The Winners of Washington Shores

I wrote this as a graduation gift for the first 5th grade class I ever taught. They were the lowest performing students in an economically disadvantaged school. In addition to being behind academically, many of them had a history of behavior problems.

I asked more from them than had ever been asked before, and they came through. The following is a testimony to the power of passion, hard work, and love. If you can get both parties to passionately believe in that which does not exist, you can create it. You CAN create miracles.

Someone outside of the school system was so impressed with their story that she sent it to Oprah Winfrey.


A true story about one class, in one town, in America, in just one year. Orlando, Florida, 2004-2005

This book is dedicated to the 16 young students that are written about on the following pages. Long after they've forgotten who their 5th grade teacher was, I hope they never forget who they are, and what they are capable of. This book is to help them remember.


"What I'm talking about is the human spirit, That's the challenge...the possibility...(of) what everybody can be."
- George O'Malley (played by John Travolta in the movie "Phenomenon")

"See others as they could be and should be."
- Aristotle

"Dream Big, Do Big, Be Big. Best of the Best, Expect Nothing Less."
- Mr. Stuart's class motto

Hey Washington Shores Elementary Jaguars! How are you? Is today your day? Can you see all the "...Places You'll Go" like the Dr. Suess book we read? Are you ready to move mountains to get there?

Wait a minute...You all did! Every single one of you moved a mountain, or two. You ALL did something important this year, something you have NEVER done before.

You no longer fell behind. You no longer got frustrated and gave up. You no longer blamed other people for your problems. And, I'm happy to say, you no longer came into class with excuses and then whined when I didn't accept them.

Instead, you believed in yourself and what you could become.


You understood that you either had excuses or results, that you were as big as the obstacles that stopped you.

You decided to DO BIG.

You plugged away, day after day, assignment after assignment, problem after problem, story after story. You became the ones who dared to Dream Big, and have the strength to Do Big, again and again, until you...

BEcame BIG

became WINNERS...



It's true and it's real. From Daichell, Donnetra and Destiny, to Chiquerria, Kiara and Ciara, you all learned MORE than one year's worth of learning. From the West Coast to Ireland, Reo and Roseline, Big J and Brother Bread, you worked harder than you have ever worked before. And from Diamond and Lil' Snoopy, to Phat and Mac, I hope you have a glimpse of who you can really be, as talented and amazing as I see you. Together, you have all found a place in my heart, giving me warm memories I'll treasure forever.

Thank you for believing in yourselves as much as I have believed in you. Thank you for allowing me to push you to be your best. It is with every hope in the world that you continue to believe in and push yourselves as hard as you have this year. If you do...I have no doubt your lives will be as great as you already are.

Just remember these few things and you will have continued success:

Everyone is born the same. Not everyone stays the same. Everyone is born with something great inside of them, EVERYONE, including YOU. But not everyone becomes great.

It really is very simple. Spend the time you have thinking positive thoughts and believing in yourself, and do it BIG! Add that to doing big...and amazing things happen. And that's how your world changes and keeps getting better and better.

How? How does your world change and get better? Think it through. YOUR world changes with....YOU. You want a better life? Be a better person. You want better grades? Be a better student. You want more money? Be WORTH more money. You want more time on the playing field or court? Spend more time at practice. You want more? Be more. Life is simple, so simple it's simply and surprisingly silly how so simple success in this simple life is.

Just like doing the right thing is. The reason everyone doesn't do it is because it's not always easy to do. Just like it's easier to believe you can't do something than it is to believe you can. This makes giving up easy to do.

The same thing happens when you blame someone else for your problems. Failing at something doesn't make you a failure.

You are not a failure until you blame someone else.

Never, ever, never, ever, ever, do that. Magic happens when you take the blame for what you could have done better. This gives you POWER.

When you tell yourself that the person responsible for your grades is you you begin to believe in yourself. When you Believe Big, you become magically filled with the energy to participate in class and do your homework at night. As you Do Big, your strength and confidence grows. As you Become Big, you are able to believe in yourself even more and dream even bigger.

Once you take hold of this magical power you understand that if you don't have what you want, you probably don't want it enough. Think about this when you're back in school next year. Do you really want good grades or do you really just kind of hope for them? If you continue to do the right things, right things will happen to you.

"Do what is right and you will be fortunate.
Don't do what is right and you will be unfortunate.
Our results are just echoes and shadows of our actions."

- Counsels of The Great Yu
- 2,500 b.c. China

If this idea worked 4,500 years ago, it works today. What word was just repeated? "Work" It's not what yu can do, or your potential that matters most. It's what you DO that makes things happen in your life. And on that note...

...Never let anyone outwork you, EVER! If you're going to lose, lose to someone who is better than you are. Learn from them and you become better. There is always someone around you who is better than you at something or knows something you don't. Learn from them and grow.

"Demand more from yourself than anyone else possibly could" (Dr. J - Julius Erving). Again, if you want more out of life, better grades, better friends, more money, more happiness, etc....BE MORE.

Surround yourself with people who are more and can help you believe that you are more too. People who believe in you will help you go far. People who don't, won't. And don't let these "don'ts" tell you that you"won't". Constant doubt and criticisms are like ants, covering you with "can'ts". They'll make you feel small and insignificant. So small you'll want to give up and roll up into a little ball.

But no, not you! You realize that no one is better than you are and you are not better than anyone else. We are all just better at certain things. Only by working together can we make the potential or "gifts" inside of us happen! Unrealized potential is nothing; positive thinking and action are everything.

***So you see that it's not where you start but where you finish. You didn't like being called the low class by some other kids at the beginning of the year. You really didn't like it when I pointed out that you were in fact the lowest scoring class in 5th grade. But I handed you the challenge that if you didn't like being called the lowest class, stop being low.

I liked you and believed in you too much to feel sorry for you. I felt STRONG for you. I wouldn't let you complain because complaining is not DOING BIG. Taking action is.

And you did. ALL OF YOU! There's not one student among you that didn't drastically improve themselves in one way or another. And this came through change, sometimes uncomfortable and sometimes painful, but that's when change usually happens anyway.

Finally, always ask yourself if you are making the world a better place. You can't control what you get from others and from the world. You CAN control what you give to others. Give the world your best. If it's not good enough for some, it will be more than good enough for others. And if the entire world seems against you, as it sometimes will, know you have me on your side. I'll always believe in you.

Even though I'm not a betting man, I'd bet on you. Everyone mentioned on the following pages has increased their learning and behavior so much that they are a risk worth taking, a talent worth believing in. You all have a genius, developing inside; a gift only you can bring to the world outside.

The odds are against you, as we've talked about in class. Only one in ten people develop these gifts. Most give up too soon along the way. They stop BELIEVING in themselves or let others talk them down. Or they stop all the DOING it takes, and simply daydream of "one day" when it will all change.

So follow our motto of "Dream Big, Do Big, Be Big". It has taken us far. Give yourself the Best of Your Best, Expect Nothing Less from yourself. And remember this one last thing, for it is more valuable than gold...

If you never quit, you can never fail.

Without further adieu, I present to the world the wonderful and truly amazing students of Mr. Stuart's 2004-2005 5th grade class.

(***It should be noted that reaching the 5th grade level on our software program "Success Maker" WAS a big deal. All these students came into the 5th grade BELOW 5th grade starting level, one even as far behind as late 1st grade. Their achievements are amazing, and proof that no one is stupid, only made to feel that way.)


"Figlia" means daughter, and "hurricane describes Daichell
She's so much like my own daughter Bella,
I knew for her to win I had to treat her well.
She's here to rule the world and is strong as a hurricane inside.
Just treat her with the respect she deserves
don't tell her what to do but ask
Just require she gives the best of herself
and great results will come fast.
In return she'll be nice and thoughtful
and her demeanor will be fine
Just remember it's "mine" and not "mines"
No one will get blown up and all will be fine
What gifts will she bring to the world? Who knows?
There's nothing she can't do.
Getting to 5th grade math AND reading

is not something everyone can do.
But she's not just anybody, she's special and it's true.
I wish her luck and future success
and hope she knows I'm always on her side too.

***This year you increased your reading level on Success Maker Reading Adventures by MORE THAN TWO YEARS! You also increased your math level by MORE THAN 1.5 YEARS!. You reached 5th grade in BOTH reading and math and increased your DRP score by 175%. Congratulations!

Special note to Daichell: If you do in fact become a teacher, remember that your entire job is to make peoples' lives better. Train yourself to think of something positive about each student as they come through your door each morning (this is especially important if they drove you crazy the day before).

Just keep believing in everything they could be and should be. Watch them carefully for hidden talents and strengths. Discover how they best learn and teach that way, even if it means teaching in several different ways. Make sure you are the best teacher they have ever had. Humbly hope that every teacher they have after you will be better than you were.


From arguing with everyone
To arguing with almost none,

Simply smiling Chiquerria
"Sunshine" her name has become

Her sunshine brought warmth to the class
and her homework was always done

She grew so much in her reading and math
and was able to make it fun

***This year you increased you reading level on Success Maker by MORE THAN TWO YEARS and increased your DRP score by 275%! Congratulations! Thanks for your smiles every morning as you walked through the door. Smiles are powerful and sometimes they were just what I needed.


Sadaris "My Boy" can also smile
grinning from ear to ear

He's such a likeable fellow
I like it when he's near

Keep him out of trouble
and he's as focused as anyone you'll see

Once he believes in his own strength
he'll become everything he could be

If you're ever feeling down remember the time
I picked you up by singing in front of the entire class

"Sadaris, my boy
You're so beautiful to me."

***This year you did not fall behind, and even increased your reading level on Success Maker by OVER ONE YEAR. You also increased your DRP score by 175%! Congratulations! Stay focused, my friend, stay focused.


West coast Wesley
this guy is swell

He really cares
I can tell

And he's so cool
Which I like as well

This is one tough kid
who really tries hard

He stayed late after school
and of this I am proud

He never stopped
until he got his goal

5th grade level math on Success Maker
Man this guy has soul!

Now watch out world
As his life unfolds.

***This year you increased your reading and math levels on Success Maker by MORE THAN ONE YEAR. You also reached the 5th grade level in math. Congratulations! I had a lot of fun throwing the "bee" with you at lunch.


My favorite Irishman from Dublin
The fighting Irish was he

Went on a journey this year
He was far from where he needed to be

There's something special about this kid
Just you wait and see

Quiet, yet intense
Afraid of nothing yet likeable as could be

I want this man to go places
A finer lad I've yet to see

He put all his energy into reaching 5th grade level reading
Now he can say proudly - "Look at me!"

***This year you increased your reading level on Success Maker Adventures by MORE THAN TWO YEARS and reached the 5th grade level! Congratulations!


Although no longer with us
We couldn't leave her out

She's gone to another school
But will always be in our memories

She was the original hard worker
Lighting a path for us to see

How far each one of us could go
How big each one of us could be

*IN JUST SIX MONTHS, you increased your reading and math levels on Success Maker by MORE THAN 1.5 YEARS (a pace of THREE YEARS GROWTH over the entire year)! Congratulations!


You joined us late
But became our Queen

A loving girl
A shining pearl

A little help is all she needs
Which Mrs. Brown always feeds

She tries so hard
And is so sweet

When she took center stage for our class play
Her performance was a treat

Be proud of your growth
It wasn't easily done

In half year's time
Look at how much you've done!

*In JUST SIX MONTH'S time you've increased your reading level on Success Maker BY MORE THAN ONE YEAR. Congratulations! Remember how funny you are with your voices and the "Oration" Award you won. This means you have special verbal talents.


Everyone is amazed
at Jason Big J

"Can it really be him?"
They say in amazement

This is the REAL Jason
The one you've seen this year

"Yes sir, you bet I'll try."
And working hard endlessly.

He's also blessed in another way.
He's gifted comedic-alley.

One last thought, a song really,
"Oh I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener..."

Ha-ha! You never should have told me this song bothered you.
I hope it plays in your head constantly.

*This year you increased your reading level on Success Maker Adventures BY MORE THAN ONE YEAR. You also increased your math level BY ALMOST TWO YEARS and your DRP score by 150%. Great work!


Whew! You're not ready for this,
this student who never quit.

Wow! His growth upon growth
This guy went on a trip

The best of the best
He topped them all

And it couldn't happen to a nicer guy
The only problem is that he's not very tall

they say good things come in "short" packages
But I disagree

GREAT things come in short packages
Just open this one up and see

Keep an eye on this fellow
His behavior and attitude are a dream

But what he's going to bring to this world
Has never before been seen

He'll do more good than twenty normal men
I don't know in what capacity

It's all up to him
How great he wants his life to be.

**This year you increased your reading level on Success Maker BY MORE THAN TWO YEARS and increased your math level BY ALMOST TWO YEARS. You REACHED THE 6TH GRADE LEVEL in both reading and math and increased your DRP score by 275%!!!. Congratulations! This year was "Boss"!


Dear Darling Destiny
So Super Sweet

Always did her homework
Always did it neat

Reaching 5th grade level math
And 5th grade reading too

Now she's passed the FCAT
How do-ooh you do?

*This year you increased your reading level on Success Maker BY MORE THAN 2.5 YEARS. You increased your math level BY MORE THAN 1.5 YEARS and your DRP score by 125%! Congratulations!


When you focus and when you try
It seems as if you high scores fly and fly

Give your best for more than one day
It's day after day if you want to play

One of two stories will be told about you
Which one comes true is up to you.

"Here lies the man the called Malcolm X Mac,
the man who had the potential to be so much more."

Or they will say "Malcolm X Mac became everything he was meant to be
and couldn't have given the world more!"

**This year you increased your reading level on SUccess Maker BY MORE THAN ONE YEAR and had several top scores when you applied yourself. Congratulations!


Up and down
and clowning around

Brother Bread
rarely wears a frown

But with a great big heart
He did his part

Reaching 5th grade level in math
and his DRP improvement a work of art

Ladies man Levon.
He really turned out smart

**This year you increased your reading level on Success Maker BY MORE THAN 2 YEARS and increased your DRP score by 375%!!!!!!!!!! Don't forget your gift to "see" things mathematically and technically. Remember how easy it was for you to put together the K'nex cars? Dream BIG! If you push yourself you may have a future in the space program or maybe as a millionaire car designer.


Diamond Sykes
You've been so nice

Although you came to us late
you've been so wonderful I wish you were here twice.

But you'll be moving on
With the rest of your entire class

Working so hard in just 6 short months
Is the reason you passed.

Thank you for saying things before I had to
My favorite being when someone whined

You would say
"Hey guys, this isn't a daycare".

**This year you increased your reading level on Success Maker BY MORE THAN ONE YEAR IN ONLY SIX MONTHS. In math you increased your level BY MORE THAN 1.5 YEARS and getting to the 5th grade level. Congratulations "Gabrieckle"!


Roseline on her pogo
Roseline jumping high

English wasn't her first language
Yet her scores still reached the sky.

Her improvement was amazing
As amazing as could be

What will Roseline do in he rlife?
Just you wait and see!

**This year you increased your reading level on Success Maker BY MORE THAN 2 YEARS. In math you increased your level BY 1.5 YEARS and getting to the 5th grade level in BOTH reading and math.You also increased your DRP score BY AN AMAZING 750%!!!!!! Congratulations! I'm very proud of you.


Her heart was in...
Her work was in...
Her mind was in...
...The Right Place.

Her feelings were of...
Her efforts were of...
Her thoughts were of...
...The Right Stuff.

And because of this...
And because of that...
She passed the 5th grade...
...And the FCAT!!!

**This year you increased your reading level on Success Maker BY MORE THAN 2 YEARS and increased your level BY MORE THAN 1.0 YEAR. You also improved your DRP score by 250%!!! Dy-No-Mite!


The most amazing turnaround that was ever done
wasn't always done with a whole lot of fun

"Don't give me your excuses or cry around me" and
"You're as big as the obstacles that stop you" she heard so often from me.

How in time she made incredible gains
To increase her learning she went through the pains

Soon no amount of homework could give her a scare
She never came in and said "Mr. Stuart is not fair!"

With great participation in class and not just sitting back
Can you guess what happened....

Well, with a smile full of confidence
and a head full of smarts

you bet
she passed the FCAT!

**This year you increased your reading level on Success Maker BY MORE THAN 2 YEARS. You also improved your DRP score by a "wha-hopping" 475%!!!! Congratulations Lil Snoopy. This year was groooooovy!

***Special, special thanks to the following role models who sent a signed picture encouraging us to be our biggest selves:

Jennifer Aniston
Danielle Bellini (Channel 2 News)
Francesc Bonnin (world class orchestra conductor)
President George W. Bush
President Jimmy Carter
Brian Donovan (voice of Jet-ex, Digimon, etc.)
Miss America Erica Dunlop
Jeff Goldblum
Karen Harrod (local painter)
Matt LeBlanc
Tracy McGrady
Raoul Martinez (Channel 2 News)
Eddie Murphy
Tom Schadd (Channel 2 News)
John Travolta
Denzel Washington
Robin Williams
Will & Grace (entire cast)


Anonymous said...

This great. Super inspirational. You students were so lucky to have you!

Anonymous said...

Hey Adam,
This is cool stuff. Since it's on the school email, watch your spelling. I saw a few errors. Your love for teaching and how much you care about your students is apparent. I knew there was a reason I liked you! These scores are impressive! You have changed the lives of many. That's what it is all about. You are making a difference.
See you soon. BJ

Anonymous said...

hey Adam,
I found it! What wonderful work. Your students were very lucky to have someone so inspirational to work with them. I find it hard to believe that any of them will ever forget you! Hope to talk to you soon. TIna