Famous American Educators

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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.
Vote for Your Favourite American Educators
Booker T. Washington
7
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.
 2 
John Dewey
(Philosopher)
John Dewey
13
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.

 3 
Isaac Asimov
(Writer Best Known for His Hard Science Fiction Novels and Professor of Biochemistry)
Isaac Asimov
4
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.

 4 
Richard Feynman
(One of the Joint Winners of Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965)
Richard Feynman
6
Birthdate: May 11, 1918
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: February 15, 1988

Theoretical physicist Richard Feynman won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965, along with Julian Schwinger and Shin'ichirō Tomonaga, for his research on quantum electrodynamics. He also contributed to the development of the atomic bomb. Feyman made it to Physics World’s list of the 10 greatest physicists of all time.

 5 
Sal Khan
(Teacher)
Sal Khan
8
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.

 6 
Margaret Sanger
(Birth Control Activist Who Opened the First Birth Control Clinic in the United States)
Margaret Sanger
4
Birthdate: September 14, 1879
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Corning, New York, United States
Died: September 6, 1966

Margaret Sanger was an American writer and sex educator. She is credited with popularizing the term birth control. A birth control activist, Sanger established the first birth control clinic in America. She also set up organizations that later became the well-known non-profit organization Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She also played a key role in legalizing contraception in the US.

 7 
Christa McAuliffe
(Former Astronaut who was chosen for the STS-51-L mission from among 11,000 applications)
Christa McAuliffe
4
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.

 8 
Stedman Graham
(Educator)
Stedman Graham
8
Birthdate: March 6, 1951
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Middle Township, 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.
 9 
Ralph Nader
(American Lawyer and Politician Known for His Involvement in Consumer Protection and Environmentalism)
Ralph Nader
4
Birthdate: February 27, 1934
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Winsted, Connecticut, United States
Ralph Nader’s book Unsafe at Any Speed was his critique of the safety measures of U.S. automobile manufacturers. His activism has led to the passage of acts such as the Consumer Product Safety Act. One of Time’s 100 Most Influential Americans, he inspired the documentary An Unreasonable Man
 10 
Tony Danza
(Actor)
Tony Danza
6
Birthdate: April 21, 1951
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
 11 
Anne Sullivan
(Educator)
Anne Sullivan
11
Birthdate: April 14, 1866
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Agawam, Massachusetts, United States
Died: October 20, 1936
 12 
James Naismith
(The Inventor of the Game of 'Basketball')
James Naismith
4
Birthdate: November 6, 1861
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Almonte, Mississippi Mills, Canada
Died: November 28, 1939
Canadian-American physician and coach James Naismith is considered as the inventor of basketball. He authored the first basksetball rule book and established the University of Kansas basketball team. He served as the Kansas Jayhawks athletic director and coach, and trained legends such as Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith.
 13 
Timothy Francis Leary
(American Psychologist and Writer Known for His Strong Advocacy of Psychedelic Drugs)
Timothy Francis Leary
4
Birthdate: October 22, 1920
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States
Died: May 31, 1996

Psychologist and former Harvard professor Timothy Leary was an advocate of psychedelic drugs. His research experiments included the controversial Concord Prison Experiment and Marsh Chapel Experiment. After being fired from Harvard for his actions, he continued promoting his theories through catchphrases such as “turn on, tune in, drop out.”

 14 
Sonya Curry
(American Educator and Mother of Basketball Players ‘Stephen Curry’ and ‘Seth Curry’)
Sonya Curry
6
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.

 15 
Betty Shabazz
(Educator and Activist Best Known as the Wife of African-American Activist Malcolm X)
Betty Shabazz
9
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.

 16 
Katie Porter
(Politician)
Katie Porter
7
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.

 17 
Helen Keller
(American Author and First Deaf-Blind Person to Earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree)
Helen Keller
23
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.

 18 
Nassim Nicholas Taleb
(Essayist and Mathematical Statistician Best Known for His Books: ‘The Black Swan’ and ‘Antifragile’)
Nassim Nicholas Taleb
4
Birthdate: 1960 AD
Birthplace: Amioun, Lebanon
Lebanese-American scholar and statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb is known for his work on risk management through uncertainty and probability. His five-volume essay Incerto included his bestselling book The Black Swan. Named to Forbes’s Most Influential Management Gurus list, he is the co-editor-in-chief of the academic journal Risk and Decision Analysis.
 19 
Ruth Westheimer
(German-American Sex Therapist, Media Personality and Holocaust Survivor)
Ruth Westheimer
4
Birthdate: June 4, 1928
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Frankfurt am Main, Germany
German-American sex therapist Ruth Westheimer, also known as Dr. Ruth, soared to fame with the radio show Sexually Speaking and later hosted many sexuality-related shows and wrote many books, too. She is also an ethnographer and a Holocaust survivor. Her life inspired the documentary Ask Dr. Ruth.
 20 
Joseph Campbell
4
Birthdate: March 26, 1904
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: White Plains, New York, United States
Died: October 30, 1987
Joseph Campbell taught literature at the Sarah Lawrence College and specialized in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His notable works include The Hero with a Thousand Faces and the four-volume Historical Atlas of World Mythology. He also worked on the miniseries, The Power of Myth, with Bill Moyers.
 21 
John G. Trump
(Scientist)
John G. Trump
15
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.

 22 
Jane Elliott
(Educator Known for Her ‘Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes’ Exercise)
Jane Elliott
6
Birthdate: November 30, 1933
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Riceville, Iowa, United States

Jane Elliott is an American schoolteacher best known for inventing and popularizing the Blue eyes/Brown eyes exercise. The exercise, which was first conducted on April 5, 1968, with her third-grade class, aims at helping people understand the ill-effects of racial discrimination. The classroom exercise has inspired a couple of documentaries namely The Eye of the Storm and The Angry Eye.  

 23 
Arnold Schoenberg
(One of the Most Influential Composers of the 20th Century)
Arnold Schoenberg
5
Birthdate: September 13, 1874
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Leopoldstadt, Vienna, Austria
Died: July 13, 1951
Austrian-born composer Arnold Schoenberg was part of the German Expressionist Movement and led the Second Viennese School. Being Jewish, he was banned by the Nazis and later became an American citizen. Known for his twelve-tone technique, he coined the term developing variation and formed motifs without a centralized melodic idea.
 24 
Peter Drucker
(Management Consultant)
Peter Drucker
5
Birthdate: November 19, 1909
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: November 11, 2005
 25 
Jaime Escalante
(Bolivian-American Math Instructor)
Jaime Escalante
5
Birthdate: December 31, 1930
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: La Paz, Bolivia
Died: March 20, 2010

Jaime Escalante  was a Bolivian-American educator. He is best remembered for teaching calculus to students at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles from 1974 to 1991. He had an illustrious career and was a much-respected figure in teaching.  The film Stand and Deliver is based on his life. He received Presidential Medal for Excellence in Education in 1988. 

 26 
Ennis Cosby
(Teacher)
Ennis Cosby
4
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.

 27 
Lola Van Wagenen
(Historian and Co-Founder of ‘Consumer Action Now’)
Lola Van Wagenen
4
Birthdate: 1938
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Provo, Utah, United States

Lola Van Wagenen is an American historian who is credited with co-founding non-profit educational organizations like Consumer Action Now (CAN) and Clio Visualizing History, Inc. Consumer Action Now went on to establish several environmental education and consumer-oriented programs in an attempt to raise awareness about the effects of consumers' buying habits on the environment.

 28 
Aaron Copland
(Composer, Teacher)
Aaron Copland
5
Birthdate: November 14, 1900
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: December 2, 1990
 29 
Marilyn Milian
(Judge, TV personality)
Marilyn Milian
4
Birthdate: May 1, 1961
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Astoria, New York, United States
 30 
Coyote Peterson
(Wildlife Educator & YouTuber)
Coyote Peterson
4
Birthdate: September 1, 1981
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Newbury Center, Ohio, United States
 31 
Stephen Covey
(Educator, Author)
Stephen Covey
4
Birthdate: October 24, 1932
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Died: July 16, 2012
 32 
Tom Laughlin
4
Birthdate: August 10, 1931
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Died: December 12, 2013
 33 
Erin Murphy
(Actress)
Erin Murphy
6
Birthdate: June 17, 1964
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Encino, California, USA
 34 
Joshua Chamberlain
(Educator & War Hero)
Joshua Chamberlain
4
Birthdate: September 8, 1828
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Brewer
Died: February 24, 1914
 35 
Wynton Marsalis
(Trumpeter)
Wynton Marsalis
5
Birthdate: October 18, 1961
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
 36 
Horace Mann
(Educator & Politician)
Horace Mann
4
Birthdate: May 4, 1796
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Franklin
Died: August 2, 1859
 37 
George P. Bush
(Politician)
George P. Bush
10
Birthdate: April 24, 1976
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Houston, Texas, U.S.
 38 
Pamela Des Barres
6
Birthdate: September 9, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Reseda, California, USA
 39 
Benjamin Graham
(Economist, Investor)
Benjamin Graham
4
Birthdate: May 8, 1894
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, England
Died: September 21, 1976
 40 
William Edwards Deming
(Statistician, Electrical Engineer)
William Edwards Deming
6
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.

 41 
Mamie Till
(American Civil Rights Activist, Who Lost Her Son 'Emmett Till' to a Racist Attack)
Mamie Till
5
Birthdate: November 23, 1921
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: near Webb, Mississippi, USA
Died: January 6, 2003
 42 
Adam Nimoy
(Director)
Adam Nimoy
6
Birthdate: August 9, 1956
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA
 43 
Jim Tressel
4
Birthdate: December 5, 1952
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Mentor, Ohio, United States
 44 
John McWhorter
(Linguist)
John McWhorter
6
Birthdate: October 6, 1965
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Philadelphia
 45 
Edward Said
(Professor)
Edward Said
6
Birthdate: November 1, 1935
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Mandatory Palestine
Died: September 25, 2003
 46 
Mary McLeod Bethune
(American Civil Rights Activist and Founder of the 'National Council of Negro Women')
Mary McLeod Bethune
4
Birthdate: July 10, 1875
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Mayesville, South Carolina, United States
Died: May 18, 1955

Mary McLeod Bethune was an American civil rights activist, educator, womanist, humanitarian, and philanthropist. She is credited with founding the National Council of Negro Women. Bethune also played a key role in the creation of the Black Cabinet while serving as an adviser to Franklin Roosevelt. In 1973, Bethune was made an indutee of the National Women's Hall of Fame.

 47 
Jeffrey Sachs
(Economist)
Jeffrey Sachs
4
Birthdate: November 5, 1954
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States
 48 
Randy Pausch
(Educationist)
Randy Pausch
4
Birthdate: October 23, 1960
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Died: July 25, 2008
 49 
Brian Greene
(Chairman of the World Science Festival Since Co-founding It in 2008)
Brian Greene
4
Birthdate: February 9, 1963
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States

American theoretical physicist, mathematician, and string theorist Brian Greene is noted for popularising string theory through his books like The Elegant Universe, and The Fabric of the Cosmos and related PBS television specials. Greene taught as professor of physics at Cornell University, and presently serves as a professor at Columbia University. He is the co-founder and chairman of the World Science Festival.

 50 
James A. Michener
4
Birthdate: February 3, 1907
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Doylestown, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: October 16, 1997