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15 Celebrities Who Taught English Abroad
Written by: Ashley Houston
Last Updated: January 12, 2021
Looking for that little piece of extra inspiration you need to take the leap and teach English abroad? Check out these 15 celebrities whose lives and success were greatly influenced by their time teaching overseas!
1. Edward Norton - Actor - American History X & Fight Club
Norton moved to Osaka, Japan after graduating college to work for his grandfather’s company. Perhaps inspired by his mother who was an English teacher, he also taught English on the side. In fact, you can find him featured in Only in America, an EFL textbook used by Nova, one of the major English language schools in Japan during the 1990s.
2. Sylvester Stallone - Actor - the Rocky Series (& many others!)
While studying at the American College of Switzerland in the 1960s, Stallone worked as a gym teacher to earn a bit of extra spending cash. What better way to use the TPR (total physical response) teaching method than sports! Who has some great English lessons for tennis?
3. John Krasinski - Actor - The Office
Krasinski was dead set on being an English teacher when he went to Brown University in January as one of the 30 or so mid-year program students. The transformative part of his decision to move toward theater and acting happened when he went down to teach English in Costa Rica for six months. Though he had to spend an extra semester at Brown because of it, it changed his career trajectory entirely. We have Costa Rica to thank for Jim Halpert!
4. Steven Seagal - Actor/Producer/Screenwriter
At 17 years old, Seagal moved from his home in the U.S. to teach English in Japan. While there, he also pursued his deep love for the Japanese martial arts of aikido, karate, judo, and kendo, which he later incorporated into films. A product of his time living in Japan and his first wife being Japanese, Seagal learned Japanese and even spoke some in his film, Into the Sun.
5. Oliver Stone - Actor - Platoon and Wall Street
After finishing high school in 1965, Stone forewent his acceptance to Yale University to spend time teaching English in Vietnam. He spent six months teaching high school students at the Free Pacific Institute in Saigon.
6. Kerry Meier - NFL Player - Atlanta Falcons
After years in the NFL, Meiers traded in his helmet and pads for lesson plans to fulfill his late brother Dylan’s dreams. He and his girlfriend Alexandria taught at the International Language School in Jeonju, South Korea. In interviews he’s expressed how much his time teaching English in South Korea helped in grow in ways he couldn’t imagine.
7. Chyna (Joanie Laurer) - Professional Wrestler - the WWE
After her rise to fame in the early 2000s, Chyna’s reputation in the media prevented her from working in mainstream television. As such, she decided to take her career in a new direction and went to Japan to teach English for three years. She’s shared in interviews that it was a great chance for her to regroup and was quite a spiritual journey for her.
8. Royalty: Prince William - Duke of Cambridge
If the future King of England taught English abroad, it just might be something you should consider! In late 2000, Prince William volunteered for 10 weeks as an English teacher in Chile. Part of his gap year, he lived with other teachers from the Raleigh International programme in the small southern commune of Tortel.
9. J.K Rowling - Author of the Harry Potter series
Perhaps the most well-known celebrity to have taught English abroad, Rowling spent time teaching English in Portugal in the early 1990s. She spent her afternoons and evenings teaching, and spent her mornings writing. In fact, it was during her time in Porto, Portugal that she began to write the beginning parts of the famous Harry Potter series.
10. Benedict Cumberbatch - Actor - Sherlock
After his time at boarding school in England, Cumberbatch decided to take a gap year to teach English in Darjeeling, India at a Tibetan monastery. He taught 12 monks that spanned in age from 8 to 40 years old! Not only did he spend time teaching, he also learned all about Buddhism. He has said that the monks taught him more than he could ever teach them.
11. Charlotte Brontë - Novelist/Poet - Jane Eyre and The Professor
Brontë taught English in Belgium in the mid-1800s to pay for the tuition at the boarding school she was attending with her sister. Her first stint in Brussels was short lived, as they both had to return to England because of the death of their mother. But a year later, Brontë returned to continue teaching. The experience was so impactful, that it inspired some of the events she included in The Professor.
12. Wilfred Owen - Poet
Prior to his service in World War I, Owen spent time teaching English in France as a private tutor in Bordeaux. Thought his famous war poetry lives on, he was killed during the war.
13. James Joyce - Author - Ulysses
Joyce spent time teaching English in Italy at the Berlitz Academy to flee the impacts of World War I. After his time in Trieste, he also taught naval officers in Pola, now in modern day Croatia. Joyce has said that many of the people he met during his time teaching English abroad inspired characters in Ulysses.
14. Bob Geldof -Singer/Songwriter - The Boomtown Rats
Geldof spent time teaching English in Spain. Based in the city of Murcia, he had no training going into his teach abroad experience. There were no international standards or training qualifications at that time, schools were merely looking for native speakers who spoke no Spanish. Luckily, this was no problem for Geldof as he was able to fully immerse his students in the only language he spoke!
15. Hugh Jackman - Actor - X-Men & Les Misérables
While not technically an ESL teacher, Jackman did spend time teaching at Uppingham School in Rutland, England in 1987 before his acting career took off. He enjoyed the experience so much so, that he made a visit back in 2011 during his time filming Les Misérables. E! News even reported in 2013 that Jackman ran into a former student from his teaching days on the red carpet. Talk about dreaming a dream!
It’s no doubt that their international experiences teaching English expanded their horizons and aided in their success! Now it’s your turn, how will teaching English abroad impact you?
A true industry pro, Ashley brings more than 10 years of experience in international education to the ITA team. She studied abroad six times, and has traveled to more than 40 countries. All of her diverse experiences brought her to International TEFL Academy, where she is proud to help others work toward the wonderful adventure of teaching English abroad!
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