Salome Thomas-EL was born and raised in the inner city of Philadelphia and has been a teacher in the Philadelphia School District since 1987. He received national acclaim as a teacher and chess coach at Vaux Middle School, where his students have gone on to win world recognition as Eight-Time National Chess Champions. Armed with only a chess board and a profound belief in their potential, Thomas-EL's faith and commitment has motivated hundreds of children in Philadelphia to attend magnet high schools, major colleges and universities.
Salome Thomas-EL, a graduate of East Stroudsburg University and a doctoral student, has studied in Cambridge and London, England. He currently holds an Honorary Doctorate from Ursinus College in Pennsylvania. Salome received the Marcus A. Foster Award as the outstanding School District Administrator in Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania's distinguished, Martin Luther King Award. Mr. Thomas-EL frequently appears on the FoxNews cable show, The O'Reilly Factor, C-SPAN, The Tavis Smiley Show, CNN and NPR Radio. Salome was recently featured in Reader's Digest and Black Enterprise Magazine.
Salome Thomas-EL is married and lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two daughters. Currently, he is the Principal at John F. Reynolds Elementary School in North Philadelphia and the author of the best-selling book, I Choose to Stay, released in hardcover in March 2003 by Kensington Publishing. The Walt Disney Company recently purchased the movie rights to I Choose to Stay.
Reynolds is only one block from Vaux, allowing Thomas-EL to continue his life-inspiring chess program there. At Reynolds, he has set in place reading and breakfast programs as well as a Saturday morning tutoring program. As part of his commitment to opening the world up to show his students that there are other ways to be than those to which they have been exposed, Thomas-EL takes them to visit colleges and then attends their graduations. Reflecting on how it feels to see a young person he has mentored walk down the aisle toward a real future instead of to an early grave, Thomas-EL has said: 'I've been to too many funerals; I need to go to more graduations.'
The Immortality of Influence
Click to order via Amazon
with Cecil Murphey
Format: Hardcover, 304pp
Pub. Date: May 2006
Publisher: Dafina Books
Salome Thomas-EL, award-winning educator and the highly-praised author of I Choose to Stay, has helped hundreds of troubled children get into magnet high schools, major colleges, and universities. Yet he still finds himself devastated by the long-ago death of a promising student named Willow Briggs. Salome worked with and consistently encouraged this troubled boy, who ultimately became one of the school's top chess players and students. But when Willow moved on to high school, he found no real positive influences. He struggled academically and was murdered on a street corner at the age of sixteen. More than any other factor, Willow's death launched Salome Thomas-EL on his mission to be a positive influence, and to encourage all of us to set the best example possible for the young people in our lives.
The Immortality of Influence is a refreshing, common-sense roadmap to helping kids achieve their dreams in which Thomas-EL movingly describes the methods he has used to help his students succeed. It all started in Vaux Middle School, where he began a chess club to teach boys and girls how to think critically and resolve conflicts with their minds instead of their fists. Not only did his students win national championships and become local heroes, they also scored high on the SATs and got into top colleges. When Thomas-EL found himself faced with kids who didn't exercise or eat well, he started a summer program in which the students walked to museums and other cultural events around the city. Recognizing the importance of exposing kids to the world outside their own neighborhoods, he took fifteen African-American students to rural Vermont, where they interacted with white children their age and discovered how much they had in common. All of these students were later accepted to the best magnet high schools. These are just a few examples of what can happen when kids are mentored in a positive way'not only at home, but in the community at large.
For parents, guardians, educators'anyone who wants
the best for kids, this book is an essential, inspirational reference. It's all
about making a difference'not just for today, but forever. Sometimes, it only
takes one special person to set a child on the right path, but more often, it
does indeed take a village. The Immortality of Influence will inspire you
to band together with other caring adults and start making a difference'now.
I Choose to Stay: A Black Teacher
Refuses to Desert the Inner City
Click to order via Amazon
Format: Hardcover, 304pp
Pub. Date: March 2003
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
Hardcover via Amazon
'I Choose to Stay is an intensely moving
story of loyalty and courage and a deeply personal tribute to the great
potential of our inner-city kids, so frequently dismissed and denigrated by
'Jonathan Kozol, Best-selling, author of Savage Inequalities and Amazing Grace
Teacher Salome Thomas-EL first learned he had been promoted and transferred
to another school in November of 1997. He had been a teacher at Roberts Vaux
Middle School in Philadelphia's inner city since 1989. The promotion came
because he had not only helped to improve morale and discipline at his school,
but he had taught children to play chess'they went on to win local and national
competitions. Besides a $20,000 raise, he would have authority to make changes
and greater opportunities to influence a larger number of students.
He turned down the promotion.
'I can't leave my students,' he said. 'What happens if they come in on Monday and I'm not here? They'll say 'He left because of the money,' and I don't want them to think that way. I'm the only male role model these kids have. I want them to know at least one black male who is committed to staying.'
Arnold Schwarzenegger was so impressed by Thomas-EL during a visit in 1999 that he 'came bahhhk' in 2000. His foundation awarded the school a $20,000 grant.
Inspiring and warmly human, Salome Thomas-EL is a true hero. His lecture, 'I Choose to Stay: A Teacher's Fight for America's Inner City Schools' is moving and full of hope, and proves beyond a doubt that a commitment to teaching in the public schools can result in excellence and success for children most of society has abandoned.
'This is a powerful story about what an inspirational teacher can do...'
'William H. Gray, III, President, United Negro College Fund
I Choose to Stay