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He shares that early in his life he felt he was destined to teach and cites a few early adult experiences that seemed to confirm the inevitable. His innovative academic programs, strong rapport with students, and love of teaching led him to become an effective and influential educator and role model. Mr. Thomas-EL meticulously chronicles the resurgence and accomplishments of the Vaux Chess Team and the strategies that he used to encourage and develop the students' skills for the game and life's hard lessons. As stated in the foreword written by Arnold Schwarzenegger, there is no doubt that Salome Thomas-EL is to be commended for his tireless efforts and devotion to the children of Vaux Middle School. Written in the same vein of Joe Clark's Lean On Me, Thomas-EL's I Choose To Stay is proof that inner-city public schools can succeed and produce great students.
Although Thomas-EL's story is truly inspirational, it is the construct of the book or memoir that distracts from the story. There are some passages and concepts that are repeated and the story's flow stalled in a few areas. However, if the reader is looking for a positive, feel good, encouraging story, then this novel delivers.
APOOO BookClub, The Nubian Circle Book Club
The students from Vaux Middle School were extremely impressive and an inspiration to every educator. As a college professor, who teaches graduate students in education, I often speak of high expectations for all students. I will constantly refer to this book and the students of Vaux as the role model. When you have high expectations for all students and teach them to have the same, they will meet and exceed the standards of high academic excellence. Too often, teachers have low expectations for minority, inner city, and impoverished children. They equate poverty with the lack of the ability to do high level rigorous work.
I will utilize the lessons and stories from Mr. Thomas-EL to continue to motivate teachers in helping all students achieve. Each time the students from Vaux Middle School were challenged to use their brains they were able to extend to the next level. Teachers need to help all students rise to that challenge.
I felt so proud of the students, and I would like to say CONGRATULATIONS to Mr. Thomas-El on publishing this book and on his true dedication to the students of Philadelphia.