Short essays by Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., the author of TING AND I: A Memoir of Love, Courage and Devotion, published in September 2011 by Outskirts Press (Parker, CO, USA), available from outskirtspress.com/tingandi, Barnes and Noble [bn.com], and Amazon [amazon.com], in paperback or ebook formats. Please visit us at tingandi.com for more information.
Saturday, June 23, 2018
WHAT EVER HAPPENED...? "A Tribute from Maggie"
In the fall of 1985, I was a new music teacher at
Seymour Smith Elementary School in Pine Plains, NY. It was there where I first
met Janet Schliff. Janet struck me as a “seasoned vet”, and I was very
impressed with her right away. She was a special ed. teacher for intermediate
elementary school students in a self-contained classroom. I didn't have a lot
of training in this field and had little experience with this population. Her
students were “mainstreamed” into my music classroom, and Janet proved to be an
invaluable resource to me.
My first impression of Janet was, WOW! She talked very
fast, had a tremendous amount of energy, was incredibly smart, and was filled
with great ideas. Her passion for education and her students was clear right
from the start. She helped show me the ropes of the public school system and
started brainstorming ways we could use music with her students. She was very
charismatic and incredibly funny! We quickly became friends; a friendship that
has lasted over 30 years.
Janet worked very long hours; all for the betterment
of her students. She individualized her instruction for each child in her
class. Janet had not only a professional interest in them, but a personal
interest as well. This reached beyond her students and into their family units.
Many of the children in her class came from homes that were also in need of
services. Janet was a tireless advocate who was held in very high regard by the
faculty and administration.
One of the many things that set Janet apart from
others who I worked with was all of the extra projects she would do with her
students. When she realized that most of her students had never been camping,
she arranged for an overnight camping trip at a local park! She had me come so
that we could have a sing along complete with guitar around the campfire as
they enjoyed eating s'mores for the very first time.
Not only did Janet encourage the children in her class
to be in chorus, but she approached me to have a separate vocal ensemble for
them. We did this for two concerts and gained much school-wide acclaim! Through
music, she was able to draw attention to the fact that even though people have
differences, there is common ground that makes them the same.
She taught people to value diversity in a time where
that just was not done. Janet set the bar high, and then surpassed it! She
taught her students to a higher academic level than thought possible while
giving them real life skills.
Even though we wound up doing different things in
different places, Janet and I always remained friends. We saw each other
through the dissolve of her two marriages, the births of my two children, and
deaths of family members for both of us. We would see each other when we could,
and kept in touch on the phone.
As the years passed, I became very concerned about
Janet. In our phone conversations, she would describe to me the struggles she
was having especially in regard to developing a phobia of germs. It manifested
in what/how she was able to eat and by the inability to touch things such as
cell phones, money, and even the chalk in her own classroom. It got to the
point where Janet was not able to do basic things such as go shopping for
clothes. These things led to Janet not being able to work as a teacher anymore
which was a tremendous loss for her students and their families.
concern for Janet, at that point, was her markedly slowed speech. It got to the
point where her speech pattern was almost unrecognizable from the quick pace
and witty banter I was used to from her. The day she called and told me she had
been diagnosed with a brain tumor, I was shocked at first, but then it all made
sense of the symptoms she had been suffering.
Immediately after her recovery from surgery, I
received a phone call from Janet. What a difference! It was astonishing! It was
like the clock had been turned back to the Janet from the old days. She was
speaking rapidly and effervescently again. She proudly told me how she was
calling from her boyfriend [Aiden’s] cell phone without any concern about
In the following months, it became evident that even
though the tumor had been removed, it left its mark on Janet. She had problems
with one of her eyes and her emotional temperament was difficult for her to
Janet has left no stone unturned in trying to regain
whatever her brain tumor stole from her. Life has never been easy for Janet
because of difficult relationships especially with her family. Despite these
difficulties, she remains one of the most positive people I know.* She was a
remarkable teacher and is the most loyal of friends. She has a passion for
seeing that all people are treated fairly. In a world too filled with people
who are only concerned with themselves, Janet stands out as someone who cares
about others. She has an extremely strong sense of right and wrong and always
wants to help others. I am proud to know her and look forward to another 30
years of friendship!
*[I must come across to Maggie as much more positive
than I feel.]
For the coming year, I [Douglas Winslow Cooper] will be
excerpting, weekly, material from this almost-final version of the fine book by Janet Johnson Schliff, M.S. Ed., which she wrote over a three-year period with some coaching and editing help from me, through my business, Write Your Book with Me.
Janet Johnson Schliff was on WKNY Radio 1490 at 9:10 a.m. on Thursday, March 1, Kingston, NY.
Janet spoke at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 3 at Barnes & Noble in Kingston, NY. I [DWC] attended, along with about 40 other people. Congratulations to Janet on a fine talk! 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 spoke at the Hurley Library at 6 p.m.
On 5/9/18 Janet spoke at the Kingston Library at 6 p.m.
On 5/14/18 Janet spoke at the Staatsburg Library at 7 p.m.
On 5/31/18 Janet spoke at the Clinton Community Library at 6:30 p.m.
On 6/9/18 Janet spoke at the Tannersville Mountain Top Library at noon. On 6/11/18 Janet spoke at the Gardiner Library at 7 p.m.
On 6/20/18 Janet spoke at the Marbletown Community Center at 6 p.m.
On 7/13/18 Janet will be at the Esopus Library at 7 p.m. On 7/20/18 Janet will be at the Pine Plains Library at 6 p.m.
On 7/23/18 Janet will be at the Ulster Library at 5:30 p.m.
On 8/11/18 Janet will be at the Northern Dutchess Bible Church in Red Hook at 1:00 p.m.
On 9/06/18 Janet will be at the Inquiring Minds Bookstore in New Paltz at 7 p.m.
On 9/22/18 Janet will again be at the Tannersville Mountain Top Library, at noon.
More signings will be coming up. A fine feature about Janet 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. An article about her book appeared in the May 14 Daily Freeman of Kingston, NY. and another in the Family Life section of the Poughkeepsie Journal on June 8th.