Ron Clark is an American educator and founder of the Ron Clark Academy, an inner city school serving students from across Metro Atlanta. The students are exposed to a unique style of learning that focuses on raising test scores through an exciting and engaging curriculum. In 2000, Ron was named Disney's Teacher of the Year and has been featured on various cable and network programs.
During an interview with Oprah, Ron and Oprah discussed his book The Essential 55. Each year, more than 3,000 educators from around the world come to the school to learn new methods of teaching and to apply their new-found techniques to their own curriculums. Ron continues to break the mould for the future of education and aims to share his teachings and methods around the world.
I'm a schoolteacher, like you saw, and I have dedicated my life to working with kids to make an impact on them. And when I was asked to be here, I was like, oh, I don't know, because I have to teach all week and I do programs at night with kids. And I didn't know if I could make it. But then when I heard more about Walden University, I said, well, I really think I want to try and make this event. Because it wasn't the higher degree part; it was the higher purpose part.
And I started hearing about the social change that is woven in to everything that you do, getting your degrees through Walden University. I said, that's really special. And as I've met individuals throughout this audience today, everyone has said something about wanting to make a difference, wanting to help people, wanting to make a change, having a passion, a dedication. And I think that is beautiful. So to be in a room filled with people who all believe in making an impact on the lives of others is great.
My grandma used to tell me all the time-- she raised me-- she'd say, who you are is how you treat people. That's what she said. And she said the impact you make on the lives of those around you, that will write your definition. And so I used to go around the country speaking, and I'd do these speeches about here's how we should teach differently. I'd go to Washington, DC, and I was trying to talk to the powers-that-be about how we need to change things. And I realized, nothing was going to change from the top-up.
So I said, I need to find a different plan. So I had this idea. I said, I'm going to find an old factory, the nastiest old factor I can find in a challenging area, and I'm going to turn that factory into a school. And I'm going to show that the true message of change deals with individuals. And if you've got the right people working, anything's possible.
So I went down to Atlanta, and in the second highest crime rate area in downtown Atlanta, I found this old factory. There's a crack house on the side of it-- street walkers, drug dealers. It was a 100-year-old building. The windows were busted out, barbwire. And I said, this is it; this is going to a school.
And we're a nonprofit, so I went and got my board members. I said, you've got to come see this, perfect. So they pulled up, they got out of the car. They said, Ron, get back in the car, get back in the car. I said, no, this is it.
We're going use this old factory to make an impact. We're going to show everybody what can happen when you have an old factory with the right people and the right mission. We're going to do it, come on. And they're like, I don't know. They said, if you put the school here, the community's going to destroy it.
And I've got to tell you, I love this room, because this room is filled with visionaries, people that want to make an impact. You want to make a difference. There is a reason you're here. Everyone in this room has a reason. You are dedicated to making an impact, a social change.
Something is driving you. And I was being driven, too. But the problem is, the harder you drive, the more people are going to pull you back, and that's the hardest part. Having the dream you have right now is not the hard part.
We can all come up with a dream. The hard part is being willing to fight through and make sure that dream happens when all that negativity comes, because people are like, I don't know; I think the community is probably going to destroy it. I said, no, the community is going to love it; let's do it. And so for three years, I begged, and after three years we built that school you just saw.
And that school was built off of donations from a community. A community built that school, and now that is a school where 18,000 superintendents, principals, and curriculum graders from around the country and around the world have visited. Remember when I said I was going to build this thing and everyone's going to come and look? They are in there every week.
Yesterday, as I taught, over 100 teachers were in there watching me teach all day, learning about our methods and techniques. I teach fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. I teach global studies and math every day, all day. I still teach all day, but the difference is people come. They learn about our methods. They take our ideas, and they go back and they're putting them in place.
And researchers have shown it's all over the country that our influence is spreading everywhere. There's 18,000 educators this year affect the lives of 10 million children, students in our country. That is powerful, and that's what can happen when you don't give up and you believe.
You are here because you have a higher purpose. You have a dream, something that you want to achieve. I don't want you to be 84 and go, I'm so mad, I wish I could go back. Because you're here now. So imagine that you were 84 and you regretted it.
And so you've been granted a chance to come to this room again. You've got a life to live over. Live with passion, make a difference, and make sure you dream big, no matter what you do.