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May 14

Wigu Hero: Brad Cohen, Inspiring Teacher and Social Advocate

Brad Cohen, Wigu Hero | www.WhenIGrowUpBooks.comWhen Brad Cohen was growing up, teachers and other adults — even his father — interpreted Brad’s involuntary sounds and sudden jerking movements as attempts to get attention or simply acting up. He was ridiculed and teased by other kids. As a result, he hated school…until a principal learned his “acting up” was a result of Tourette’s Syndrome. The principal used an all-school assembly to educate the faculty and students, which helped Brad win their understanding and acceptance. Brad went on to defy the odds.

Brad is an award-winning teacher, recipient of the Sallie Mae First Year Teacher of the Year Award for the State of Georgia, and recognized by Bradley University as an Outstanding Young Alumnus. His story was the inspiration behind the Hallmark movie, Front of the Class, and he continues to educate and inspire through his teaching and his foundation, The Brad Cohen Tourette Foundation.

We are honored to share a bit more of Brad’s story in this Wigu Heroes Spotlight. Herewith, his answers to our questions…

Q. What inspired you to the work you are doing?

A. Growing up, I just wanted to be treated like every other kid….with respect! But that didn’t happen for me. As I grew up with Tourette Syndrome, teachers didn’t believe in me and students didn’t give me a chance. I was often the kid in the corner.  As I grew up, I wanted to show people that despite having Tourette Syndrome, I could find success.  So, I set out to become the teacher I never had.  One who would understand that kids can be different. One who would believe in them when nobody else would.

Q. What is/was the greatest challenge you have faced in your life/career thus far?

A. My biggest challenge in life was trying to find my first job to be a teacher. Despite going on 24 interviews, I could not convience principals to hire me. They just saw me as a guy with Tourette Syndrome. But on my 25th interview, I was finally given a chance to follow my dream to become a second grade teacher.

Brad Cohen, Wigu Hero | www.WhenIGrowUpBooks.comQ. What is the biggest thing you learned during the course of your work/career?

A. To always bring out the best in children and believe in them when nobody else is willing to! Educators have the power to make a huge difference in the lives of children. Sieze the moment now!

Q. What would you advise young people who dream of doing the work you do/ dream of a career in your field? / dream of making a difference somewhere?

A. Follow your passion in life and put it all on the line. You deserve it and so do the people you are working for. In our case……you are doing it for the students.

Q. If you could choose any other career what would it be?

A. I’m doing exactly what I want to do!

Q. What role reading has played, or plays, in your life?

A. I never enjoyed reading…..I can’t lie. Reading was always hard for me because of my Tourette’s. But the one thing others can take away from my story is to never give up and to never make excuses. Reading is one of the essential things every person needs to do in life. It can make or break you. I knew the choice was mine and I needed to do the best I could…..despite my own challenges.

Brad, we are so grateful you never gave up. Thank you for sharing your amazing story with us, and for all the work you continue to do to educate and inspire children every day!

Learn more about Brad and his foundation at the Brad Cohen Tourette Foundation.

Meet past Wigu Heroes.

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