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Sunday, September 28, 2003

Rafe Esquith

Be nice, Work hard

i’ve done a couple drafts of a short bio/essay on this extraordinary human being, and i just haven’t been satisfied with my own work. so, to get this started, i’ll let rafe speak for himself:

rafe esquith

If I want my children to work hard, I better be the hardest working person they’ve ever met. If I want the children to be nice, I better be the kindest human being they’ve ever met.

rafe esquith

America is supposed to be a land of equal opportunity, but it’s not. Just call me the Education Equalizer.

rafe esquith

The biggest disadvantage that these children face is that none of them speak English as their first language. When a 10-year-old, who doesn’t speak English as his first language, steps in front of you and does a scene from Shakespeare, there is nothing that they cannot accomplish.

rafe esquith

I started Hobart Shakespeareans because I fear something for these children, and it’s not gangs, it’s not drugs. What I fear is that they’re ordinary. I don’t want my students to be ordinary; I want them to be extraordinary because I know that they are.

rafe wakes up at 4:30, walks to the school and starts teaching at 6:30 in the morning. lessons don’t stop, not even for lunch, until 5pm, and after walking home for dinner, he’s back tutoring and raising money to support the class. shakespeare is mandatory. music is mandatory. hard work is mandatory. and the kids – 10-year-old kids – line up to get into his class.

and i do mean support the class. he and his wife basically live at poverty level. everything – donations, grants and salary – goes back into the classroom.

it doesn’t end with the weekend, either, on saturdays, he does college-prep work with older students, and brings them to universities as he travels.

many of the articles you’ll find linked below emphasize “scores” and “percentiles.” for me, this misses the point. it’s not about getting these kids to score well on a test or place well in a class, it’s about inspiration and motivation. it’s about changing lives.

so be inspired, be humbled, be motivated. i certainly am. rafe esquith has made a difference. he is extraordinary. after 17 years of teaching 5th and 6th grade students, his drive and motivation only increase.

unfortunately, with a book published, rafe and his work is lost on the internet in the crush of retailers and resellers and reviews trying to sell his wares. so, i’m throwing my googlejuice behind this man (we’ll see how that works). and, since i swam the mess to create this post, here are some (but certainly not all) things worth checking out.

Rafe Esquith, UCLA Alumnus and Teacher
The Hobart Shakespeareans, The Bard of Los Angeles
From Stage to (Really) Big Screen
Unconventional Twists to Conventional Methods
Fifth-Grade Teacher Introduces Students to Travel and Shakespeare
Inner-City School Students Excel in Shakespeare
The Hobart Shakespeareans

WAMU, Diane Rehm (realaudio)
CBC, Bill Richardson (realaudio)

There Are No Shortcuts: Changing the World One Kid at a Time

Awards and Recognition:
Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
Walt Disney American Teacher Award for National Teacher of the Year, 1992
Oprah Winfrey $100,000 Use Your Life Award
UCLA Professional Achievement Award, 2000
Weingart Foundation $50,000 grant.
Joseph Drown Foundation $10,000 grant.

say something nice

Rafe Esquith
Hobart Elementary
Hobart Shakespeareans
980 South Hobart Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90006
PH: 213-200-4700
e-mail address:

one final thought, from me. make a difference:

rafe esquith

My former students literally write me letters every day saying I saved their lives.

posted by roj at 7:18 pm