Raised in the projects, Thomas-EL received a worldly college education and returned to the inner city to become a principal. Armed with only a fierce commitment to students nobody else believed in, he transformed their lives and gave them hope. In a stroke of creative genius, he revived the long-dormant chess team to unite his students, leading them to victory at the national championships. His dedication gave them the personal strength to go on and attend magnet high schools, major colleges, and universities.
Salome Thomas-EL was an award-winning teacher and principal in the Philadelphia School District for over twenty-years and is currently the Head of School at Thomas Edison Charter in Wilmington, Delaware. He is also an educational and media consultant. He visits schools around the country to consult with principals and teachers and to motivate students to be successful.
Principal EL received national acclaim as a teacher and chess coach at Vaux Middle School, where his inner-city students went on to win a national chess championship. He is a regular contributor on “The Dr. Oz Show” and the author of the best-selling book, “I Choose to Stay”.
Thomas-EL frequently appears on C-SPAN, CNN and NPR Radio and received the Marcus Foster Award as the outstanding School District Administrator in Philadelphia. Principal EL received the University of Pennsylvania’s distinguished Martin Luther King Award, was honored as Philadelphia Magazine’s “Best Philadelphian” and was a Reader’s Digest Magazine, “Inspiring American Icon”. Principal EL recently appeared on the Oprah Radio Network.
The Immortality of Influence
Thomas-EL uses practical, real-world examples to present the universal methods he has so successfully used to help his students achieve their dreams. He famously began a chess club-the Mighty Bishops – to teach his students at an early age to think critically and to resolve conflict with their minds instead of their fists. Not only did his students win national championships and become local heroes among their peers, they also scored high on the SAT, which got them into colleges and universities. Thomas-EL found himself faced with kids who weighed more than he did, so he started a simple summer program where the students walked to museums and other cultural events around the city; those who exercised felt better about themselves and in turn became better students. Citing the importance of exposing his students to the world outside of their own sometimes troubled community, he tells of taking 15 of his African American kids 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 magnet high schools.
Based on his book, The Immortality of Influence, this keynote speech is a refreshing, commonsense road map to helping kids achieve their dreams, not only for parents and educators but for everyone who knows that just one person really can make a difference.
I Choose to Stay
Thomas-EL is the author of I Choose to Stay: A Black Teacher Refuses to Desert the Inner City – an intensely moving story of loyalty and courage and a deeply personal tribute to the great potential of inner-city kids. In 1997, as a teacher at Roberts Vaux Middle School in Philadelphia’s inner city, he was offered a promotion, not only because he had helped to improve scholastics, morale, and discipline at his school, but because he had taught children to play chess—and win local and national competitions . He turned down the promotion. He was committed to stay and be the role model those children needed. Armed with 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 and major colleges and universities. His story proves that teaching in the public schools can result in excellence and success for children most of society has abandoned. 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: We Can Build the Best Minds of the Next Generation – Influenced in no small part by the powerful mentors in his own youth, the award-winning educator and acclaimed author of I Choose to Stay offers a commonsense, inspiring road map to mentoring kids to thrive in today’s challenging world—and creating a legacy of success for generations to come.
I Choose to Stay: A Black Teacher Refuses to Desert the Inner City – An intensely moving story of loyalty and courage and a deeply personal tribute to the great potential of inner-city kids.
“It was a real delight to have Salome Thomas-EL as our Opening Speaker – particularly in that role, early on in the conference, [as] he [got] people energized and excited about the meeting. He made his story relevant to everyone in the room and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. I will be sure to recommend him as a speaker to my fellow regional vice presidents.”
The College Board (Midwest Regional Forum)
“The ideas and experiences Principal EL shared will serve to enhance the quality of local public education in districts throughout Connecticut. You should be pleased to know that the audience in your keynote address enjoyed your presentation very much. Our members loved you! Thanks so much.”
Connecticut Association of Board of Education
“Salome was OUTSTANDING!!! Loved him. One of the best speakers we have ever had.”
Tennessee School Boards Association
“Salome was a big hit at the Regional Forum and well received by the conference attendees. He was a pleasure to work with and all of our staff enjoyed their interactions with him.”
The College Board (Midwest Regional Forum)
“I am emailing you to thank you for your fantastic keynote address at the NASP conference this past week in Chicago. I am one of the 6,000 who did not get to meet you but I wanted to tell you how moving I thought your speech was. You reminded me that there are so many kids, communities, schools and families who need, want, and appreciate people that choose to go into education. I want to go work in the New York City school system when I complete my degree here. I hope to change even just one school for even just one child in the same way that you have. Thank you for your time this past Wednesday.”
NASP Conference Attendee