Nick Ferroni has two all-consuming passions in life, history and working out. In his own words, the former actor turned teacher says: “since I can’t DO history; I teach it.” That love of education and his dedication to being the best has catapulted him to national recognition as one of the “100 People Making a Difference in the World.” But that bond with history is matched by a dedication to fitness and a commitment to make it an integral part of his life. That choice gained him more plaudits a few years back when he earned a spot on Men’s Fitness‘ “25 Fittest Men in the World.”

In Ferroni’s case, you can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t take the teacher out of the man. When the 6’2” 205-pound educator, who works at Union High School in New Jersey, saw that some of his students were veering toward the wrong path in life because of aggression and emotional issues, he decided to take them to the gym in order to harness that destructive energy and funnel it into positive development via hard work and sweating it out lifting weights. M&F caught up with Ferroni recently to talk about fitness and how the gym can change a young person’s life in a meaningful manner.

M&F: What motivated you to dedicate a significant your life to fitness and working out in the gym?

Nick Ferroni: I have been lucky enough to be involved with athletics my whole life. Some people enjoy working out and some people force themselves. I don’t drink and I don’t do drugs, and my only stress reliever in life is working out. As an educator, I have my best thoughts and creative moments when my mind is clear and I am in the gym and focused on my workout. It’s like anything else; it becomes habitual. Some people, like myself, feel almost guilty when we don’t workout because it is one of the main ingredients to our daily happiness as a stress reliever and as a daily accomplishment.

How do you balance life as a busy teacher and dedicated athlete?

I go to the gym before school and I work out on my own. After school, if I don’t have meetings, I actually train a group of my students from the high school. It’s more focused on them, I work out a little with them, but at the same time it serves many purposes.

I found a lot of success with my students, a lot of whom tend to have aggression issues or tend to be emotionally unstable. I take them to the gym, we work out for an hour, and we relieve stress and aggression in a positive way. Indirectly, this teaches them structure, and it teaches them goals and other all-important characteristics that they carry over into life.  It creates habits and routines that make them successful when they go to college. Exercise is a positive and beneficial force for them.

I have found that people in life who stick to routines and are consistent with their behavior are more successful. They see things through, they complete more things and they are goal-oriented. Following through with a workout and sticking to a workout plan is directly related your success and your focus in life.

Can you tailor the kids’ aggression or issues to different types or workouts in the gym?

NF: It does depend on the person; a lot of my students are dealing with their weight in general. It is slower pace with them. I rather teach them to train themselves rather than the follow-me approach. Every time we do something it is with explanation – this is why we are doing this and this is how we do this. For students with aggression issues, I tend to do more CrossFit or intervals – more explosive movements – because it tends to reflect their personalities a little more. We focus on repeated bursts instead of slow and steady ones. But, we also backtrack and mix in steady routines because it teaches them self-control. I have kids who used to get in fights everyday, and now they are encouraging each other inside and outside school, because working out has an-everyone-succeeds kind of mentality.

Tell us about the healthy eating campaign that you are working on.

One of the benefits of being name one of the top 100 most influential people in terms of being an educator and being named one of the fittest men in the world is that I have a very unique background. I have been an advocate of trying to develop a grass roots campaign with a few of the major food chains, like Whole Foods and Trader Joes, to find a way to start educating kids at a younger age.  We can’t tell people what not to eat, we have to educate them and tell them what to eat. We can ban all the fatty food in the world and that will serve no long-term purpose. The fact that I am a teacher and that I have some national recognition, I am going to use that to start a campaign to start to teach kids on how to make better nutritional decisions at a younger age.

This campaign is going to focus on kids, and some kids may then be able to educate their parents. It is almost like a did-you-know campaign. Education is everything. It will be a commercial-based campaign and there will be a web series for free and easy recipes that kid can do with their parents and without their parents. It is no longer the food pyramid, but more the food dish and portions and how to help kids take a more active role in their own nutrition, which is the only way we are ever going to see changes in health and fitness in America, especially for the youth.

Do you have any advice for young people who might be thinking of taking up exercise or going to the gym, or young guys who go to the gym who are trying to encourage their friends to take it up?

[If there are] any students who are dealing with any self-esteem, emotional or aggression problems, there is no better place to be than in a gym and in that atmosphere. Not only will it help them to relieve their emotional stress, and their aggression issues, at the same time it teaches qualities that they need to be successful in life: structure, failure, competition, positive reinforcement, goal setting. I really do think that people who work out are more successful in life. Getting them in that environment will help, not because they will get a six-pack, but because they will see results. They are using something that would normally be negative. Instead of going outside and beating the hell out of someone, I will take that kid to a gym and say “here is a bench press, let’s see how tough you are.”