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“Stop praying for a lighter load, and start
praying for a stronger back.”


This is the mantra of Dr. Salome Thomas-EL, aka Principal EL, an award-winning teacher, principal, and internationally recognized educator. Principal EL believes that resilient teachers and leaders take risks, make courageous decisions, and challenge the status quo. They understand that teaching is not easy, it’s hard work, but it’s good work. As passionate educators, we are able to make a difference in the lives of our students and ensure they are all exposed to an engaging curriculum and effective teaching.

In his thought-provoking presentations, Principal EL shares how we can develop positive relationships and foster a supportive school culture so teachers and leaders can focus on the protective processes that impact and build resilience in all of our students. Principal EL brings a powerful combination of passion, caring, and leadership to craft a refreshing, common-sense roadmap for parents, teachers and administrators to help kids achieve their dreams, no matter the odds.

Principal EL has been a teacher and principal since 1987. He received national acclaim as a teacher and chess coach, where his students have gone on to win world recognition as Eight-Time National Chess Champions.

Principal EL is currently a K-8 school leader in Wilmington, Delaware and speaks to groups around the world. He was a regular contributor on the “The Dr. Oz Show” and is the author of the best-selling books, I Choose to Stay (movie rights optioned by Disney Films), The Immortality of Influence, which stresses the importance of leadership, mentoring, parenting and service to others. He is the co-author of the newly released, Passionate Leadership, Building a Winning Team, and Retention for Change.


Principal EL has addressed over 100,000 teachers, administrators, school staff, board members, parents, students and community members in the United States, Canada, Nigeria, Trinidad, England, Jamaica, and The Virgin Islands and frequently appears on C-SPAN, CNN, and NPR Radio. He has studied at Cambridge University in England, Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, and holds a doctorate in Education from Wilmington University in Delaware. He has received the Marcus A. Foster Award as the outstanding School District Administrator in Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania’s distinguished Martin Luther King Award. Educational Leadership and Reader’s Digest Magazines recognized Principal EL as an “Inspiring American Icon.” Principal EL has also appeared on Good Morning America and  “The Oprah Radio Network”.

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Innovator's Mindset Interview
with George Couros

Virtual AP Leadership Academy Interview
with Principal Kafele

Leader of Learning Interview
with Dr. Dan Kreiness

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Arnold Schwarzenegger
Former Governor of California

"We say that kids are our future, but very often those words are just that—rhetoric without action. Time and time again we adults have let kids down by not living up to our promises and setting the proper foundation for kids to grow and prosper.


The kids at Vaux Middle School could have continued the cycle—becoming the next generation of disadvantaged adults with shattered dreams. They might never have had the chance to see or experience life beyond the inner-city.


Salome Thomas-EL believed in those kids; he believed that if he stayed he could break that cycle. He chose to stay and he made a difference. He has touched many people in his lifetime, and his work and efforts will affect many more in the generations to come! For all of that, I thank him."

"It was a real delight to have Salome Thomas-EL as our Opening Speaker – particularly in that role, early on in the conference, [as] he [got] people energized and excited about the meeting.  He made his story relevant to everyone in the room and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.  I will be sure to recommend him as a speaker to my fellow regional vice presidents.”

- The College Board
Midwest Regional Forum

- Rhonda Perry
Director of Curriculum and School Improvement
Gadsden City Schools, AL

“Principal EL’s keynote was amazing, passionate and genuine! He set the standard high for our future speakers. Many of our attendees stated it was the best keynote they ever heard!”

- Amber Heffner
Executive Director
Illinois Digital Educators Alliance

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Dr. OZ
Best Selling Author and TV Talk Show Host

"Principal EL is a superstar educator who is revolutionizing how we teach kids and is helping me motivate America to live right now."

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Will Smith
Award Winning Actor

"If you read Principal EL’s book and are not inspired to immediately go out and effect change in your community...then you should read it again.”

"When it comes to educational presenters Salome is the best of the best. He is engaging, funny and causes everyone to self-reflect on their own practices. Principal EL provides you with specific strategies you can immediately implement into your classrooms and schools. He is a must see for everyone!”

- Principal Baruti Kafele
National Education Consultant

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Sean Covey
New York Times bestselling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens and Executive Vice President, Global Solutions and Partnerships, Franklin Cove

“Principal EL’s speeches are amazing and we love having him be a part of the work that Franklin Covey is doing around the world.  He has a unique way of motivating teachers and students alike that is unparalleled.  I wish we all could speak like him.”

"The first time I ever worked with Principal EL I hired him to speak at a small event for United Way. His speech was moving, funny and meaningful all wrapped into one and I was so impressed that I immediately booked him to speak at our largest conference of the year to over 2,000 United Way professionals. And, of course, he brought the house down!  He is a delight to work with. No ego, no drama but a truly kind and generous soul. His work speaks for itself, but you should have him speak at your next event so you can hear for yourself his amazing story."

- Nicole Wheeler McNamara
United Way Worldwide

“It was exciting to see over 1500 educators from around the world, immediately rise to their feet to
give him a resounding standing ovation at the conclusion of his keynote. I continue to hear comments from my staff as well as conference attendees that his message touched them personally
and was by far one of the best they have ever heard!”

- Debbie M. Brown
Former Senior Director, ASCD Conferences

"Salome Thomas-EL's message to our community was truly inspirational.  The audience felt both appreciated for the work they had accomplished and energized to answer the call to action to make sure that all of our children have the opportunity to be successful.  This was, without exception, the best presentation I have seen in my 24-year career."

"Whether you're looking for a keynote to set the stage for your conference or a workshop presenter to provide your staff with solutions they can implement immediately, Principal EL is your man! With over 30 years of solid experience and extraordinary success as both, an educator and a presenter, Principal EL will demonstrate to your staff that he's "been there" through similar circumstances and excelled, despite the challenges and obstacles he was confronted with.”

- Scott Crane
United Way Quad Cities Area

- Todd Whitaker
Professor of Ed Leadership and
Author of over 50 Books

“Principal EL has a message that every educator needs to hear! His memorable quotes and motivational stories will have the audience cheering and saying “amen”! Principal EL is a one of kind speaker with a message that will change the way we think about our students.”

“I don’t like keynotes, as I always feel like the speaker is trying to sell me something. I just watched the most amazing keynote with Principal EL! Never have I felt more honored to be a teacher. The only thing he sold me on is how important we are! Thank you sir!”

- James Wolf
Google Certified and Apple Teacher, Illinois

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Marcus A. Foster Award

Distinguished Martin Luther King Award

Outstanding School District Administrator for Philadelphia

University of Pennsylvania

"Best Philadelphian"

Philadelphia Magazine

Inspiring American Icon

Reader's Digest

Louis L. Redding Excellence in Education Award

Outstanding School Administrator in Delaware

Black History Maker

Philadelphia Daily News

Honorary Doctorate

Ursinus University, Pennsylvania

Honorary Doctorate

Delaware Valley University, Pennsylvania

Honorary Doctorate

Endicott College, Massachusetts

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I Choose to Stay

Stolen Secrets from the Staff Lounge

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