Recently I heard an amazing speaker at the Virginia Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Rafe Esquith is an award winning fifth grade teacher at Hobart Elementary School in Los Angeles, California where he has worked in room 56 since the early1980s. He is most proud that he is a classroom teacher. Hobart is the second largest elementary school in the United States with 90% of the students living below the poverty level and most do not speak English as a first language. As he spoke, I heard many reasons why he can be considered a servant leader who practices transformational leadership. He has won many teaching awards, both national and international, but he refuses to leave room 56 and his students at Hobart. After he gave the conference keynote in Williamsburg on Thursday, he immediately headed for the airport. He was planning to be at school on Friday morning at 6 AM (PST). Some of his students arrive at school 2 hours before school begins and stay until 6:00 PM. Each year the fifth graders perform on of Shakespeare’s plays set to music. The students are the instrumentalists, vocalists, and actors. They actually have performed at the Globe Theater in London.
When he began teaching at Hobart, about 32% of the students completed high school and now most of his students go to college and receive advanced degrees. Matt Parlow, one of his former students set up a non-profit foundation that helps support the programs at Hobart. He was quoted saying “Esquith has an inner compass when it comes to educating young children” (Trudeau, 2005). It seems as if that compass is pointing “true north.”
Trudeau, M. (Writer). (2005, April 26). Inner-City Teacher Takes No Shortcuts to Success [Radio series episode]. In All Things Considered. National Public Radio. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4608476