Skip to Content

30 Celebrities Who Used to Be Teachers

30 Celebrities Who Used to Be Teachers


Have you ever wondered which famous people once led a classroom before stepping into the limelight? The journey from a school teacher to a world-renowned actor, musician, politician, or author is not as uncommon as you might think. In this interesting exploration, you will learn about famous people from various time periods and industries who swapped lesson plans for scripts, tour dates, and film sets.

Discover how these famous people transitioned from attempting to shape young minds to captivating millions worldwide. Join us as we delve into the fascinating stories of celebrities who used to be school teachers, proving that passion and dedication can lead to unexpected and extraordinary paths. And how walking away from one calling can lead to a much bigger one.


  1. Sylvester Stallone: In the 1960s, while studying at the American College of Switzerland, Stallone worked as a gym teacher to earn extra money.
  2. Billy Crystal: After moving to New York City to become an actor, Crystal formed a comedy trio with two other friends and performed in colleges and cafes. To earn money, he worked as a substitute teacher on Long Island.
  3. Liam Neeson: Neeson comes from a family of teachers, with 2 of his sisters recently retiring from many years as teachers. In 1971, Neeson became a teacher in Newcastle, UK, his hometown. He was fired not long after for punching a student who threatened him with a knife in the classroom. Even though he has worked in physically demanding roles in action movies and had difficult jobs before becoming a teacher, he still says teaching was the hardest and most demanding job he ever had.
  4. Mr. T: Mr. T., whose real name is Laurence Tureaud, tried many different jobs before taking on his iconic role as B.A. Baracus in the 1980s TV show The A-Team. Before he was a professional wrestler and actor, Mr. T. worked as a PE teacher in his hometown of Chicago.
  5. Hugh Jackman: In 1987, Jackman worked as an English teaching assistant at Uppingham School in Britain before succeeding as an actor.
  6. Jon Hamm: Hamm worked as a daycare teacher in college and taught drama at his own high school before becoming a successful actor in Hollywood.
  7. Mayim Bialik: Bialik earned a PhD in neuroscience from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2007. She then taught college classes before starring as neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler on “The Big Bang Theory,” among other successful T.V. shows.
  8. Jesse Williams: Before landing his role on Grey’s Anatomy, Williams taught American Studies, African Studies, and English for six years in the Philadelphia public school system. According to Williams, before finding success as an actor, it wasn’t even a path that he considered viable, as he believed that teaching would be his lifelong career.


9. Art Garfunkel: In 1971 and 1972, while taking a one-year-long break from music, Garfunkel taught math at Litchfield Private School in Connecticut. At age 78 he said, “I would have been happy being a teacher.” (Maybe back in the early ‘70s, Art!)

10. Gene Simmons: Before forming Kiss in 1973, Simmons taught sixth-grade Spanish for 6 months in Spanish Harlem, New York City.

11. Roberta Flack: Critically acclaimed singer and songwriter Roberta Flack taught music and English in Farmville, North Carolina, after graduating from Howard University at the young age of 19.

12. Sting: Sting (whose real name is Gordon Sumner) taught English at St. Paul’s Middle School in Cramlington, England, for two years in the 1970s. He has said he has fond memories of his teaching days and still values the job.

13. Brian May: In 1971, before becoming the guitarist of the rock band Queen, May worked as a substitute teacher at Stockwell Manor Comprehensive School in London. He also briefly worked as a math and science teacher, a job he says he found challenging yet easier because he was young. He does recall one lesson that ended in disaster when he gave a young class pairs of scissors and paper to cut into shapes, and the children started attacking each other.

14. Sheryl Crow: After graduating from college, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter taught music at an elementary school in St. Louis, Missouri.

15. Lin-Manuel Miranda: At the beginning of his career, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda worked as a 7th-grade English teacher and then as a substitute at his former high school. Meanwhile, he was writing and crafting the musical In the Heights, among many other projects.


Novelist Stephen King says writing is like leaving the ordinary world for a world of his own making: “It’s a wonderful, exhilarating experience.”

16. William Golding: Golding taught middle school English in Salisbury, England, before joining the Royal Navy. 14 years later, he would publish his first novel, The Lord of the Flies, which he said was inspired by his middle school students (who were all male). The novel won him the Nobel Prize for Literature.

17. George Orwell: Orwell is well-known in literature and philosophy, particularly for his works Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm. But before writing novels, Orwell was a teacher at an all-boys school in West London, starting in 1932. The school only had around a dozen students aged between ten and sixteen and one other teacher. Orwell only taught for one year at that school before taking a teaching job at Frays College in Uxbridge. Still, he was only there for a term before he fell seriously ill with pneumonia and didn’t go back to teaching after he recovered. Just two years later, he published his most famous novel, Animal Farm.

18. Robert Frost: In the beginning part of his writing career, Robert Frost was a teacher at the Pinkerton Academy in Derry, New Hampshire. Apparently, his students called him “The Hen Man” because he was extremely afraid of chickens.

19. Maya Angelou: After achieving national acclaim for her book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, author Maya Angelou taught at Wake Forest University from 1982 to 2011. There, she emphasized that she was not a “writer who teaches” but a “teacher who writes.”

20. J. K. Rowling: The Harry Potter author taught English as a second language in Portugal. According to Rowling, some of her own school teachers inspired characters in Harry Potter, including the centaur Firenze, who was based on her English Teacher, Mr. Eddy. Rowling struggled financially with a young son while she taught, and one of her favorite teachers encouraged her to write a book. She began writing Harry Potter during the day and taught classes at night. After a couple of years, she moved to Edinburgh, earned a teaching certificate in July 1996, and began teaching at Leith Academy. But the success of Harry Potter allowed her to leave teaching and focus on writing full time.

21. Stephen King: One of the world’s most well-known and highly regarded writers, Stephen King graduated from the University of Maine in 1970 with a BA in English and certification to teach secondary school. He sold short stories to men’s magazines until he got a teaching job at public high school Hampden Academy in Maine in 1971. He continued to write in the evenings and on the weekends. He wrote Salem’s Lot during this time, and in 1973, his novel Carrie was accepted for publication. King became a creative writing teacher at the University of Maine in 1977. King has received praise for encouraging enthusiasm and attention to grammar in his students’ work. Although King felt he was too famous to go back to teaching, he continued to share an enthusiasm for by providing scholarships for local high school students.

22. Dan Brown: Before writing unique puzzle-like novels such as The Da Vinci Code, author Dan Brown taught classes at Beverly Hills Preparatory School. Later, as he pursued a writing career, he taught English and Spanish at the well-known Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire.


23. John Adams: Prior to becoming the second President of the United States, John Adams was a teacher at the Central School of Worcester. However, Adams found the job to be incredibly boring and unfulfilling. He left his post only a year later, in 1756, to pursue law.

24. Lyndon B. Johnson: In order to pay for his education at Southwest Texas State College, former President Lyndon B. Johnson became a teacher in 1928 at Welhausen School in Cotulla, Texas, a town on the border of Mexico and the United States. Despite the language barrier (his students only spoke Spanish and he only spoke English), Johnson was an enthusiastic teacher, holding speech and debate tournaments to help improve his students’ use of the English language. His work as a teacher inspired him as he later became president of the U.S., leading him to pass the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965, which granted federal aid to younger grades in an effort to ensure that every child received a quality education.

25. Jimmy Carter: Carter also tried school teaching—only this time, yet he did so after his presidency ended. Carter continued to teach Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia well into his nineties. His Sunday school teachings became so popular, that people traveled thousands of miles to hear his lectures.

26. Hillary Clinton: The Former United States Secretary of State was also a teacher for a brief time. In the 1960s, Clinton studied at Wellesley College before she moved to Arkansas in 1974 and secured a job at the University of Arkansas, teaching law. In fact, both Hillary and Bill Clinton were teachers at the same university before they became politicians. Bill taught constitutional law and Hillary taught criminal law. Clinton was one of only two female faculty members on staff at the University of Arkansas. She was extremely fond of her teaching job and always encouraged her students to set high goals for themselves. In 2023, Clinton joined the faculty of Columbia University as a professor and presidential fellow in global affairs.

27. Barack Obama: Before he was president of the United States of America, Obama taught at the University of Chicago Law School. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Columbia University and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991. One year later, he began teaching and eventually became a senior lecturer. For more than 10 years, Obama taught Constitutional Law and Race Theory and “became known for encouraging discussions and asking difficult questions in his classes rather than lecturing students.”

28. Jenna Bush Hager: Daughter of George W. Bush, Hager taught third-graders in Washington, D.C., at Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School. After a year and a half, she left her teaching position to work for UNICEF, but Hager was still interested in children’s education. In 2008, Hager and her mother, Laura Bush, co-wrote the children’s book “Read All About It” to excite young students about reading.

Other Famous Teachers:

29. Alexander Graham Bell: Bell was inspired to create the telephone through his work as a teacher for the deaf in London, Boston, and Hartford, Connecticut. In fact, even after he officially created the telephone in 1876, he still insisted on tutoring individual students, including Helen Keller!

30. Princess Diana: Before becoming England’s beloved Princess of Wales, Diana worked as a teaching assistant in a London nursery school.

Attention! Some of the links present in this article may be affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase through the link, we might generate a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). Additionally, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through the links. All of this revenue goes back into Teacher Misery and the mission of improving it and the lives of teachers everywhere. As always, thank you for all your support! :)))

Jane Morris

Jane Morris is the pen name of an ex-teacher who would really like to tell you more about herself but is worried awful administrators will come after her for spilling their dirty little secrets. Jane has taught English for over 15 years in a major American city. She received her B.A. in English and Secondary Education from a well-known university and her M.A. in Writing and Literature from an even fancier (and more expensive) university. As a professional queen of commiseration turned published author, Jane’s foremost passion in life is to make people laugh through the tears.

She has written several highly acclaimed books unpacking the reality of teaching and life inside the school system. You can view her full library of works here.