish recess, Benedict was fired, resulting in Prickly becoming principal of Third Street School by the age of 21.
  • Friend to All Children: The movie reveals that like Miss Finster, Prickly got into teaching because he loved children. In fact, he thought that Benedict's plan to get rid of recess was a horrible idea.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: He gave up his middle school principal dream job to prevent Dr. Slicer from making the students and teachers' lives miserable. He insists it was solely because the pay wasn't high enough and that he's outta there the second he's made a better offer.
  • Hippie Teacher: He used to be one of these in the 1960s.
  • Hypno Fool: In "The Hypnotist", where he's accidentally hypnotized into thinking he's six years old.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: With T.J. as the series goes on. This finally gets brought to a head in the movie, when he and T.J. work together and T.J. learns more about his past.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He may be harsh on students, especially the Main Six, but he ended his friendship with Phillium Benedict for wanting to ban recess and joins in the fight to stop him.
  • Manchild: Even without the hypnotism, many episodes show him as rather childish himself, he gets into arguments with his equally immature brother, Paul and he's rather petulant at times, especially when things don't go his way and is often doodling or playing with toys when he's alone in his office, he's shown also to be a huge fan of Senor Fusion as an adult.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: He is the emotional Feminine Boy to Finster's stony-cold Masculine Girl.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: He may be rather strict when it comes to rules and regulations, but he's willing to listen to the kids, and has even pulled a few Enemy Mines with them.
  • Not So Different: Many episodes show him to be this way towards T.J.
  • One of the Kids: At times. It's hinted that he's a bit of a Manchild because he misses his childhood so much.
  • Papa Wolf: In Recess: School's Out, he protects the student body from Phillium Benedict by leading La Résistance. And in Taking the Fifth Grade, he saves TJ from falling off to his death from his own roof.
    Prickly: You've got no minutes left, Phil! This is my school and I want it back!
  • Platonic Life-Partners: With Miss Finster. In the episode where he got promoted to being a middle school principal she became depressed because they've been working together for so long.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: He's a bit of a stern hardass, but is usually willing to listen to others.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: He serves this role to T.J., always being comically irritated by the boy's mischief.
  • Took A Level In Cynicism: School's Out reveals he started out as a highly idealistic hippie teacher, but his years on the job turned him to the cynical stuffed shirt he is now.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Implied in several episodes, and in the movie. For example, "Buried Treasure" implies that he, along with his friends and classmates, buried a chest full of toys when he was nine years old, for the sole purpose of allowing future generations of kids to play with them.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Him and Benedict.

    Miss Grotke 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/miss_grotke.jpg

Debut: "The New Kid"
Voiced by: Allyce Beasley, Tress MacNeille (Briefly in "Teachers' Lounge")

The somewhat ditzy fourth grade teacher.


  • Adorkable: She's overly enthusiastic about almost everything she does, plus she's rather adorable physicaly.
  • Adults Are Useless: Aveted most of the time, as she's always on the kids' side and standing up for them. Though at the same time, she's also naive and gullible, and is prone to being oblivious to the gang's schemes.
  • All There in the Manual: Her first name (while not revealed in the series) is Alordayne, according to the scripts.
  • Ambiguously Brown: She has black hair and is dark skinned, but her last name is Eastern European. There are many dark skinned Eastern Europeans in real life. Word of God says she's supposed to be Indian, however, so her last name might be a married name from an ex-husband. Or else she could be mixed race.
  • Ascended Extra: Only appeared in a few episodes of season one, and then appeared in every season two episode.
  • Badass Teacher: In Recess: School's Out, it's revealed that she's a martial arts expert.
  • Badass Adorable: As cute and harmless as she seems, she effortlessly takes out a group of trained bodyguards in The Movie. Even Miss Finster is impressed.
  • Breakout Character: In season two. Then started showing up less in later episodes.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: She may seem like a clueless hippie at times, but she's an exceptional teacher, teaching her class far above their grade level with great success.
  • Catchphrase: "Bummer..."
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: After "The Terrifying Tales of Recess" (the first episode of season six and the stories featured in the episode weren't canon, anyway), she's gone for the rest of the series until Taking the Fifth Grade two years later.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: While she is closer to Earth than the other teachers at times, she has a few moments where she goes off into Cloudcuckooland.
  • A Day in the Limelight: "Mama's Girl" and "The Secret Life of Grotke"
  • Deadpan Snarker: "This Brain for Hire" shows that when she needs to be, she's probably the snarkiest character in the entire series.
  • Demoted to Extra: She only appears two times in Recess: School's Out and only has seven lines (and two of them are just her screaming), though this is justified as it was summer vacation. Though her parts in the battle scene were pretty memorable. In Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade, she only has a few speaking lines and that's it. Justified, however, as the main kids weren't in her class anymore.
  • Friend to All Children: She's very well liked by all of the kids.
  • Granola Girl: She's very liberal, feminist, environmentalist, etc. and often shares her views while teaching.
  • Hippie Teacher: Of the New-Age Retro Hippie variety, unlike Prickly and Finster, who were actual hippies.
  • Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher: She has the voice, but otherwise averts this. Granted, that's her voice actress' natural voice.
  • Out of Focus: In the later episodes, due in part to Miss Finster and Prickly's Breakout Character status.
  • Perpetual Smiler: She almost never frowns, even when
  • Parental Bonus: Responsible for several. She reads Beowulf in class (specifically the part where he rips Grendel's head off ) and, well...
  • Quirky Curls: It's vaguely afro-like, suggesting it might be a perm. Fitting for her hippie personality.
  • Second Episode Introduction: She's introduced along with Gus in the second episode.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Every once and a while, we see some of her lectures revolve a around social justice or environmentalism.
  • Spit Take: In "The Dude", when Miss Finster comes up from behind her and bad-mouths Mr. Dudikoff.
  • Stage Magician: Revealed to be one in The Secret Life of Grotke, named "The Mysterious Grotke." She's surprisingly good at it.
  • Token Good Teammate: Out of the four named faculty, she's the only one who's not an overly Stern Teacher, or an Apathetic Teacher in the case of Miss Lemon.
  • Took a Level in Badass: In Recess: School's Out. She's shown to be a highly skilled martial artist, much to Miss Finster's admiration.
  • Totally Radical: She like, totally speaks this way sometimes, cuz you know, it's way cool and far out!
  • Women Are Wiser: Compared to Prickly, she's definitely the more mature and more reasonable.

    Miss Lemon 

Debut: "My Fair Gretchen"

Voiced By: Tress MacNeille

Principal Prickley's grumpy secretary.


  • Apathetic Teacher: She's just the receptionist, so it's somewhat more understandable.
  • Deadpan Snarker: In some episodes, her entire dialogue will be snide remarks.
  • Flat Character: Has the least amount of characterization of the faculty members.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: With her aid Menlo, who seems to be one of the few people she can tolerate.
  • Meaningful Name: Lemon's the perfect name for such a sour lady.
  • Only One Name: Her first name has never been mentioned.
  • Perpetual Frowner: She smiles about as often as Miss Grotke frowns. Which is to say almost never. Usually Menlo is involved when she does.
  • The Rival: Some episodes paint her as one for Miss Finster.

     Hank 

Debut: "To Finster With Love"
Voiced By: John Astin

The friendly janitor of Third Street School.


  • Almighty Janitor: He's a mathematical genius, but he's content to work as janitor because he feels if he got paid for his math prowess it would take the fun out of it.
  • Amicable Exes: With Finster at the end of "To Finster With Love". They still like each other, but felt that they couldn't be together without it interfering with their work.
  • Ditzy Genius: Downplayed. He isn't overtly silly, but he is quite light-hearted and doesn't take too many things seriously and is quite naive in certain areas. Case in point- he is a brilliant mathematician, good enough to start receive offers from government departments and top universities, but he genuinely had no idea how gifted he was, performing advanced math equations just because he found it fun.
  • Friend to All Children: He's always friendly to the kids.
  • Hidden Depths: He is a mathematical genius who happens to be a janitor.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: With Gretchen as of "A Genius Among Us".
  • Ink-Suit Actor: He bares at least a passing resemblance to his actor John Astin, complete with moustache.

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