Presidents who were Teachers

When we reflect on the lives of past presidents, we usually imagine them all to have been lawyers or military leaders. Rarely do we consider that some presidents may have been teachers. While most of the following presidents did indeed study law, they were all also teachers at some point in the careers, working with multiple age groups, from elementary school all the way up to post graduate.

John Adams

The second president of the United States, John Adams is well known for his career as a lawyer. However, it is a little-recalled fact that he was also a schoolmaster at the Central School of Worcesterfor three years. After graduating from Harvard, he resisted his father’s urge to become a clergyman and started teaching elementary school. It was after a year that he realized his true passion was in law and spent the next two years studying law in the evenings while teaching during the day.

James Garfield

The 20th president, Garfield was an excellent student with passion for Latin and Greek. He attended Hiram College from 1851 to 1854, known at the time as the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute. After graduating from Williams College in 1856, he became a professor of classics at the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute; he also later became the college president after teaching there for a year. It was there that he met his wife, a student of his, with whom he fathered seven children. In 1859, he began studying law before moving into a career in politics.

Presidents who were teachersChester Arthur

The 21st president, Arthur became president after Garfield was assassinated. Like Adams, he worked as a schoolmaster for several years after college graduation, while simultaneously studying law. He became principal of the North Pownal Academy in 1851, where he worked for three years before being admitted into the New York Bar.

presidents who were teachers William McKinley

The 25th president, Ohio native McKinley attended Allegheny College for a short time before becoming a teacher at a country school. The Civil War caused him to leave his teaching post to enlist in the Union Army, and he later chose to study law and become a lawyer before moving on to politics.

Presidents who were teachers Woodrow Wilson

The 28th president, Wilson was dedicated to the pursuit of higher education. After receiving his doctorate from John Hopkins University, he was a political science professor until he achieved his goal of becoming Princeton University’s president in 1902. In 1910, he became governor of New Jersey and continued to climb the political ranks until he received the Democratic nomination for presidency in 1912.

Presidents who were teachers Lyndon B. Johnson

The 36th president, Johnson had a colorful vocational history before becoming a politician. He was elevator operator and construction worker before borrowing money to attend the Southwest Texas State Teachers College, where he held odd jobs as a janitor and office worker. After leaving school early, he was a principal and middle school teacher in southern Texas. After obtaining his BS, he became a public speaking teacher until being elected into congress in 1931.

Presidents who were teachers Bill Clinton

The 42nd president, Clinton leaned the value of an education early in life, through his grandparents and his widowed mother, who completed nursing school while he was a young child. A Rhodes scholar, Clinton developed a passion for politics while in college, which was shared by his wife Hillary, whom he met while studying at Yale. After graduating in 1973, he became a law professor at the University of Arkansas. After becoming state attorney general in 1976, he continued to move up the political ranks, focusing his efforts on education and health care reform.

Presidents who were teachers Barack Obama

The 44th and current president, Hawaii native Obama received a political science degree from Columbia University, working in business and as an inner-city Chicago community organizer before attending Harvard Law School. As a civil rights lawyer, he also was a part-time law professor at the University of Chicago for 12 years. After gaining a seat on the Illinois State Senate in 1996, he continued to invest his efforts in improving the education and health care systems. The rest is recent history.


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