Inspirations in Education: Rafe Esquith

In 2005, I was hired to be a Drama Specialist at an Elementary school in New York City. I had ran my own theater company for eleven years by this time and was a Theater Arts Teaching Artist (TA) for ten of those years. I had just gotten my Masters in Educational Theater and passed the New York State tests to become a certified Theater Teacher.

The very beginning of September 2005, I found a program on a PBS show, POV. It so inspired me, so changed my thinking about dedication to teaching, that I carry that with me now that I am back as a TA. The show was a presentation on “The Hobart Shakespeareans” and their teacher Rafe Esquith.

This was a teacher who worked insane hours, worked in an overcrowded urban elementary school, obstacles left and right, and yet he produced magic with his students. Dedication, inspiration, and progressive thinking that he passes on in his classroom and through his books.

Oh…and he leads his students afterschool in Shakespeare Productions.  Please watch this 3:46 video:

I bought the DVD of the program after it aired, and I have shown it to others over the years. They, too, have walked away inspired by a man who works within the boundaries of the school system but also beyond it, not letting him do less than he expects out of his charges. I can thank Rafe for giving me the courage to teach Shakespeare to my 4th and 5th grade students. When I heard all the disbelief from others in the school, I’d point to many others who don’t fear challenges. Rafe was always at the forefront, and even though we’ve never met, I will be grateful to him for what he taught me.

Rafe’s books are for Teachers AND Parents:

Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire

There Are No Shortcuts

Lighting Their Fires

Discover an educator that inspires: Rafe Esquith

The Hobart Shakespeareans: The Merchant of Venice


What Teacher Inspired You?

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. charlie nitric
    Jun 21, 2011 @ 12:01:13

    Hi Stuart –

    What would life be if we didn’t have mentors that paved the way before us? Every written word we scribble and every act we perform are the result of past images presented to us by leaders from the past. We merely modify each and put our own twist to the matter. Great post. 🙂


  2. skdelph
    Jun 21, 2011 @ 12:22:37

    Wow, thanks for the reminder. I’ve heard of Rafe Esquith by way of his book ‘Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire’ How refreshing to wake up to an inspiration! Alas, my experience as a student in the educational system seems to resemble ‘Bad Teacher’ more than anything Rafe Esquith has done for students, but despite the pressures, lol, I seemed to have emerged ambition intact.
    Thank you and Best!


    • bornstoryteller
      Jun 21, 2011 @ 12:25:05

      thanks SK. I pretty much had that same feeling with a number of my teachers, esp in elementary school. It was not a good educational experience for me. I am happy that there are people like Rafe out there.


      • Ravenmyth
        Jun 21, 2011 @ 12:43:37

        We need more teachers to inspire our young people…sadly, I feel there are not enought. My Art Teacher was an amazing inspiration to us all.He made us feel we could be the next Michaelangelo…I remember I had an unfinished project…and he still put it in the Art Showcase…When children leave the comforts of home, they need to have good mentors…especially at that young age, when their minds are hungry for knowledge. What an opportunity for a good teacher…to make that difference in those developing years…at this time in history…it could not be needed more…(tweeted this…needs to be heard)

  3. cath
    Jun 22, 2011 @ 07:32:46

    I’ll never forget my 8th grade teacher Mr. Hayes. That was the year my parents divorced, and my last year in grade school before high school. He was a calm ship in my stormy sea of a life.

    Teachers help mold our future…bravo to them all!
    ~cath xx
    Twitter @jonesbabie


  4. Tor Constantino, MBA
    Jun 22, 2011 @ 09:45:34

    Awesome post! For me it was Ms. McDougall in the 6th grade – she was the last teacher I had that taught all subjects, but she challenged me to focus on writing. When I became a reporter – I went back and did a story on her. That was about 10 years ago. Unfortunately, I have not stayed in touch with her….


  5. Dangerous Linda
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 10:46:53

    I had a teacher when I was in 5th grade named Jessica Doyle who was a great inspiration to me! She did EVERYTHING differently! The students called her by her first name. We painted, decorated and arranged our desks in the classroom any way we wanted to. I was allowed to choose the books I wanted to read and and do it laying on the floor or up in a tree or where ever I wanted — during school! Also, NO REPORT CARDS — what a concept! I learned more and enjoyed school more that year than any other year 😉


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s