The Hartwell Foundation


Rafe Esquith and the Hobart Shakespeareans

Hobart Boulevard Elementary School is a large urban public elementary school located in an area of Los Angeles commonly associated with poverty and violence. What makes Hobart special is a classroom in the school for fifth graders, known as Room 56. The students are children who are predominantly first-generation immigrants and who speak English as a second language. Many are representative of poor or troubled families; all qualify for free breakfast and lunch. Their exceptional teacher is Rafe Esquith. He expects his students to be nice, work hard and embrace a personal code of behavior. In return, he provides a safe classroom based on trust and devoid of fear; where each ten year old is treated with respect, and encouraged to explore the world of ideas and engage in problem solving.

The Hobart Shakespeareans

Room 56 at Hobart Elementary School has been described as a unique path to academic achievement that few imagine possible. What is the winning recipe? A diet of intensive learning mixed with a lot of kindness and fun. Students voluntarily come to Room 56 at 6:30 AM and stay until well after 5 PM. They often return to visit their class during school vacation breaks. Each student is offered a rigorous education grounded in the arts, which includes studying a musical instrument and one of Shakespeare's plays for the entire year.

Known as the Hobart Shakespeareans, the students perform at Shakespeare festivals round the country. The young scholars also recite American History, play rock and roll music and learn algebra. Each child learns how to deal with money by participating in a classroom economic system. They take field trips all over the country and around the world. Mediocrity has no place in their classroom, as they score in the top 5 percent on standardized academic achievement tests and go on after high school to attend university. Yet, the students in Room 56 continue to act as kids when playing ball or listening to music. They are empowered by Rafe Esquith to excel beyond society's expectations.

The Hobart Shakespeareans believe "There Are No Shortcuts". On Saturday mornings, former Hobart Shakespeareans return to Room 56 as part of their college preparation. The students extend their study of Shakespeare and prepare for college entrance examinations. Students who maintain an "A" average in school and earn top marks on Saturdays qualify to tour colleges each year. Hobart Shakespeareans visit approximately 25 colleges over a three-year period. In addition to scoring extraordinarily high on standardized tests, performances by these students help feed the homeless, raise money for the Red Cross, and support AIDS research.

Support from The Hartwell Foundation

The Hartwell Foundation sponsored a field trip by the Hobart Shakespeareans to Washington, DC over the 2010 Thanksgiving break to learn about our nationís great history. The Foundation also made a contribution to the groupís general fund. In 2013, Hartwell once again funded the Hobart Shakespeareans to make the field trip to Washington DC. In addition, The Hartwell Foundation is also providing funds for new computers to be used in Classroom 56.

For the academic years 2010-2011 through 2013-2014, The Hartwell Foundation has provided a middle school scholarship with full financial supportto an academically qualified rising 6th grade student from Hobart Boulevard Elementary School in Los Angeles to attend The Willows Community School in Culver City, CA. Willows is an K-8 independent school that provides a strong, progressive education, rooted in academic excellence and social values; their structured  curriculum is founded on the principles of experiential learning and thematic instruction.

Rafe Esquith

Rafe Esquith is an exceptional and remarkably innovative, multiple-award-winning elementary school teacher who has taught at Hobart Boulevard Elementary School since 1984. Esquith has authored several books about teaching, and a documentary film has been made about his annual class Shakespeare productions and the students who participate, known as the Hobart Shakespeareans. He is the only school teacher to receive the United States National Medal of Arts (2003).

Rafe Esquith believes that working together with staff, parents, and the local community, it is possible to establish a level playing field in which each child will have the equal opportunity promised in the the U.S. Constitution. Through disciplined study and high expectations, the children acquire the knowledge, skills, and grace necessary to earn their share of the American Dream.

There are no shortcuts: Rafe Esquith and Hobart classroom 56

(credit Mel Stuart KPBS



The Hobart Shakespeareans in Washington, DC