15 Famous People Who Used to Teach
You never know what hidden talents your teachers might have. Just look at all of these famous former teachers.
1. Gene Simmons
The tongue-flicking bassist of KISS taught sixth grade in Harlem before he became the world's most famous bass-playing demon. Simmons later revealed in interviews that his superiors canned him for replacing the works of Shakespeare with Spider-Man comics, which he thought the students were more likely to actually read.
2. Alexander Graham Bell
The telephone pioneer got his start teaching Visible Speech at the Boston School for Deaf-Mutes. He developed a bond with a student named Mabel Hubbard, and when she was 19 the two married.
Before he became a star with the Police, Sting—a.k.a. Gordon Sumner—taught English, music, and soccer at St. Catherine's Convent School. Sting later said of working at a convent school, "I was the only man on the faculty. In fact, I was the only teacher not in a habit."
4. Robert Frost
Robert Frost worked as a teacher to supplement the income from his fledgling literary career. He worked as both a farmer and teacher at the Pinkerton Academy in Derry, New Hampshire. His students called him "the Hen Man" because the poet was afraid of chickens, and Frost allegedly had trouble remembering to milk the school's cows on time.
5. Lyndon Johnson
The man who would later become the 36th president got his start as a principal at the Mexican-American Welhausen School in Cotulla, Texas. He later finished his teaching degree and landed gigs teaching public speaking at Pearsall High School in Pearsall, Texas and Sam Houston High in Houston. The debate team he coached at Sam Houston lost the Texas state championship by a single point; Johnson supposedly had to vomit backstage before he could bring himself to congratulate the winners.
6. Art Garfunkel
We can't speak for Paul Simon, but at least half of Simon & Garfunkel was really, really good at math. Garfunkel nearly earned a doctorate in the subject and was teaching math at the Litchfield Preparatory School in Connecticut when "Bridge Over Troubled Water" soared to the top of the charts.
7. John Adams
The second President of the United States spent a few years working as a schoolteacher in Worcester, Massachusetts. Teaching didn't suit Adams, who thought his students were nothing more than a "large number of little runtlings, just capable of lisping A, B, C, and troubling the master." He eventually gave up the job to go to law school.
8. J.K. Rowling
The Harry Potter author worked as an English teacher in Portugal as she plotted out the early adventures of her young wizards.
9. Mr. T
It was hard for Chicago students to be fools when it came to gym class in the mid-1970s. You'd pay attention if Mr. T told you to do jumping jacks, wouldn't you?
10. Sylvester Stallone
Did you know you were seeing a matchup of tough-guy teachers when you watched Rocky III? When Sly was attending the American College in Switzerland during the 1960s, he worked as a gym teacher to earn extra spending money.
11. Andy Griffith
Before he was the sheriff of Mayberry and before he was Matlock, Andy Griffith was a teacher. After graduating from the University of North Carolina, Griffith taught English, music, and drama at Goldsboro High School.
12. Billy Crystal
The comedian worked as a junior high substitute teacher on Long Island while he waited for his career to take off. Among the classes he subbed for: girls' gym, which must have been a great source of material.
13. Kris Kristofferson
The country star was a Rhodes Scholar who studied literature at Oxford before joining the Army and rising to the rank of captain. Toward the end of his tour of duty, Kristofferson took a job as an English teacher at West Point, but he decided against the professorship at the last minute. Instead of heading to New York, he resigned his commission and moved to Nashville in 1965.
14. Stephen King
Although he initially had to work in an industrial laundry after his college graduation, the horror master eventually found a teaching job that paid a cool $6400 a year at the Hampden Academy in Hampden, Maine. King wrote Salem's Lot while living in a trailer and working this job during the day.
15. Sir William Golding
The author's experiences as a teacher helped inform the novel that made his career. He once allowed a class of boys to debate with complete freedom, and the classroom quickly devolved into such disorder that it inspired Golding to write 1954's Lord of the Flies.
This story was updated and republished in 2019.