Famous teachers in history you should know

11 December 2020

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once said that

“those who educate children well are more to be honoured that they who produce them;
for these only gave them life,
those the art of living well”.

That should stop you in your tracks and make you think about your job!

The following 11 ‘famous teachers’ will give you some extra food for thought as well:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu


One of South Africa’s most well-known human rights activists and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, began his career as a teacher!

Tutu taught English and history at his alma mater, Madipane High in Krugersdorp. After teaching for three years he left the school to pursue a degree in theology. Over time he became one of the greatest spiritual teachers in the world.

Albert Einstein


Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955) obtained his academic teaching diploma from the Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich, Switzerland in 1900.

Later on he became a theoretical physics professor at Princeton University, USA.

Mother Theresa


Mother Theresa worked as a teacher whilst serving as a nun in India. She taught geography and history for 17 years – from 1931-1948 – at Saint Mary’s High School for Girls in Calcutta. Later she became school principal.

In 1948 Mother Theresa left the convent school to work among the desperately poor in the slums of Calcutta.

Christa McAuliffe


You might not recognise her name at first but you will as soon as you read that Christa McAuliffe was one of the seven brave NASA crew members who died on the Space Shuttle Challenger in January 1986.

McAuliffe was the first civilian passenger in the history of space exploration. It all came about when she entered a competition to put a teacher in space in 1984. She won, out of 11 000 competition entries.

Anne Sullivan


Another name that is not easily recognisable is that of Anna Sullivan though she is regarded as one of the most famous teachers in history.

Anne Sullivan helped a blind, deaf and mute child, Helen Keller, to communicate with the world. Sullivan was a miracle worker, if ever there was one.

George Orwell, Dan Brown & Stephen King


George Orwell (1903-1950), author of Animal Farm & Nineteen Eighty-Four, first worked as a teacher at a boys’ school. It is said that he inspired his learners to “think big and think ahead”.

Dan Brown, who wrote best-selling novels like The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, started off supporting himself by teaching classes at Beverly Hills Preparatory School in Hollywood. At the time he was harbouring thoughts of becoming a musician, rather than an author.

Stephen King, prolific writer of 58 novels, taught at Hampden Academy in Maine, USA by day. At night he worked on his writing from the trailer where he lived.

Once his first novel, Carrie, became successful, he quit teaching.

Liam Neeson, Hugh Jackman & Billy Crystal


Northern Irish American actor Liam Neeson, known for playing powerful leading men, first trained to be a teacher. He decided against becoming a teacher though, after he defended himself when a learner with a knife threatened him. Neeson has called teaching “the most difficult job” he’s had.

Hugh Jackman, best known as Wolverine in X-Men, first worked as a gym teacher in England.

Comedian Billy Crystal started off working as a substitute teacher in Long Island, New York.


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