Saturday, April 28, 2018

WHAT EVER HAPPENED...? Cliff, My First Student

          I began teaching special education students in 1982. One very special student was Cliff, who, as an adult, has written the following for me:

I started Seymour Smith [School] in Pine Plains, NY. My new teacher’s name was Janet Johnson. It was Room 210 and then 209. She liked Room 209 because it had more space. She had cereal for all the kids in the morning. She took the class for walks to the water tower. Then she got married to Mr. Schliff. Mrs. Schliff coached all the kids in her class for the Dutchess County Special Olympics. One year I went with Mr. and Mrs. Schliff to the NYS Special Olympics in Syracuse NY. Mrs. Schliff took the class camping three times at Wilcox Park. She also took us swimming at Lake Taghkanic and to the Trevor Zoo and Four Brothers for lunch. One day she drove the small school bus to FDR then to her new apt for lunch. We both liked the same music groups. Mrs. Schliff came to my graduation in 1990. I still see her and talk to her on the phone about the old days.

          When Cliff wrote what we’ve printed above and turned it in to me so I could share it with my editor, I asked Cliff if I could pry some more details from him, and he obliged. So – here are the notes I took while we visited each other in the winter of 2016:

·       He filled me in on the computer we had way back then. He said it was a TRS-80. I have no recollection of the computer, and when I said that, his response was, “Mrs. Schliff was good on the computer.” [Wow!]

·       We reminisced during this visit about when I chaperoned his prom, years after he had been my student. Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young” was the theme. Though now 45 years old, Cliff still seems refreshingly young to me.

·       He reminded me of his favorite bulletin board in our class. It was titled “Kid of the Week.” I think he was on the board at least once.

·       We spent hours learning how to tell time.

·       We prepared an actual Thanksgiving dinner and invited family and friends to our evening get-together. He stated that he loved being in our classroom after dark. We held this dinner a few days before the actual holiday. [And to my best recall – it was the ONLY time I’ve ever cooked a turkey!]

·       He had to go to detention once for breaking one of our classroom rules. He still remembers this!

·       He misses riding the bus and having me as his teacher.

·       He reminded me about how I invited him to speak to one of the classes that I taught at Ulster County BOCES after I resigned from Pine Plains CSD.

I have always referred to Cliff as “my first student” because right after I was hired by the Pine Plains CSD, I heard rumors that some parents were nervous about sending their special needs children to a teacher who was fresh out of college. So – I set up my very first classroom way earlier than our first day of school and invited the families that were on my class list to come in and meet me, see their new classroom, and get more comfortable before the actual school year began. Cliff was the first person who walked in that day, and to this day, he has always been “my first student.”

What a memory, Cliff! These stories are over 30 years old!

[I just learned that Cliff won a prestigious award (and $500) at his job for doing excellent work. I'm so proud of him!]


For the coming year, I [Douglas Winslow Cooper] will be 

excerpting, weekly, material from this fine book by Janet Johnson 

Schliff, M.S.Ed.. She wrote it over a three-year period, with some 

coaching and editing help from me, through my 

business, The excerpts are from the 

almost-final version. 

Her memoir is now available in paperback and ebook formats 

from and from its publisher, 



Janet Johnson Schliff was on WKNY  Radio 1490 at 9:10 a.m. on Thursday, March 1, Kingston, NY.

Janet Johnson Schliff spoke at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 3, at Barnes & Noble, 1177 Ulster Avenue, Kingston, NYI [DWC] attended, along with almost 40 other people. The talk was especially well received, with several questions at the end, as well.
Congratulations, Janet!

Janet Johnson Schliff spoke at the Starr Library in Rhinebeck, NY, at 7 p.m. on March 6. 

She spoke at the Golden Notebook Bookstore in Woodstock, NY, at 2 p.m. on March 17. 

She spoke at the Morton Library in Rhinecliff, NY, at 6:30 p.m. on March 28. 

She spoke at RCAL in Kingston, NY, at 4 p.m. on April 3. I was able to attend. They gave her an impromptu book-launch party.

On 4/4/18 Janet spoke at the Parkinson's Support Group at the Starr Library at Rhinebeck at 2:30 p.m.

On 4/27/18 Janet spoke at the Stone Ridge Library at 5:30 p.m.

On 5/4/18 Janet will be at the Hurley Library at 6 p.m.

On 5/9/18 Janet will be at the Kingston Library at 6 p.m.

On 5/14/18 Janet will be at the Staatsburg Library at 7 p.m.

On 5/31/18 Janet will be at the Clinton Community Library at 6:30 p.m.

On 6/9/18 Janet will be at the Tannersville Library at noon.

On 6/11/18 Janet will be at the Gardiner Library at 6 p.m.

On 6/20/18 Janet will be at the Marbletown Community Center at 6 p.m.

On 7/13/18 Janet will be at the Esopus Library at 7 p.m.

More signings will be coming up, and a fine feature about her by John DeSantos [845 LIFE] appeared in the Middletown Times Herald-Record on Monday, March 12, as part of Brain Injury Awareness Month. An article about her book was just published in the May 2018 Living Rhinebeck Magazine. She was recently interviewed by the Kingston Daily Freeman, and that interview should be published soon.

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