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Famous People Who Used to Be Teachers

by jvcc

Growing up, your teachers might not have seemed entirely real. They existed in the classroom, and… that’s it. (For a walk down memory lane, just recall how awkward it was whenever you bumped into Mr. Porto in the coffee shop.) But for these celebrities, it’s practically the opposite scenario: You can’t possibly imagine they ever existed in a classroom.
Well, you better start imagining. From red carpet royalty to stadium-booking rock stars to iconic authors (some of whom are now back in English classrooms around the world, albeit in name only), the teacher’s desk seems to be a launching pad for many celebrity careers. Here are the ones you’ll be most surprised about. And for more hidden secrets from the classroom, don’t miss these

1 Gene Simmons

The bassist of Kiss taught 6th grade in Harlem for 6 months as the band was forming. Eventually, however, Gene Simmons quit to pursue fame. “The reason I quit after six months is that I discovered the real reason I became a teacher. It was because I wanted to get up on stage and have people notice me. I had to quit because the stage was too small. Forty people wasn’t enough. I wanted 40,000,” he told The Ledger. And for more public school hilarity, check out these 20 Hilarious Assignments Kids Have Turned in to Their Teachers.

2 Sting

Before Gordon Matthew Sumner (whom you may know as Sting) crooned his way to success as the leading member of the Police, he was a certified primary school teacher and soccer coach in England. He quit after his solo career began to gain traction. Decades after his stint as a teacher, Sting is still adamant about raising teacher’s salaries, as he acknowledges that teaching is one of the most important (and underpaid) jobs in the world. And for more celebs whose names you might not know, These Are the Real Names of Your Favorite Mega-Stars.

4 Alexander Graham Bell

As it turns out, Alexander Graham 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. And for more facts about the world’s greatest inventors, check out these 30 Life-Changing Inventions That Were Totally Accidental.

5 Robert Frost

In the beginning part of his literary career, Robert Frost was a teacher at the Pinkerton Academy in Derry, New Hampshire. The students he taught affectionately called him “The Hen Man” because he was incredibly afraid of chickens.

6 Liam Neeson

Though Liam Neeson trained to be a teacher while attending St. Mary’s College in Newcastle, England, he decided against the profession after punching a student in the face. As Neeson told ESPN: “This particular kid did not want to settle down, he wanted to disrupt the whole class. So I went over to him and asked him to leave the classroom and stand outside. The next thing he pulled a knife on me. My reaction was to punch him, which I shouldn’t have done but I felt threatened.”

7 Mr. T

Before Mr. T found success as a professional wrestler and actor in the 1980s, he worked as a gym teacher at the Paul Lawrence Dubar Vocational Career Academy in Chicago. After his stint as a teacher, he earned a scholarship to attend Prairie View A&M Univeristy.

8 Andy Griffith

Prior to becoming a household name, actor Andy Griffith, upon earning a Bachelor of Music degree at the University of North Carolina, taught music and drama at Goldsboro High School in North Carolina.

9 Billy Crystal

After moving to New York City to pursue acting, Billy Crystal formed a comedy trio with two other friends and spent his time performing in colleges and coffee houses with them. To earn money, Crystal worked as a substitute teacher on Long Island.

10 Stephen King

Before writing about killer clowns, novelist Stephen King was a teacher at Hampden Academy in Hampden, Maine. At the same time, King was busy submitting short stories to several magazines in an attempt to achieve success as a writer. After his first novel, Carrie, found great success, he quit teaching, and 58 novels later, is one of the greatest novelists of all time.

11 Hugh Jackman

As it turns out, Wolverine has always been a fit icon. He began his path to physical perfection in the most humble way possible: as a gym teacher at England’s Uppingham School. In fact, just five years ago, he actually recognized one of his old students, interrupting an interview with entertainment reporter Rollo Ross, stating that he just wanted to “know how your physical education is progressing. It’s very important to me.”

12 Sheryl Crow

After majoring in music education at the University of Missouri at Columbia, musician Sheryl Crow tried her hand at teaching music at an elementary school in St. Louis. This gig ended when Crow moved to Los Angeles to pursue a solo career in 1986.

13 Jon Hamm

Mad Men star Jon Hamm, upon graduating from the University of Missouri, took his first job as a drama teacher at his high school alma mater, the John Burroughs School. While at the school, he taught the likes of Ellie Kemper (with whom he co-starred on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and formed a close friendship with fellow actor Paul Rudd.

14 George Orwell

Eric Arthur Blair—who you may know by his pen name, George Orwell—was a teacher at The Hawthorns High School in Hayes, West London, where he worked on A Scullion’s Diary, a novel detailing a time when he attempted to have himself arrested.