The challenges of working in an urban school are not for every teacher. Some get burnt out fast. Some lose sight of why they started teaching to begin with. Some find their calling in other neighborhoods…with other kids. But not Salome Thomas-EL. A teacher at Roberts Vaux Middle School in Philadelphia’s inner city, he chose to stay. Gripping, poignant, and surprisingly honest, this is his blistering real-life tale of mentoring and making a difference—and of how the reformation of America’s educational system can start with just one school.
I Choose To Stay
Embodying the best qualities of education pioneers Joe Clark and Jaime Escalante, Salome Thomas-EL is a black man dedicated to changing the lives—and dreams—of inner city kids. Born in 1964, one of eight children, Salome grew up in the Philadelphia projects. But identified early as “gifted,” he had doors opened to him that are closed to most. In a media-related job, talking with superstars such as Julius Erving and Maurice Cheeks, he was on the fast track to success. But he couldn’t forget his roots, or the children of the inner city.
In the late 1980s, he went back into disadvantaged neighborhoods and into the classroom. As teacher, mentor, and in most cases, the only positive male role model in these children’s lives, Salome Thomas-EL would do something extraordinary: he would lead the girls and boys of his school to victory as they competed in three major championships. Chess championships.