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Top 12 Surprising Celebrity Teachers

Amber Johnson

To be a great teacher, you’ve got to know how to handle a crowd. Maybe that’s why these celebrities commanded their classrooms before finding fame.


Here are the Top 12 Surprising Celebrity Teachers:


Jon Hamm: The dashing Mad Men star was breaking high school hearts as a drama teacher at John Burroughs High School in St. Louis. In fact, he taught The Office's Ellie Kemper, who now stars with him in Bridesmaids. Showing off his teacher skills and lifelong memory of students, he even commented Ellie's success in a Sundance interview: "It's really cool to see them blossom and find their own way in."


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Sylvester Stallone: One of the most celebrated action/adventure figures of all time, Sylvester Stallone is also a director, producer, screenwriter and former teacher. The Rocky and Rambo star survived boarding schools and a special education school for "problem children" as a child, and then enrolled in beauty school after high school graduation. Stallone dropped out of beauty school to attend the American College of Switzerland, where he studied drama and worked as a gym teacher.

Sting: Back when the legendary Sting was known as Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, the Grammy award-winner grew up in Wallsend, in northeast England. He worked odd jobs after high school until he enrolled in the Northern Counties College of Education. As he pursued local music gigs, Sting also worked as a teacher for two years at St. Paul’s First School in Cramlington, England.

Barack Obama: The 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, worked as a community organizer, lawyer and law school lecturer after graduating from Columbia University and Harvard Law School. In fact, up until just four years before running for president, Obama was a constitutional law professor and senior lecturer at the University Chicago.

Mr. T: In the 1980s, actor and professional wrestler Mr. T also gained popularity among children for appearing in commercials and animated TV specials that encouraged children to "stay in school" and live safe, healthy lives. Mr. T was born Laurence Tureaud in Chicago as the youngest of 12 children. In Chicago, Mr. T attended the Paul Lawrence Dubar Vocational Career Academy and worked as a gym teacher, before winning a scholarship to Prairie View A&M Univeristy and working as a military policeman for the U.S. Army.

J.K. Rowling: J.K. Rowling has made a fortune off of her fictional world of the Hogwarts boarding school for witches and wizards, and the Harry Potter writer was actually a teacher herself. Rowling, who has been named the 12th richest woman in Britain, admits to having based some Harry Potter characters on her own past teachers, and in the early 1990s, Rowling moved to Portugal after her mother died to teach English as a foreign language. Rowling was already writing Harry Potter at that time.

Sheryl Crow: Sheryl Crow started her path to fame in front of the classroom. She taught music at Kellison Elementary school in Fenton, Missouri while working on her music. After selling a “back-to-school” jingle and other songs, she moved up as a songwriter for larger brands, then sang backup for Michael Jackson before gaining stardom in her own right with “All I Wanna Do Is Have Some Fun” and other hits. 

Art Garfunkel: One-half of the immensely popular and socially-critical folk singing group Simon and Garfunkel, Art Garfunkel was born and raised in Queens, New York. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel met in sixth grade in Queens, though they did not release their first official record as Simon and Garfunkel until 1964, after Garfunkel had earned a graduate degree in mathematics. Garfunkel taught math in Connecticut even as he enjoyed success as a singer.


Celebrity TeachersRobert Frost: The iconic poet of works like "The Road Not Taken" and "Fire and Ice" was born in San Francisco, CA, in 1874. After graduating from Dartmouth College, Frost returned home to work and for a time, helped his mother as an assistant teacher. Years later, after attending Harvard for two years and working as a farmer, Frost worked as an English teacher in New Hampshire. For the rest of his life, Frost would write poetry and teach English at various schools, including at Amherst College in Massachusetts and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


Roberta Flack: This singer, with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, may have taught Lauren Hill a thing or two with her original “Killing Me Softly,” but she also taught English and music to students in North Carolina and Maryland. After graduating from Howard University at 19, Flack turned to teaching after her father’s death. She move from the front of the classroom to centerstage a few years later.


Celebrity TeachersGene Simmons: Gene Simmons, also known as "The Demon" during the prime of his career as a bassist with rock band Kiss, is known for his controversial lifestyle, performance style and music. But before he made it big, Simmons taught sixth grade in Harlem, New York. Simmons also speaks four languages: Hungarian (his mother’s native language), Hebrew, English and German. 


Billy Crystal: Comedian, actor and presenter Billy Crystal is known for such pop culture classics as When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers, and Saturday Night Live. Crystal grew up in Long Beach, NY, and attended college at Marshall University in West Virginia, Nassau Community College on Long Island, and New York University, from which he graduated with a B.F.A. While on Long Island, Crystal worked as a substitute teacher for classes like girls’ gym.


Who did I miss? What celebrity qualities do you think teacher possess? Share in the comments section!


Edited version republished with permission of Amber Johnson.


Original source: 10 Surprising Celebs Who Used to Be Teachers

Additional Reference: Famous Celebrity Teachers

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