8 Celebrities Reveal the Teachers Who Changed Their Lives

Who knows, the next Oscar winner could be in YOUR classroom today.

Celebrities on teachers who changed their life

We’re celebrating that superpower all teachers have—that innate ability to make indelible marks on their students. So, we asked a few of our favorite celebrities to tell us about their favorite teachers. Read on for incredible stories of how teachers challenged them, offered unconditional support and tapped into their confidence way before they knew fame was in their future!

1. Freddie Prinze Jr., actor and author of Back to the Kitchen

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“My favorite teacher growing up was Mr. Zelewski (Mr. Z.) who taught history, government, and social studies. He was different than other teachers because he allowed us to question what we were being taught and question his philosophies. We could disagree, argue and debate in class. In fact, he encouraged it. Eventually, we’d find our way to the correct side of the topic. But, we never forgot because he tricked us into educating ourselves and each other. Not enough Mr. Zs to go around on this great rock. I was incredibly lucky to have him in my life.”

2. Malcolm-Jamal Warner, star of Ten Days in the Valley (ABC)

“I was fortunate to have several teachers who were positive influences on me as a student. My 6th grade teacher, Joyce Dixon at Coliseum Street School, stands out as one who had a profound impact. She was the only African-American teacher I recall having while in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Miss Dixon had a loving mother quality about her. In a setting where being a good student was often frowned upon by peers, she was very supportive and encouraging. She saw a light in me and often gave me classroom responsibilities which many times earned me the title ‘teacher’s pet.’ In doing so, Miss Dixon laid the groundwork for my understanding that friends who were not in support of my greater good were, in fact, not friends at all.”

3. Carrie Preston, star of Claws (TNT)

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“John David Lutz, my acting teacher at the University of Evansville in Indiana changed my life. He gave me practical tools to mine my own resources when putting together all the ingredients needed to build a character. I’ve been using what he taught me for my entire career. Mr. Lutz is, and will always be, my mentor and friend. He’s also like a father to me.”

4. Scott Foley, star of Scandal (ABC)

“I was a terrible student and I went to three different high schools. At my second high school there was an English teacher named Bill Heidi. When I was getting Ds and Fs in my other classes, for some reason I got Bs and As in his class. He’d walk through the halls and say things like, ‘Scott Foley, you’re a great American!’ That just stuck with me. A few years ago I read he passed away and I never got the chance to say thank you.”

5. Katherine McNamara, star of Shadowhunters (Freeform)

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“Miss Vicki is the reason I love to learn. When I was in pre-school, she saw a spark and a hunger for knowledge in me. She took the time to foster it while pushing me, challenging me, and encouraging me to believe in myself. I believe that she instilled in me a drive and a motivation plus the joy of learning. She framed school from the perspective of discovery, expanding one’s horizons, and triumphing over obstacles. I truly have her to thank for my educational success. She’s the source of my desire to continue learning even into adulthood.”

6. Lea Michele, star of The Mayor (ABC)

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“Mr. Schue from Glee (played by Matthew Morrison), although fictional, is the best teacher I’ve had in my entire life. Listen, I had great teachers in high school, but none that really molded my thinking the way the character that Ryan Murphy created did. I learned so much from watching Mr. Schue. Even though he was our friend and our cast mate, he was also our leader.”

7. Darby Stanchfield, star of Scandal (ABC)

“I had a middle school teacher, Mr. LaCourse, who took me under his wing. He taught me things like how to fill out tax forms and stuff I would really need to know one day. Mr. LaCourse was very challenging in that way and expanded my view of what I thought I could do.”

8. Erika Christensen, star of Ten Days in the Valley (ABC)

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“My first acting teacher inadvertently instilled in me a drive to succeed. I was 14 and my teacher, John Homa, said to the whole class, ‘Maybe three of you will make it.’ I don’t think he was trying to discourage people but I remember thinking that I was one of those three. That’s the greatest thing you can get from a teacher—the confidence to pursue something on your own.”

—Reporting by Kelly Bryant

Have you heard any more stories of celebrities’ favorite teachers? We’d love to hear in the comments.

 

Lauren Brown West-Rosenthal

Posted by Lauren Brown West-Rosenthal

Lauren West-Rosenthal is a senior editor at WeAreTeachers. In the fourth grade, she started writing "bonus chapters" to her favorite books. Her teacher was impressed -- and encouraging -- and a vast writing career was born!

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