“Stop praying for a lighter load, and start praying for a stronger back.” This is the mantra of Dr. Salome Thomas-EL, award-winning teacher and principal, and internationally recognized educator. Principal EL believes that resilient teachers and leaders take risks, make courageous decisions, and challenge the status quo. They understand that teaching is not easy, its hard work, but its good work. As passionate educators, we are able to make a difference in the lives of our students and ensure they are all exposed to an engaging curriculum and effective teaching.
In his thought-provoking presentation, Principal EL shares how we can develop positive relationships and foster a supportive school culture so teachers and leaders can focus on the protective processes that impact and build resilience in all of our students. Principal EL brings a powerful combination of passion, caring, and leadership to craft a refreshing, common-sense roadmap for parents, teachers and administrators to help kids achieve their dreams, no matter the odds.
Dr. Salome Thomas-EL lives in Pennsylvania with his family and has been a teacher and principal since 1987. He is currently the Head of School at Thomas Edison Public Charter School in Wilmington, DE. Principal EL 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. Principal EL was a regular contributor on The Dr. Oz Show and is the author of the best-selling books, I Choose to Stay (Movie rights optioned by Disney Films), The Immortality of Influence (Foreword by Will Smith), which stresses the importance of leadership, mentoring, parenting and service to others, and the newly released, Passionate Leadership (Improving school cultures). Dr. Thomas-EL speaks to groups around the country and frequently appears on C-SPAN, CNN, and NPR Radio. Principal EL has studied at Cambridge University in England, Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, and holds a doctorate in Education Leadership and Innovation from Wilmington University in Delaware. He has 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. Educational Leadership and Reader’s Digest magazines recognized Principal EL as an Inspiring American Icon. Principal EL has also 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: We Can Build the Best Minds of the Next Generation, 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 chessboard and a profound belief in their potential, Thomas-EL’s faith and commitment have motivated hundreds of children in Philadelphia to attend magnet high schools and major colleges and universities. His story proves that teaching in 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.”
“Passionate Educators – Resilient Treachers & Leaders: Challening the Status Quo”
Passionate Leadership: Creating a Culture of Success in Every School
This is an inspiring call to action for teachers and principals around the world to recommit to passionately serving children, building the communities children deserve, and celebrating our successes. The authors of this book examine what it takes to be a passionate leader and take courageous actions that lead to student growth and success. Educators ready to push to new heights and break boundaries will find:
- Practical ideas and suggestions for how to serve as a beacon of hope in the field
- First-hand experiences from enthusiastic leaders modeling what passionate leadership looks like
- Charts and graphs that will help you assess your strong points and identify areas you can improve on Buy here
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. Buy here
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. Buy here
“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