Throughout history, teachers were making discoveries, taking actions, or participating in events that forever changed the world.
Pythagoras was a mathematician, philosopher, and teacher who’s theories are still taught in schools. He’s best known for the Pythagorean Theorem that relates to right triangles, however, he also determined the relationship of math to music and the movement of stars and planets. Later in his life, Pythagoras was a teacher in India and founded a Croatian institute where he taught philosophy. He also founded the Pythagorean Brotherhood, a secret society devoted to the study of mathematics.
Known as the person who established the theory of gravity, Sir Isaac Newton was also a teacher, mathematician, physicist, natural philosopher, astronomer, theologian and alchemist. At the University of Cambridge in England, Newton was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, an academic post considered one of the world’s most prestigious. Newton constructed the first reflecting telescope and is credited with numerous other discoveries and theories.
John Adams, the second president of the United States, graduated from Harvard College at the age of 20. Adams became a teacher in Worcester, Massachusetts, for one year before deciding to study law. After becoming a lawyer, Adams assisted in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He was one of the negotiators responsible for the peace treaty with Great Britain that signaled the end of the Revolutionary War.
Prior to the Revolutionary War, Nathan Hale was a revolutionary teacher first in Massachusetts and then in Connecticut. He developed a class that was open to female students only after he decided “the higher education of women” was “neglected.”* Hale enlisted in the militia at the onset of the war. He was caught spying on British troops and sentenced to hang. His last words became one of the most famous quotes in American History, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
Harriet Beecher Stowe attended school at her sister’s seminary in Connecticut as a child. Eventually Stowe worked as an assistant teacher at the seminary. After her marriage to Calvin Stowe, the family moved to Ohio where Stowe and her sister founded a new school in the 1840s. Stowe began interviewing slaves who had escaped from Kentucky into Ohio. Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the famous novel that highlighted the treatment slaves endured.
Through her teaching Annie Sullivan was able to open up a new world to blind and deaf student Helen Keller. Sullivan taught Keller Braille, social etiquette, and obedience. With Sullivan’s assistance, Keller surpassed the potential that was expected at the time. Sullivan eventually became famous and respected for her unique teaching methods. Supported by Andrew Carnegie and Alexander Graham Bell, Sullivan was able to give lectures while traveling with Keller.
While she didn’t personally change history, Leona Edwards directly influenced change. Edwards taught in a small Montgomery, AL, school and was both the teacher and mother of Rosa Parks who went on to make her mark in civil rights. Parks was quoted in an Academy of Achievement interview as saying her mother “did not have the notion that we were supposed to live as we did, under legally enforced racial segregation.”
Groundbreaking poet Walt Whitman started his professional life as a teacher in Long Island, NY, before moving into journalism and political activism. Whitman began writing poems with new themes such as rebirth, individuality, democracy, and body and soul, that were sometimes seen as controversial. His work has influenced poets for generations after he expanded the horizons.