Before they were stars, they were hanging in the teacher’s lounge!
Being a teacher is one of the most important and impactful jobs in the world and you’ll be surprised to learn just how many stars started their careers in the classroom. Before they were on set or in the studio, these celebs were teaching math, music and even gym class!
While many of these celebs didn’t stay in the profession for too long before pursuing their passion full time, others really loved the job. Lin-Manuel Miranda called teaching “one of the most rewarding jobs” he’s ever had and Jesse Williams “wanted to be part of the solution” to provide children with a better education.
Find out what celebs you might see in your classroom one day….
1. Hugh Jackman
Before Hugh Jackman was a star on the big screen, he used his gap year to move from Australia to England where he was an assistant housemaster at Uppingham School in London. At just 18, he spent most of his time teaching gym, coaching sports teams and tutoring drama for students just a few years younger than him. After being on the job for a year, he returned to Australia to attend college.
“An 18-year-old Aussie teaching English to a bunch of English kids. I thought, if that was my school fees, I’d be pretty annoyed,” Hugh told BBC.
2. Liam Neeson
Liam Neeson decided to follow in his sister’s footsteps and pursue a career in teaching before becoming an actor. He attended St. Mary’s College in England and was even a student teacher until a bad experience made him walk away from the potential career.
“There were always discipline problems, getting them to settle down before you can start to teach them. 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,” Liam reportedly told ESPN.
3. Sheryl Crow
After Sheryl Crow graduated from the University of Missouri, where she majored in Music Composition, Performance and Education, she got a job as a music teacher at an elementary school in St. Louis. She spent her nights and weekends focusing on her own music career and eventually left the job to become a backup singer for Michael Jackson in Los Angeles.
She still maintains her connection to education as a spokesperson for Adopt A Classroom, which provides funding to teachers and schools in order to get the items they need for their students.
While Lin-Manuel Miranda was busy writing his first musical, he was also a substitute teacher at Hunter College High School in New York City. He called it “one of the most rewarding jobs” he’s ever had but eventually had to make the decision to give up teaching and pursue writing full time. Lin-Manuel says it was his father who encouraged him to follow his dream.
“[My father] said, ‘I really want to tell you to keep the job — that’s the smart ‘parent thing’ to do — but when I was 17, I was a manager at the Sears in Puerto Rico, and I basically threw it all away to go to New York, [and] I didn’t speak a lot of English. It made no sense, but it was what I needed to do.’ So you were like, ‘It makes no sense to leave your job to be a writer, but I have to tell you to do it. You have to pursue that if you want.’… I’m glad I took it,” Lin-Manuel told Playbill.
While Sylvester Stallone was studying drama at the American College in Switzerland, he worked part time at a school as a gym teacher. He held the gig to make some extra cash while abroad but ditched the job when he returned to the US to pursue his acting career.
When Jesse Williams graduated from college at Temple University, he followed in his parent’s footsteps and became a teacher in Philadelphia. The “Grey’s Anatomy” actor taught American studies, African studies and English for six years until he decided to leave to pursue his acting career.
“I grew up in Chicago in an under-served community, over-crowded classrooms that sometimes had two grades in a classroom. Then I moved to a suburban area and had a healthy public school experience. I found this incredible chasm between two of the many Americas we have. I got a much better education and resources because of my zip code. wanted to be part of the solution, so I started working in my community when I was at Temple University,” Jesse told Essence.
Before Sting rose to fame, he was a teacher at St. Catherine’s Convent School in England where he taught English and music. He even coached soccer on the side! Sting also happened to be the only man on the staff and the only one not in a habit.
“One of the most important jobs on the planet is to teach children. Our entire future depends on children being educated,” Sting has reportedly said.
Prior to his comedy career taking off, Billy Crystal worked as a substitute teacher at the same New York junior high that he attended as a teen.
“I sat in the office and made $42.50 a day, and whenever a teacher was absent, I’d substitute. I taught everything from English to auto shop. I’d be at the front of a class saying, ‘Listen, I don’t know anything about science, but these two guys walk into a bar…’ I’d only been out of school for a few years. I couldn’t bring myself to call the teachers by their first names. I was like, ‘Ed, could you pass…? No, no, you’re Mr. Graff to me.’ And the funniest part was being in the teachers’ lounge,” Billy said in an interview with Oprah.
9. Gene Simmons
Kiss rocker Gene Simmons once taught sixth grade at a middle school in Harlem. He quit after six months to work on his music career and perform in front of a slightly larger audience.
“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,” Gene told the Lakeland Ledger.
10. Mr. T
Before Mr. T found fame as a wrestler and actor, he worked as a gym teacher at Paul Lawrence Dubar Vocational Career Academy in Chicago. While working, he earned a scholarship to attend Prairie View A&M University, where he studied before becoming an entertainer.
11. Brian May
Queen guitarist Brian May, who studied physics in college, was once a math teacher at Stockwell Manor School in Brixton. He says he really enjoyed the job but it was very challenging, especially keeping the children’s attention.
“You couldn’t get the children to attend unless they were incredibly interested in what you were saying. The kids were bored more than anything else. I had a great advantage because I was young and could speak to them in their own language. I always enjoyed maths and was able to make it feel fun to them,” Brian told Daily Mirror Newspaper.
12. Jon Hamm
After graduating from college, Jon Hamm took a teaching job at the high school he once attended, the John Burroughs School. Jon taught drama and ended up teaching a future celebrity – Ellie Kemper.
“In a room full of freshmen girls, he was definitely just as handsome back then. Having this grown, tall man teach you theater, it was like having a hunk in the class,” Ellie told The A.V. Club.