Mr Novak

In 1963 NBC aired at 7:30 p.m. a TV series called Mr Novak. Beginning September 24, 1963, Mr. John Novak, a young, tough-minded, idealistic first-year high school English teacher at Jefferson High School in Los Angles, often got involved in the lives of his students and fellow teachers while exploring English literature with young minds.

The day after Labor Day in 1963, a young, very green, 23 year old, John Taylor, began his teaching career at Hall High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. I had had no education courses. I was a science nerd with majors in chemistry and math and a minor in physics. I had obtained an emergency teaching license from the state of Arkansas because I had a degree in an area where a shortage of science teachers existed.. During 1963-64 I began going to night school to earn my 18 undergraduate education credits by Fall 1964 so that I could obtain a full teaching certificate. I completed 21 post-undergraduate credits by August 1964. Mr. Novak gave me lessons week by week that was not taught in any education course.

It was a well written show with stories that centered on the life of Mr Novak, student-teacher relationships, and the struggles of young teachers. James Franciscus, who also held a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University in English, played Mr Novak. James Franciscus was 29 at the time, young, handsome, and always dressed first class. He was the teacher I wanted to be.

Dean Jagger played Principal Albert Vane. He was the principal I wish I had had that first year. Mine was a political hack, Terrell Powell, who had been superintendent of Little Rock School, but step down to take the principal's job at the suburban elite high school. I learned more from Principal Vane then Principal Powell could have taught me, as I was too young, too immature, too inexperienced to be teaching the social upper class students of Hall.

Besides, Principal Vane reminded me of my Bolton High School Principal, Mr. Pate, who was tough but fair and respected and well liked by everyone. Likewise for Principal Vane. I did not feel that way about my boss, Principal Powell.

James Franciscus and Dean Jaegar

The extent of my prior teaching was teaching chemistry laboratory and tutoring chemistry at the college level as an undergraduate.I actually loved teaching the labs at Little Rock University, I was a natural, and my major professor, Dr. Wilson Broach, knew it. He called me in at the end of the summer of 1963 to tell me he had recommended me to fill a chemistry slot at Hall as they had no teacher and school was starting in two weeks. I had a job at Dow-Smith Chemicals, who was moving their plastic division to Little Rock in February 1964. I received my draft notice a week before, but could not be deferred until February 1964 to work in a defense industry. So I would give teaching a try for six months as I needed a deferment and I liked teaching. However, I never thought I would teach as the pay was so poor. I had no idea, that teaching high school would be any different than teaching college. Mr. Novak made mistakes, but not like the whoppers I made.

However, the kids liked me, most respected me, but there were about 10% of the students who gave me "hell" and I was just too immature to handle it properly. Mr. Powell had too sets of disciplines. One for the not-so-important where he would be tough, but then the kids who had very influential parents in the community were patted on the back and sent back to my class without the support I needed from a principal. I learned under fire. When Dow-Smith came to Little Rock, I turned down the Dow-Smith job and a person with a minor in chemistry took my place. He went on to become rich in Little Rock as a corporate VP of Dow, but I have the experiences of a teacher's life which I would not trade for any amount of money. I made as much money working several part-time jobs than as a teacher at $3600 per year or $60/week take-home, or $1.50 per hour (minimum Wage was 60 cents per hour. I would be paid three times the salary to be a chemist or $5/hour.

DVD Cover

Mr. Novak last only two years as it was in the same time slot as the ABC war series, "Combat". It only had 60 episodes. Toward the end of the second season, a teacher, Mr. Woodbridge (Burgess Meredith), was promoted to principal replacing Mr Vane who was elevated to California State Superintendent of Schools. Actually Dean Jaegar could not finish the second season due to a serious illness. Collectors on the Internet have recorded the shows from many sources. Some are 16 mm movie film transfers. Others are from cable channels, the latest TNT about 20 years ago. I have 51 of the 60 episodes available for trade.

Probably the show will never be released on DVD as it is not that popular among classic TV enthusiasts. Most adults do not want to revisit their high school days, but we teachers enjoy Hollywood and how they portray the classroom. In the 50's TV had "Our Miss Brooks" a sitcom comedy from the old radio series, which was nothing like real life teaching.

In the 70s TV tried Room 222 which last longer, which was about a high school history teacher and the behind the scenes look at teaching. I also enjoyed this program and have aquired a partial set of its episodes. 20 years went by before TV tried Boston Public, another really first class TV show about kids in schools and the trauma teachers face everyday on the job. Of course, I also have that entire series on DVD. None of the teacher TV series have ever been released on DVD. I do expect someday, that Boston Public will be released and I will be the first to by the set(s).

During the first season of Mr. Novak, ABC ran a 26-week series about life on a college campus. Channing starred Jason Evers as English Professor Joseph Howe and Henry Jones as Fred Baker, the dean of fictitious Channing College. Like Mr Novak, no one on the Internet has a complete set, but one collector is trading me for 16 of the 26 episodes. For me, I watched Mr. Novak, even in reruns in the Summer of 1964 and never saw an episode of Channing. Just before Boston public, Richard Dreyfuss played Professor Max Bickford, a college history professor, in a TV series: "The Education of Max Bickford".

TV.COM has a web site with all the episodes listed:

Abstract: Volume 10: Mr Novak at 27th International Conference 0n Teaching and Learning

Collaborator Request Form Download WORD File .docx

Guest Stars Appearing on Mr. Novak

Letter To Lily Garcia, NEA President

Links to the other collectors:

Many Classic TV Deals may be made at: (Today Mr Novak is no longer available)
Old Sachmo has the best set you can trade: email him
I purchased my first set on EBay, but no one is selling today.

Here is a complete List of Episodes: (Missing/lost Episodes highlighted in Red)

If you are interested in a collection of any of these programs, email me at: If you are a teacher, I may provide you with the opportunity to watch a couple of these programs.