He has proved that a close reading of Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men," Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," and even Shakespeare can have a magical effect on 10-year-olds from homes where English is not the first language, even though he is told such texts are inappropriate for that age group.
Standardized tests have their place. Esquith's kids do much better on them than other students with similar backgrounds.
But the best way to determine a teacher's worth is to spend time with his students.
Ian McKellen, the great English actor, became an Esquith devotee after giving a performance in Los Angeles in which a group of children in the audience way too young for Shakespeare seemed enraptured.
In fact, he realized, they were mouthing the dialogue as if they already knew it.
As Esquith says in the book, "real teachers know that real teaching is not based on the Common Core, or blended learning, or the newest notebook of rules and regulations handed out at the Tuesday staff meeting."
His view of the new world order is nicely illustrated by the D.C. Public Schools announcement last year that the city's 40 lowest-performing schools would have to raise their average proficiency rates from 23 percent to a completely ridiculous 63 percent by 2017.
Esquith's book is full of good advice for teachers, including himself, who want to raise their kids to a new level without killing themselves. He schedules more rest and relaxation into his day.
His formula for great teaching is following his best instincts about what works and ignoring expert advice when it contradicts what he knows to be true.
Some schools encourage their teachers to act that way.
I wish there were more schools like them.
Mathews is a veteran education writer for The Washington Post.