Famous American Educators

Eons before kindergarten became an integral part of our education system and a compulsory one at that, young children were made to slog at factories and mines, clean chimneys and work as household helps. They attended no school and were deprived of basic education. What is even scarier is that the children were considered adults by the tender age of seven. Thanks to a man named Friedrich Froebel who laid the foundation for pre-school education by inventing kindergarten. But he isn’t the only one. History is rife with many such powerful educational reformers and educators who with their vision, dedication, and hard work did everything in their power to make the world a better place. When we think of educators, names like Confucius, Aristotle, John Locke and Henry David Thoreau spring readily in our minds. But even America has homed educators who have rocked history by breaking down all barriers, opening new doors of understanding, and revolutionizing the teaching method. Dr. Temple Grandin, Anne Sullivan, Stephen Hawking, Elizabeth Blackwell, Emma Willard and Lisa Delpit are examples of some of America’s eminent educators who redefined education system in their own unique way. Let us explore their timeline, trivia, and interesting facts in the biographies below.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite American Educators

 1 Helen Keller

Helen Keller.
5
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: June 27, 1880
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Tuscumbia, Alabama, United States
Died: June 1, 1968

A prolific author, having written 12 published books and several articles, Helen Keller was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Her autobiography, The Story of My Life, made Keller famous and was adapted for film and stage. She was also an activist and campaigned for women's suffrage, labour rights, socialism and other such causes.

 2 Booker T. Washington

Booker T. Washington.
4
Birthdate: April 5, 1856
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Westlake Corner, Virginia, United States
Died: November 14, 1915
Booker T. Washington was born into slavery but rose to be an advisor to many U.S. presidents and also became the director of the Tuskegee Institute. His Atlanta Compromise, initially accepted and later rejected by black leaders, urged the blacks to work for their freedom through education and not revolt.

 3 Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt.
4
Famous As: Former First Lady of the United States
Birthdate: October 11, 1884
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
Died: November 7, 1962

Feminist and civil rights icon Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was the longest-serving U.S First Lady. She was a prominent human rights activist, wrote columns, and hosted a radio show. She was named to Gallup's List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century in 1999.

 4 Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov.
4
Famous As: Novelist, Professor
Birthdate: January 2, 1920
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Petrovichi, Russia
Died: April 6, 1992

Isaac Asimov was an American writer. Best known for his science fiction works, Asimov was regarded as one of the Big Three writers along with Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein. Asimov is credited with influencing most sci-fi writers since the 1950s. Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman stated that one of Asimov's works inspired him to take up Economics.

 5 John Dewey

John Dewey.
10
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 20, 1859
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Burlington, Vermont, United States
Died: June 1, 1952

A staunch advocate of progressive education and liberalism, the American philosopher and psychologist was the founder of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. John Dewey’s famous writings included The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology and Human Nature and Conduct. According to him, passion for knowledge and intellectual curiosity were central to a teacher. He called himself a democratic socialist.

 6 John Astin

John Astin.
6
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: March 30, 1930
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, United States
John Astin is best known as Gomez Addams from the 1960s’ series The Addams Family. He was a known face in movies of the horror-comedy/parody genre, such as the Killer Tomatoes films. Some of his other notable films were West Side Story, Freaky Friday, and National Lampoon's European Vacation.

 7 Anita Hill

Anita Hill
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Famous As: Attorney
Birthdate: July 30, 1956
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Morns, Oklahoma, USA
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 8 Mary Kay Letourneau

Mary Kay Letourneau
4
Famous As: Criminal
Birthdate: January 30, 1962
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Tustin, California, United States
Died: July 6, 2020

American teacher Mary Kay Letourneau was pleaded guilty in 1997 to two counts of felony second-degree rape of a child. She began a sexual relationship with her sixth-grade student Vili Fualaau and had two children with him. Letourneau served two prison sentences as their relationship was forbidden by law. The two got married in 2005 and got separated in 2019.

 9 Stedman Graham

Stedman Graham.
8
Famous As: Educator
Birthdate: March 6, 1951
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Whitesboro, New Jersey, United States
Stedman Graham is known to people as the partner of legendary talk show host Oprah Winfrey. He owns the marketing firm S. Graham & Associates and has also authored many business and self-help books, taught at Full Sail University, and spoken at various events. He owns a non-profit, too.

 10 Sal Khan

Sal Khan
6
Famous As: Teacher
Birthdate: October 11, 1976
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Metairie, Louisiana, U.S.

What began as amateur math tutorials for his cousin later became Sal Khan’s dream project, the online education platform Khan Academy, which now has over 42 million users worldwide. Named to Time 100 in 2012, the American-born Bengali former hedge fund analyst is an MIT and Harvard alumnus.

 11 Christa McAuliffe

Christa McAuliffe
4
Famous As: Astronaut, Teacher
Birthdate: September 2, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: January 28, 1986

Christa McAuliffe was an American astronaut and teacher who died while serving as a payload specialist on board Space Shuttle Challenger, which exploded during STS-51-L. McAuliffe was all set to become the first teacher in space as she was part of the NASA Teacher in Space Project. In 2004, she was posthumously honored with the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

 12 Anne Sullivan

Anne Sullivan.
6
Famous As: American Teacher, Instructor
Birthdate: April 14, 1866
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Feeding Hills
Died: October 20, 1936

 13 Tony Danza

Tony Danza
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: April 21, 1951
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States

 14 Betty Shabazz

Betty Shabazz
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Famous As: Educator
Birthdate: May 28, 1934
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Pinehurst, Georgia, United States
Died: June 23, 1997

Civil rights activist and educator Betty Shabazz, or Betty X, was the wife of Black nationalist leader Malcolm X. Raised by her adoptive parents in Detroit, she met Malcolm X at a Nation of Islam event in Harlem. She died when her apartment was set on fire set by her grandson.

 15 Robby Benson

Robby Benson.
15
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 21, 1956
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Dallas, Texas, United States

Robby Benson is an American actor, filmmaker, composer, singer, and teacher. He gained popularity in the late-1970s when he established himself as a teen idol, appearing in films like Ice Castles and One on One. Apart from being an entertainer, Robby Benson is also a fundraiser and activist for heart research.

 16 John G. Trump

John G. Trump
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Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: August 21, 1907
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: February 21, 1985

Better known as former U.S. president Donald Trump’s uncle, John G. Trump was an MIT physicist and engineer. Though he had initially aspired to be an architect and join his brother Fred’s real-estate business, John later concentrated on his research that led to the invention of high-voltage generators.

 17 Sonya Curry

Sonya Curry.
4
Famous As: Dell Curry's Wife
Birthdate: May 30, 1966
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Radford, Virginia, United States

The wife of NBA star Dell Curry and the mother of basketball players Seth and Stephen Curry, Sonya Curry grew up amid poverty and often had racist encounters with the Ku Klux Klan. Once a star volleyball player at Virginia Tech, she now heads the Christian Montessori School founded by her.

 18 Katie Porter

Katie Porter
6
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: January 3, 1974
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Fort Dodge, Iowa, U.S.

Currently a member of the House of Representative from the 45th Congressional District in Orange County, California, American politician Katie Porter practiced law before taking up teaching as her full time profession. Eventually she won the 2018 election to the House and is now a member of the House Natural Resources Committee and deputy chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

 19 Jane Elliott

Jane Elliott
6
Famous As: Schoolteacher
Birthdate: May 27, 1933
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Riceville, Mitchell County, Iowa, USA

 20 Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Henry Louis Gates Jr.
6
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: September 16, 1950
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Keyser, West Virginia

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is an American literary critic, historian, professor, filmmaker, and public intellectual. He is currently serving as the director of the Hutchins Center at Harvard University. Over the years Gates has been honored with several prestigious awards including the National Humanities Medal. In 1997, he was named in Time magazine's 25 Most Influential Americans list.

 21 William Edwards Deming

William Edwards Deming.
6
Famous As: Statistician, Electrical Engineer
Birthdate: October 14, 1900
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Sioux City
Died: December 20, 1993

Born to a lawyer, William Edwards Deming grew up to become a renowned mathematical physicist and later taught statistics at the New York University. His research focused on the application of statistical methods to improve quality control in various industries. His ideas were later widely used by Japanese corporates.

 22 Danny Lloyd

Danny Lloyd
6
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 1, 1972
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, USA

 23 Ennis Cosby

Ennis Cosby
4
Famous As: Teacher
Birthdate: April 15, 1969
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States
Died: January 16, 1997

The only son of comedian Bill Cosby, Ennis Cosby made headlines when he was shot dead at 27, in an attempted robbery on a deserted Southern California road. He was dyslexic and discussed his disability with the children he taught as a student-teacher at the Alfred E. Smith Elementary School.

 24 Edward Said

Edward Said.
5
Famous As: Professor
Birthdate: November 1, 1935
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Mandatory Palestine
Died: September 25, 2003

 25 Dan Savage

Dan Savage
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: October 7, 1964
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, USA

Dan Savage is an American author, journalist, media pundit, and LGBT community activist. He is credited with founding the It Gets Better Project which aims at preventing suicide amongst LGBT youth. In 2013, he was honored by the American Humanist Association with the prestigious Humanist of the Year award.  

 26 Sylvia Earle

Sylvia Earle
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Famous As: Marine biologist
Birthdate: August 30, 1935
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Gibbstown, New Jersey, U.S.
Sylvia Earle is known for her research on marine algae and she was the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Earle held the world record for the deepest untethered dive and was named by Time Magazine as its first Hero for the Planet, in 1998. She also featured in Netflix Original documentary Seaspiracy.

 27 Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis
4
Famous As: Trumpeter
Birthdate: October 18, 1961
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

 28 Tom Laughlin

Tom Laughlin
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 10, 1931
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Died: December 12, 2013

 29 Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: October 15, 1974
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.

Roxane Gay is an American writer, editor, professor, and social commentator. She is credited with founding an Illinois-based small press called Tiny Hardcore Press as well as the now-defunct Gay Magazine, which was founded in association with Medium. Roxane Gay is the recipient of a couple of Lambda Literary Awards and an Eisner Award for Best Limited Series.

 30 William O. Douglas

William O. Douglas.
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Famous As: Former Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court
Birthdate: October 16, 1898
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Minnesota, United States
Died: January 19, 1980

 31 George P. Bush

George P. Bush
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Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: April 24, 1976
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Houston, Texas, U.S.

 32 Dennis Hastert

Dennis Hastert
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Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: January 2, 1942
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Aurora, Illinois, USA

 33 Horace Mann

Horace Mann.
4
Famous As: Educator & Politician
Birthdate: May 4, 1796
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Franklin
Died: August 2, 1859

 34 Joshua Chamberlain

Joshua Chamberlain.
4
Famous As: Educator & War Hero
Birthdate: September 8, 1828
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Brewer
Died: February 24, 1914

 35 Pamela Des Barres

Pamela Des Barres
4
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: September 9, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Reseda, California, USA

 36 Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates.
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: September 30, 1975
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates gained international prominence while serving as the national correspondent at The Atlantic. His writings on socio-political issues related to African Americans and white supremacy garnered him much appreciation. He is a recipient of the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center Prize for Writing to Advance Social Justice. He also writes fiction and comics.

 37 Chuck Todd

Chuck Todd
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Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: April 8, 1972
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Miami, Florida, USA

 38 Adam Nimoy

Adam Nimoy
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Famous As: Director
Birthdate: August 9, 1956
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA

 39 Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan.
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Famous As: Author, Journalist, Activist
Birthdate: February 6, 1955
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Long Island, New York, United States
Author and journalist Michael Pollan is best known for his books such as The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, which talk about the social impact of people’s culinary choices. He has also contributed to The New York Times Magazine and Harper's Magazine, and currently teaches journalism at UCB.

 40 Erin Murphy

Erin Murphy
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: June 17, 1964
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Encino, California, USA

 41 Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch.
4
Famous As: Motivational Speaker, Educationist, Professor
Birthdate: October 23, 1960
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Died: July 25, 2008

 42 Amy Chua

Amy Chua
4
Famous As: Lawyer
Birthdate: October 26, 1962
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Champaign, Illinois Champaign, Illinois, U.S.

 43 Zitkala-Sa

Zitkala-Sa
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: February 22, 1876
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Yankton Reservation, South Dakota, United States
Died: January 26, 1938

 44 Larry Hovis

Larry Hovis.
4
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: February 20, 1936
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Wapato, Washington
Died: September 9, 2003

 45 Lauren Lane

Lauren Lane
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: February 2, 1961
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA

 46 Michael Porter

Michael Porter.
4
Famous As: Economist, Researcher, Author, Advisor, Speaker and Teacher
Birthdate: May 23, 1947
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ann Arbor

 47 Louise Lasser

Louise Lasser
6
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: April 11, 1939
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City, New York, USA

 48 Tim Walz

Tim Walz
4
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: April 6, 1964
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: West Point, Nebraska West Point, Nebraska, U.S.

 49 Cass Sunstein

Cass Sunstein
4
Famous As: Jurist
Birthdate: September 21, 1954
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Concord, Massachusetts, United States

 50 Virginia Johnson

Virginia Johnson
4
Famous As: Sexologist
Birthdate: February 11, 1925
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Springfield, Missouri, United States
Died: July 24, 2013