Yakima Town Hall

Yakima Town Hall - Speaker Bio

Rafe Esquith

Rafe Esquith

November 5, 2014 • 11:00 a.m. Capitol Theatre

One of America’s Most Celebrated Schoolteachers

A once-in-a-lifetime educator, Rafe Esquith may be the most inspiring school teacher in America. He's been called "a modern day Thoreau" by Newsday, "a genius and a saint" by The New York Times, and "the most interesting and influential classroom teacher in the country" by The Washington Post. For the past two decades, Esquith has taught fifth graders at a public school in a Los Angeles neighborhood plagued by guns, gangs, and violence. His exceptional classroom at Hobart Elementary—known simply as Room 56—is unlike any other in the country.

Esquith's students are mostly immigrants or children of immigrants, living in poverty and learning English as a second language. Yet under his tutelage, they voluntarily come to class at 6:30 in the morning and often stay until five in the afternoon. They learn math, reading, and science. But they also play Vivaldi, perform Shakespeare, often score in the top one percent on standardized tests, and go on to attend the best universities. For his near-heroic work, Esquith is the only teacher to be awarded the President's National Medal of the Arts. He has received the National Teacher of the Year Award and won accolades from Oprah, the Queen, and the Dalai Lama. He's also written four books, with his most recent being the critically acclaimed Real Talk for Real Teachers, published in 2013. His other books include Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire, There Are No Shortcuts, and Lighting Their Fires. Esquith has also been featured, along with his students, in the PBS documentary The Hobart Shakespeareans.

Watch a video about Rafe Esquith »

"I loved being in Yakima with your wonderful team of colleagues, and felt the warmest reception. Yakima has become one of my highlights of being on the road off and on for the last few years. I would be thrilled to join you again some time in the future. Please extend my warmest appreciation to the entire team for everyone's hard work." - Bruce Feiler, Author, "Abraham"

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