Brad Cohen has Tourette’s syndrome, but he has never let that stop him from achieving his dream of being an educator. When he was a kid, bullies taunted him for his uncontrollable noises and twitches. Some people didn’t even want to be around him. After college, he endured 25 job interviews at schools before he was hired for his dream job as a second grade teacher in the Cobb County School District. Today, he serves as an assistant principal at Addison Elementary School, and he is an example of courageous optimism to the nation.
Brawny Paper Towels chose Cohen for the company’s “AmerICAN” campaign to celebrate the I-Can spirit that makes the United States a country of giants.
“I’m honored that Brawny thought of my story to represent their product and, hopefully, inspire other Americans across the country,” Cohen said.
Brawny learned about Cohen’s journey to the “Front of the Class,” from a book by that same name, which Cohen wrote to explain how Tourette’s made him the teacher he never had growing up. Cohen’s book was turned into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie in 2008. He also shared his story with Oprah, among others.
When Brawny representatives learned Cohen is still following his dream as an assistant principal, they loaded up their video cameras and headed for Addison Elementary to show Americans around the country how Cohen is inspiring students at his school.
“I come to school every single day, and I try to be a role model for our students, staff, parents and our community,” Cohen said. “Despite the challenges and weaknesses you have in life, you can overcome them to follow your dreams.”
Maddie, a rising fourth grader at Addison, looks up to her assistant principal.
“I like him because he is unique and he has Tourette’s,” Maddie told the Brawny camera crew. “Even if he didn’t have Tourette’s, I’d still think he was special because he is nice and kind.”
Addison students know some people outside of the school look at their assistant principal differently, even if they don’t. They know having Tourette’s created difficult obstacles for him, but that’s why Cohen stands out to them.
“He proves that you should never give up,” remarked Landon, a soon-to-be Addison third grader.
Cohen is a walking example of resilience and perseverance for his students, and Brawny aimed to show other Americans how they can overcome obstacles to accomplish their dreams too.
The CCSD educator also has advice for students who are living with Tourette’s.
He tells them, “Don’t let the Tourette’s own you. You own the Tourette’s.”
Through the Brad Cohen Tourette Foundation, the inspiring assistant principal raises money for kids, who have Tourette’s. Some of the students who his foundation helps attend CCSD schools, including Addison.
“Every kid has his or her challenges and weaknesses in life, and I want [the students] to know that they can overcome theirs just like I overcame mine,” Cohen added.
Brawny used the teacher’s story to inspire others, but being selected by Brawny for the “AmerICAN” campaign also inspired the educator himself.
“I love that I’m being recognized for just who I try to be every day,” Cohen said. “It empowers me. It reminds me the difference I’m making in our community, and I hope I continue to be a role model for our students.”