Rafe Esquith at work. Jonathan Alcorn/Washington Post
Rafe Esquith teaches fifth grade at Hobart Boulevard Elementary School in Koreatown and has received some noteworthy honors for his work getting kids into Shakespeare. Washington Post education writer Valerie Strauss calls Esquith the most famous teacher in the world — "when he goes to China he is so popular he needs security guards to protect him from the crush of the crowds." The longtime Post and Newsweek education writer Jay Mathews says Esquith is "the best classroom teacher in the country." Mathews is outraged that Esquith has been benched by the LAUSD. He writes:
When I learned that he has been barred from teaching since March for telling a joke about nudity in Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” I wondered if the education world had finally, inalterably, gone crazy.
I have written many columns about Esquith. There are several chapters about him in my book “Work Hard. Be Nice.” He teaches fifth graders from mostly Hispanic and Korean families in a low-income part of the city. No where else have I seen such depth or imagination in a public school classroom.
Every year his students produce and perform a Shakespeare play. His students love him. Their parents love him. Teachers from around the country visit Room 56 to see him and his kids in action. He has won many awards. He has published four very good books, and is a superstar in China where teaching is taken much more seriously than we do here.
Yet the Los Angeles Unified School District is still investigating him for what they apparently consider possibly inappropriate words in his classroom, even though the accusations have already been found without merit by the California Commission on Teacher Credentials.
Read the whole column.
Attorney Mark Geragos is representing Esquith, according to a story last week by CBS 2.
The LA Times followed up on Channel 2's story and says that Esquith wound up in the LAUSD's "teacher jail" after another teacher complained about his speaking this Mark Twain passage to students:
“The duke and the king worked hard all day, setting up a stage and curtain and row of candles for footlights. … At last, when he’d built up everyone’s expectations high enough, he rolled up the curtain. The next minute the king came prancing out on all fours, naked. He was painted in rings and stripes all over in all sorts of colors and looked as splendid as a rainbow.”