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In Person


Robert TadjikiRobert Tadjiki
Bend, Oregon
High school special education teacher
USA Today All-Star Teacher, philanthropist

USA Today recognized your skill at getting students with disabilities and mainstream students to mingle. What’s your secret?

Create a fun environment [like “Tadjiki’s foosball lounge”] that lets kids be kids, with or without disabilities.

What kind of field trips do you take with your students?

We go to either Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Seattle every year and always take a trip to the Oregon coast or Portland. Also, we rock climb and explore caves locally.

Favorite thing a student’s ever said to you?

Sometimes students who are not very verbal say “thank you” to me on their last day of high school. That is very powerful.

What’s the biggest project you’ve ever undertaken with your students?

Currently we are fundraising to build a 36-by-48-foot greenhouse. We also created a documentary called “Ready,” about a young girl with learning disabilities, which has been accepted to the Bend Film Festival.

What misconception about students with disabilities would you love to eradicate?

That they can’t do things. My students have dreams and want to achieve them. Also, people with developmental disabilities can work and are an asset to employers.

You adopted a second child from China this year. What’s been the most surprising part of adoption?

How quickly you can come to love a baby you don’t know, and how easily she can become part of the family. I was also surprised at how many children are left in orphanages. My wife and I now support several hundred other orphans through our art business, .

Why did you become an NEA member?

There are three generations of proud teachers in my family.

See the trailer to Tadjiki’s students’ documentary at .

Miriam LynnMiriam Lynn

Nyack, New York
School nurse
International volunteer nurse, most recently went to Honduras

What injuries have you treated for children in South America?

Cleft lips and palates, deformities from burns.

What was the most intense part of the work there?

Deciding who will be a good surgical candidate and who will not, then having to tell the family.

What items did you take for the people in Honduras?

Medical supplies, bubbles (they’re therapy for cleft lips), coloring books, crayons, dolls, and soccer balls, which are a major hit with the boys.

What’s worse—paperwork for school or for volunteering?

Paperwork for school.

Why did you become an NEA member?

I work in public education and have children of my own.

Is there a misconception about school nurses that bugs you?

“It must be an easy job.” It’s great, but not easy.

Short Takes

Faye Abernathy

Russellville, Arkansas
Retired counselor; e-mail activist

Faye AbernathyThis Arkansas Education Association-Retired member e-mails retirees urging them to join the Association or take legislative action. Abernathy, 72, also writes articles for Arkansas Education Association publications and fields calls from legislators about education issues up for a vote. “Every chance I get I’m talking to people or e-mailing,” she says, especially during election years. Expect a call in ‘08 if you’re on her list.

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People Poll

Do you have an interesting story idea? Contact section editor Cynthia Kopkowski at

Last month's poll results: What do you look forward to in your Halloween bag? Anything chocolate: 58%; Extra school supplies: 25%; Something tart and fruity: 12%; Pretzels and raisins, please: 5%.

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