On National Teacher Day, Constitution Daily looks at 10 Presidents who were teachers in some capacity before they occupied the White House – including one who later married his own teacher.
The most common occupation among the Presidents is lawyer, with 25 future Presidents practicing the law in some capacity. But as you’ll see below, more than a few Presidents paid partly for their legal educations while working as educators.
Our list of “presidential teachers” starts with the second President.
- John Adams
John Adams taught for a brief period after graduating from Harvard. Adams taught in at a Latin school in Worcester, to earn money to pay for his legal education.
- John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was as a professor at Harvard University from 1806 to 1809, and he also lectured at Brown University. Adams taught oratory and logic classes.
- Millard Fillmore
Not only was Fillmore a teacher at one point, he married his own teacher! In 1819 the 19-year-old Fillmore attended a school for several months, and he eventually married his teacher, who was two years older than Fillmore. Fillmore then taught elementary school to help pay for his law school tuition.
- James Garfield
His first occupation was as a part-time teacher in rural schools in Ohio. Garfield later taught penmanship at the same Vermont academy, the North Pownal Academy, that also employed Chester Alan Arthur as an instructor, and he taught at the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute in Ohio.
- Chester Alan Arthur
After graduating from Union College, Arthur spent several years teaching school and studying the law until he passed his bar exam.
- Grover Cleveland
He was a teacher at the New York Institute for the Blind in Manhattan before deciding to pursue a law career.
- William Howard Taft
Between 1896 and 1900 Taft was the first dean and a professor of constitutional law at the University of Cincinnati. After failing in his 1912 re-election bid, Taft became the Chancellor Kent Professor of Law and Legal History at Yale Law School, before returning to public service as a Supreme Court justice.
- Woodrow Wilson
After graduating from Princeton University, the University of Virginia Law School, and Johns Hopkins University, Wilson entered into a prestigious academic career. He was named president of Princeton in 1902 before he went into politics.
- Lyndon Baines Johnson
As a student at Southwest Texas State Teachers College, Johnson was assigned to a tiny Hispanic school in a deeply impoverished area, where he thrived. Johnson left his brief career as a teacher to pursue politics during the Great Depression.
- Barack Obama
From 1992 until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004, Obama served as a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. He was a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996. He was a Senior Lecturer until 2004.