10 May 2018 Blogs

Fun Facts in Honor of Teachers: Famous People Who Were Educators

Intro Copy

"One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings."--Psychiatrist Carl Jung

"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”-- 19th-century Historian Henry Brooks Adams

We are in the middle of Teacher Appreciation Week…have you thanked a teacher yet? Across the United States, students, parents, and members of school administrations are decorating classrooms and classroom doors, writing notes and letters, baking cakes and cookies, sending flowers and gifts, making speeches and toasts—all in appreciation of the teachers who impact their lives. Even restaurants and retailers are expressing their gratitude to the nation’s educators by offering “freebies” and discounts to teachers. Much has changed in education over the course of U.S. history. One thing has not: the need for and importance of teachers. Educators have always been entrusted with sharing knowledge and helping to shape the young minds of the world. If there is a more important job, I am hard-pressed to name one. We at ProQuest pay tribute to our world's teachers. We know, as teacher Natasha Walizer beautifully writes in her article "What Is a Teacher?," that: "A teacher can never leave their work at the office. A teacher’s day does not end when the buses pull out. A teacher builds relationships and teaches the students to build relationships. A teacher teaches students, not a subject matter. A teacher never ever gives up. A teacher is a gift. Cherish them." **************************************************************************************************

There are a lot of famous people in the world, and some of them were teachers. Let's take a look at some.


Gabriel Byrne taught Spanish in Dublin, Ireland. Jon Hamm was an acting teacher at John Burroughs School in St. Louis, Missouri. Hugh Jackman was a physical education teacher at Uppingham School in England. Sylvester Stallone worked as a physical education teacher in Switzerland while he attended the nation's American College. Mr. T was a physical education teacher in Chicago, Illinois.


Russian-French artist Marc Chagall was an art teacher in a Jewish boys’ war shelter in Malakhovka, Russia. Costume designer Edith Head was a French language teacher at Bishop’s School in La Jolla, California, and later at the Hollywood School for Girls. Painter Georgia O’Keeffe taught drawing and penmanship at public schools in Amarillo, Texas. Sculptor Noah Purifoy taught shop class in Montgomery, Alabama. Painter and textile artist Faith Ringgold was an art teacher in New York City public schools. Later in her life, she became a professor emeritus at the University of California at San Diego’s visual arts department.


Robert Frost taught English at Pinkerton Academy and then at New Hampshire Normal School (now Plymouth State University), both in New Hampshire. Stephen King was a teacher at the Hampden Academy in Hampden, Maine, while writing his novel Salem's Lot. Frank McCourt taught in six high schools in New York: High School of Fashion Industries, McKee Vocational and Technical High School, New York City College of Technology, Ralph R. McKee CTE High School, Seward Park High School, Stuyvesant High School, and Washington Irving High School. George Orwell worked as an English teacher at the Hawthorns Boys School and Frays College, both in England. J.K. Rowling taught English in Portugal as she crafted her first Harry Potter story. Kurt Vonnegut was an English teacher before teaching writing at the Iowa Writer Workshop. (He once responded to a high-school class' letter to him by writing, in part: "Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow." Check out the full letter here.)


Billy Crystal worked as a substitute teacher at junior high schools on Long Island. Dawn French was an English and drama teacher at Parliament Hill School for Girls in California while forging her career as a comedian. Craig Robinson taught music at Horace Mann Elementary and Henry Eggers Middle School, both in Chicago, Illinois. Teller, of the comedic magic duo Penn and Teller, was a high school Latin teacher.

First Ladies

Laura Bush, the wife of 43rd President of the United States George W. Bush, was a second-grade teacher at Longfellow Elementary School in Dallas, Texas, before becoming a librarian. Abigail Powers Fillmore, the wife of 13th President Millard Fillmore, started her career as a teacher at the age of sixteen. She also helped to establish a circulating library. Lucretia Rudolph Garfield, the wife of 20th President James Garfield, taught French, algebra, and Latin at the Eclectic Institute in Ohio. Pat Nixon, the wife of 37th President Richard Nixon, taught classes in typing, bookkeeping, business principles, and stenography at Whittier Union High School in California.


Singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow worked as a music teacher at Kellison Elementary School in Missouri. Singer Roberta Flack was the first African American student teacher to work at an all-white school near Chevy Chase, Maryland. She then was hired to teach English and music in Farmville, North Carolina, and then taught at several junior high schools in Washington, D.C. Art Garfunkel was teaching math at the Litchfield Preparatory School in Connecticut when Simon and Garfunkle’s hit song "Bridge Over Troubled Water” was released. Sting, the lead singer and bassist of The Police, taught English and music and was a soccer coach at St. Catherine’s Convent School in England.

U.S. Presidents

Chester Alan Arthur (21st president) was a teacher before becoming the principal of schools in Vermont and New York. Barack Obama (44th president) was a professor of constitutional law for twelve years at the University of Chicago Law School. Lyndon Johnson (36th president) held many roles at the Wellhausen School in Cotulla, Texas. In his words, "I worked as a teacher for the fifth, sixth, and seventh grades. I worked as principal of five teachers. I worked as a playground supervisor. I coached the boys' baseball team. I was a debate coach. I was the song leader. You would not believe that, but I tried to be, anyway. In my spare time sometimes I acted as assistant janitor." John Adams (2nd president) taught a dozen boys and girls in a one-room schoolhouse in Worcester, Massachusetts.

And more...

Inventor Alexander Graham Bell taught Visible Speech at the Boston School for Deaf Mutes. Lawyer Clarence Darrow was a public-school teacher in Michigan. Political commentator Bill O’Reilly taught English and history at Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Opa-locka, Florida. Lady Diana Spencer was a nursery school teacher before becoming Princess of Wales. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak taught computer science to elementary school students in Silicon Valley, California. Do you have some wonderful memories or stories of your favorite teachers? Who inspired you? We'd love to hear from you!