Jon Hamm opens up about what teaching and teachers mean to him

By Liam Berry
June 09, 2017 01:11 PM

For Jon Hamm, teachers were more than just how he learned the craft — they were a lifeline during a dark time.

Sitting down Sunday with Willie Geist on NBC’s Sunday Today show, Hamm opens up about his brief tenure as a drama teacher, why the profession can change lives and how losing his parents at a young age might just convince him to give it another shot.

“[Teaching] was always my fallback position if it all went sideways,” Hamm says of his year running a drama class at the Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, which is renowned for its theater program.

Hamm acknowledges the profession’s signifcance — especially for kids who might be missing adult guidance in their own lives.

“Being a parent and being a teacher are parallel lines,” says Hamm, who has a very personal reason to appreciate the connection.

Hamm’s parents divorced when he was 2 years old, eight years before he would lose his mother to colon cancer. After that he lived with his father, who managed a trucking company, who also died a few months ahead of Jon’s 21st birthday. Struck by these losses, Hamm came to acutely understand the necessity of “alternative parents.”

“As we spoke about, growing up without parents for a certain portion of my life and having certain ‘alternative parents’ for a larger portion of my life, I recognize that that’s an important thing to provide for a kid,” says Hamm, 46.

He adds, “It can be the different between, literally, life and death — like a kid who lives a successful life and a kid who punks out in the gutter.”

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As for any immediate plans to return to teaching, Hamm says, “I might still.”

“Jon Hamm Drama,” chimes in Geist. “It would be a popular class!”

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Sunday Today with Willie Geist airs Sundays (7 a.m. ET) on NBC.