Erin Gruwell is an award-winning teacher whose reputation for her absolute commitment to the future of education is legendary. Her impact for change runs deep. So deep, in fact, that her story was told in a hit Hollywood movie. In January 2007, Paramount Pictures released Freedom Writers, starring two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank as Erin. The film, based on The Freedom Writers Diary, was a New York Times bestseller that chronicled Erin’s extraordinary journey with 150 high school students who had been written off by the education system.
Inspired by Anne Frank, Erin and her students captured their collective journey in The Freedom Writers Diary. They dubbed themselves the ―Freedom Writers‖ –in homage to civil rights activists The Freedom Riders—and published a book. Through poignant student entries and Erin’s narrative text, the book records their ―eye-opening, spirit-raising odyssey against intolerance and misunderstanding
By fostering an educational philosophy that valued and promoted diversity, she transformed her students’ lives. She encouraged them to re-think rigid beliefs about themselves and others, reconsider daily decisions, and ultimately re-chart their futures. With Erin’s support, they chose to forego teenage pregnancy, drugs, and violence to become aspiring college students, published writers, and citizens for change.
Although Erin was credited with giving her students a second chance, it was she who changed the most during her time with them at Wilson High School. She decided to channel her experiences in the classroom toward a broader cause, and so she founded the Freedom Writers Foundation. Erin currently teaches teachers around the country how to implement her innovative lesson plans into their own classrooms. Recently, Erin’s teaching methods from her time in Room 203 have been published in the Freedom Writers Diary Teacher’s Guide. Proceeds from the sale of all books directly fund the Freedom Writers Foundation. Teach With Your Heart, Erin’s powerful memoir and call to arms, was published in 2007.
Erin and her students have appeared on numerous television shows, including Oprah, Prime Time Live with Connie Chung, Barbara Walters’ The View, and Good Morning America, to name a few. Their story has earned them dozens of awards, including the Spirit of Anne Frank Award.
Erin is a graduate of the University of California Irvine, where she received the Lauds and Laurels Distinguished Alumni Award. She earned her Master’s Degree and teaching credentials from California State University Long Beach, where she was honored as Distinguished Alumna by the School of Education.
Erin Gruwell absolutely brought the house down. The feedback was universally positive, starting with a standing ovation after the introduction of her and followed by a standing ovation at the conclusion of her remarks. I’d say it was a success.