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Top 10 Celebrities Who Were Teachers Before They were Famous

VO: Lisa Yang
They could’ve been teachers but found their calling being actors, singers and politicians instead. In this countdown we take a look at the Top 10 Celebrities who were teachers before they were famous! Bet you didn’t know that Sheryl Crow taught music for two years before heading to L.A. to pursue her dreams! Did you know that Barak Obama taught law pre-White House and that Jon Hamm taught improv to Ellie Kemper?.

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Top 10 Celebrities Who Were Teachers Before They Were Famous

These celebs could teach you a thing or two. Welcome to MsMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 Celebrities Who Were Teachers Before They Were Famous.

For this list, we'll be looking at celebrities of all sorts who spent at least part of their pre-fame time teaching. All forms of educating qualify for this list, so long as it's not the occupation they're known for now, and it took place before they became famous.

#10: Sheryl Crow

If all one had to go by was the “If It Makes You Happy” music video, then the idea of Sheryl Crow as a teacher might be hard to wrap your head around. But given that she holds a BA in Music Composition, Performance, and Education from the University of Missouri, and was also a member of the Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity for Women… Miss Crow: music teacher, actually makes sense. Herself the daughter of a piano teacher, Crow taught music at Kellison Elementary in Fenton, Missouri before heading out to L.A. to pursue a music career - proving if it makes you happy, it can't be that bad.

#9: Barack Obama

While certain elements of his life- real or fictional- have been hotly debated, Obama's time as a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School gets relatively little attention. By all accounts a popular teacher, Obama was offered tenured positions during his 12 year run as a professor, but passed it up in favor of political pursuits. Teaching courses such as “Current Issues in Racism and the Law”, Obama's lecturing days overlapped with both his legal career and time in the Illinois State Senate. Mr. O isn't the only North American leader with teaching experience either - both LBJ and John Adams taught pre-White House, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was previously a French and Math teacher at a private university prep school in Vancouver, British Columbia.

#8: Stephen King

Before building a horror novel empire, Stephen King was a humble would-be novelist and teacher trying to make ends meet. Becoming qualified to teach high school after graduating with a BA in English in 1970, King began his teaching career at Hampden Academy in 1971, with a salary of $6,400. In 1973 however, King sold “Carrie”, earning an advance of $2,500 and- by 1975 –$200,000 in paperback rights. In the years that followed, King moved around before returning to Maine in 1977 and again finding work in the classroom - this time teaching creative writing at the University of Maine.

#7: Billy Crystal

Long before his time at Monsters University, Billy Crystal worked at the much more real but substantially less interesting-sounding Long Beach High School. An alum of the school himself, Crystal found work as a substitute teacher for $42.50 a day- teaching, in his words, “everything from English to auto shop”. The actor also taught phys ed, but largely used his time in front of the class to hone his comedic skills and crack jokes. During this time, he was working with a comedy group, but in retrospect has referred to that period as him “hiding”. When he finally went solo, he got his big break.

#6: Sting

Bus driver. Ditch Digger. Tax clerk. This world famous bassist had an eclectic resume before enrolling at Northern Counties College of Education. Post graduation, Mr. Sumner taught English for two years at St. Paul's First School, which, ironically, is a secondary school. Sting also served as a soccer coach at St. Catherine's Convent School, where, as he put it, he was “the only teacher not in a habit.” The bassist eventually left the profession to take music more seriously, but the Police song “Don't Stand So Close to Me” appears to tap into this time and the 15 year old girls who crushed on him.

#5: Jon Hamm

Everyone's favorite day drinker's educational stint may not have lasted long, but with at least two of his former students themselves finding the limelight, he must’ve been doing something right. Returning to his alma mater, John Burroughs School in Missouri, Hamm taught both the unbreakable Ellie Kemper and House of Cards creator Beau Willimon. Per Kemper, Hamm taught improv, was distractingly handsome, and- unsurprisingly- quite popular with female students. During this time, Hamm also struck up a friendship with Paul Rudd, and that friendship in part led to the eventual Don Draper trading in St. Louis for LA in 1995.

#4: Mr. T

If Mr. T had to pity every fool who didn't know he used to teach gym, he'd never get anything else done. But as so little is known about T's tenure... a fool could almost be forgiven for their ignorance. What is known is students likely called him “Mr. Tero”, as he didn't legally change his name to “Mr. T” until 1982. Formally a member of the military police and a Green Bay Packers hopeful, T taught gym in public schools in the Chicago area- alternating between teaching phys ed and his better documented pre-fame gig as a bouncer and bodyguard to stars like Steve McQueen, Diana Ross, and Muhammad Ali.

#3: Gene Simmons

Armed with a Bachelor of Education degree, Gene Simmons seemed destined to a long career of summers off, topped by a nice, tidy pension plan. However, it was not to be. Lasting around six months as a sixth grade teacher in New York City's Spanish Harlem, Simmons claimed teaching made him realise he wanted an audience and stage larger than a school could provide him. Mind you, it’s also been rumored that he was fired for swapping out Shakespeare for Spider-Man comics. Which... if true, proves that he was too cool for school anyways.

#2: J.K. Rowling

Before the fame, Rowling worked as an ESL teacher in Porto, Portugal. The experience proved to be life changing, as in short order the future author would find herself married, a new mother, and then… a single one. Around this time, Rowling began writing the Harry Potter story. JK left Portugal for Edinburgh in 1993 and in 1995 enrolled at the Moray House School of Education at Edinburgh University, graduating with a Postgraduate Certificate in Secondary Education in Modern Languages in 1996. She may very well have returned to teaching with it… had her she not received an advance for her first book that very same year!

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honourable mentions.

Andy Griffith

Steve Wozniak

#1: Hugh Jackman

Long before taking up a residency at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, a young Jackman spent his gap year in 1987 teaching PE at Uppingham School and, by his own account, had a ball. The actor, always a class act, apparently kept in touch with some of his students, and later said he'd hoped to return. Jackman finally did visit in 2012, while filming Les Misérables. However his gym teaching past didn't really get mainstream attention until an odd, red-carpet interview wherein he recognized reporter Rollo Ross as one of his former students… and hilariously shifted the conversation to physical fitness.


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