Former Child Actor Turns His Love of Art into a Teaching Career

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Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

High School English Teacher John Salapatek may be well-known at Golden Valley High School in Santa Clarita, California where he’s taught English for the past 11 years, but he had a very different life before that.

Salapatek received his Bachelor in Fine Arts in theater from the University of Illinois in 1983 and completed his Master of Fine Arts at National University. Before beginning his teaching career, Salapatek enjoyed a long and successful acting career. While he was best known as Isaac Chroner in “Children of the Corn” the 80’s horror classic based on Stephen King’s novel, he also had roles in Chicago Hope, Star Trek Voyager and The Addams Family. In 1999 he co-wrote and starred in “Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return.” However, his favorite role was that of a handicapped teen who had run away from home on Highway to Heaven with Michael Landon.

His acting career came to an end after enduring several personal tragedies. In the summer of 2000 a close friend of his was murdered while pregnant and shortly after that, his long-time agent died of cancer. And then came the events of September 11.

The footage of the first responder heroes of 9/11 started Salapatek thinking of his own legacy. “Suddenly going on auditions to be a talking pickle seemed so silly,” he said.

It was a news story about a Teaching Fellows program that got him thinking about pursuing a career in teaching. He applied and was accepted into the program, paving his way to a new career. He now teaches high school Shakespeare and English. In addition, he created a screenwriting class for the Hart School District. His course is currently the only screenwriting course in the district.

“It’s very gratifying to know that I have opened a new creative chapter in a young person’s life,” he said.