It’s not every day a Bradley alumnus’ name appears up in lights. But it’s not every day someone like Brad Cohen shows up on the scene.
Cohen, a 1996 graduate of Bradley, is the basis for the newest Hallmark Hall of Fame made-for-TV movie.
“Front of the Class,” the working title for the CBS production, will chronicle the life of Cohen and how he became the award-winning teacher he is today.
However, as with any good story, it was no easy task to get where he is.
Suffering from Tourette syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes physical tics in a person, Cohen was constantly ridiculed in school by his classmates. This all changed when an assembly at his school talked about Tourette’s and helped students and faculty understand more about the disorder.
Coming to Bradley hoping that things would change a little, Cohen found he would be facing the same challenges as he did in high school.
According to a Bradley Hilltopics article, during his freshman year in 1992, Cohen was thrown out of a restaurant in Campustown because of his tics.
“The manager told me to stop making noises or he’d call the police,” Cohen said.
After numerous student appeals and three Scout articles, Cohen received an apology from the restaurant.
He then went on to graduate from Bradley cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. From there, Cohen went to Georgia where he worked as a second and third grade teacher, as well as a technology lab instructor. He also attended Georgia State University, achieving a master’s degree in early childhood education.
In September 2005, Cohen released his first book, “Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had,” which told the story of his climb from outcast child to respected teacher.
“I always felt like the kid in the corner,” Cohen said. “I really needed support and acceptance from my teacher and didn’t get it. From then on, I knew that I wanted to be that teacher – one who would offer support and acceptance and really be there for each kid.”
And he lived up to his own expectations. In 1997, Cohen was Sallie Mae First Year Teacher of the Year for the state of Georgia. He said he considers it one of the greatest honors for a teacher.
Now, Cohen hopes to be able to reach out to more people with this movie. Airing Dec. 7 on CBS, Cohen’s story is one that is sure to reach out to viewers and prove that obstacles can be overcome.