Brad Cohen is a motivational speaker and an award-winning teacher and author. He has a severe case of Tourette syndrome, described in his book, Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had. During his childhood, he was accused of being a troublemaker in school and was unfairly punished by his teachers. He decided to "become the teacher that he never had". After he graduated and received his certificate in teaching, twenty-four elementary schools rejected him before he finally got a job at Mountain View Elementary School in Cobb County, Georgia. As a new teacher, he won Teacher of the Year Award for the State of Georgia. Brad Cohen married Nancy Lazarus of Charleston, South Carolina on June 25 2006.
Brad grew up in St. Louis, Missouri in a Jewish family. His parents divorced during his early childhood. His mother was compassionate towards him, but his father did not understand Tourette syndrome. He often got frustrated with his son, and he would yell at him for making noises or physical convulsions. When his father moved away, they drifted apart.
Teachers did not understand Brad because they thought he was a mischievous student, due to the noises (tics) caused by his Tourette syndrome. His 5th grade teacher forced him to walk to the front of the classroom to apologize for the noises he made and promise that he would never do them again. He felt humiliated and decided that he would become the teacher he never had. He said, "I wanted to be the teacher who looked at strengths, not weaknesses."
In the beginning of his eighth grade year, his principal decided to let Brad speak to the school about his Tourette syndrome. Brad continued to speak in front of people about his Tourette syndrome, increasing his confidence and speaking skills.
Cohen attended Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, majoring in teacher education. He was discriminated against while attending Bradley, when he was kicked out of a local fast food restaurant due to his vocal tics. After his peers boycotted the restaurant, the manager anxiously apologized to Brad. Brad graduated cum laude with many academic honors.
Cohen moved to Atlanta, Georgia, in the 1990s to seek employment. He applied to numerous elementary schools for a teaching position. He interviewed with administrators, but his interviews were always punctuated by his tics. He was rejected twenty-four times befor Mountain View Elementary school hired him to teach second and third grades. He was awarded the Sallie Mae First Class Teacher of the Year in 1997.
Cohen is currently teaching second grade at Tritt Elementary School in the suburbs of Atlanta. At the beginning of each year, he teaches the students about his Tourette syndrome.
Brad has been active in several organizations. He has been featured in a public service announcement for the Tourette Syndrome Association. He also serves as the Vice President for the Tourette Syndrome Association of Georgia. He was a chairman of Relay for Life, a Little League coach, a MLB mascot, and has been recognized for his community involvement.
Cohen's book, Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had was published in 2005 with Lisa Wysocky. His book won the Independent Publisher Book Award for Best Education Book of 2005. Brad appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show on May 26, 2006.
- VanderWyk & Burnham Authors. Brad Cohen. Accessed 4 June 2006.
- Tourette Syndrome Association. Brad Cohen PSA (PDF). Accessed 4 January 2007.
- Tourette Syndrome Association. Front of the Class wins independent publisher award. Accessed 4 January 2007.
- The Oprah Winfrey Show. Against All Odds. Accessed 3 June 2006.