AFT Convention 2020: Conversation with Pulitzer Prize winner Lin-Manuel Miranda

Before he achieved fame on Broadway with his Tony Award-winning musicals “In the Heights” and “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda was a teacher, and he spoke about his experience as an educator in a talk with AFT President Randi Weingarten that was part of AFT Convention 2020’s programming for July 30.

Around the time he graduated college with a degree in theater, Miranda called his eighth-grade English teacher at Hunter College High School in Manhattan about substitute teaching opportunities. He ended up accepting a part-time position at the grade 7-12 high school.

“My first year out of college, I was teaching seventh-grade English where I had just graduated four years prior. Nothing can prepare you for the light-speed way in which your life changes,” Miranda said.

Back at his high school, he recalled seeing current students who remembered him as a senior: “Suddenly I have a tie on, and I’m Mr. Miranda. Thank goodness I wasn’t teaching them ’cause how on earth could they take me seriously — this former senior now with a tie on is Mr. Miranda.”

The biggest misconception he had as a new teacher was that “teaching is performing, and I couldn’t have been more wrong,” Miranda explained. “I invariably found the more I listened, the less I spoke, the more effective I was as a teacher. And I found that the magic of teaching really is introducing an idea — and I actually see it more with the games I play with my 2-year-old son. I introduce an idea like it’s a balloon, and I throw [it] in the air, and my goal is to just keep [it] in the air.”

The Pulitzer Prize winner added, “I have infinite regard for teachers, and it’s the second love of my life.”