Setting The Bar Higher: A Profile on US Top 50 Finalist Ron Clark

21 Dec 2015 |

"The problem isn't the kids. It's not even what they can achieve. The problem is what you expect them to achieve. You are setting the bar here. Why? Set it up here! They can make it."

This scene is played out in the 'Ron Clark Story' from 2006, starring Matthew Perry (of Friends fame) playing Ron Clark, one of our 2016 Top 50 Finalists from the United States.  The movie is based on the real life events of Ron Clark, who began teaching almost on a whim. His unique style of teaching begins with getting kids excited about school by creating respect between teachers and students. After returning from a backpacking tour of Europe, Mr. Clark's mother urged him to go to the local elementary school to inquire about a 5th grade teaching position. Hesitant at first after seeing the rowdy classroom, he decided to follow his gut reaction and took the position. After several years of teaching in his home town in North Carolina and seeing a story on TV about the need for teachers in a tough New York City neighborhood, he took a position at a Harlem school. This is where the movie picks up, and his program of '55 Rules' is developed and used in other classrooms besides his own. In fact, all of the student stories within the movie are taken from Ron's actual experiences during his teaching journey.

In 2007, his own Ron Clark Academy opened in Atlanta, Georgia. In the renovated red brick warehouse, students are taught using a specially developed curriculum to create an environment where teachers and students respect each other and engage in exciting and passionate learning. His students themselves have garnered plenty of media attention. After creating a music video to promote the election in 2008, the students were voted ABC World News' Person of the Week, and were even invited to sing at President Obama's Inauguration. Perhaps the most amazing part of his school is the fact that almost all of his students come from underprivileged homes. They all need scholarships, so the school operates with partnerships and donations from various companies. This allows them to travel, create intimate and involved classrooms, and to train other teachers from around the world to take their curriculum back to their own schools. One valuable partnership has been with Oprah Winfrey. Ron Clark's books have been featured on Oprah's Reading List, and he's made several appearances on her show. She even named him her first 'Phenomenal Man' in O Magazine.

Many were excited to see that Ron Clark was one of our Top 50 Finalists for 2016.

It's not hard to see why Ron Clark is a 2016 Top 50 Finalist. Because of his amazing work and innovative approach to teaching underprivileged kids in the United States, we are excited to bring his story to a global stage! Read more about our other incredible finalists.