Devorah Ishakis was nominated by her spouse, Ieshula Ishakis.
Ms. Ishakis can't be distilled into three words, but there are many character traits that make her great at what she does. Ms. Ishakis is:
Special education was Ms. Ishakis' passion long before she entered the profession as a new teacher 30 years ago. One of her siblings learned differently, and special educators profoundly impacted his life. They helped him develop the skills necessary for continuous growth, ultimately making him the successful husband, father, and business owner he is today.
A special educator must possess significant patience, empathy, and creativity. These are traits that define Ms. Ishakis's character.
Two years ago, she took over the leadership of the Edison Career Center. The program focuses on helping emotionally impaired 18-26 years olds develop skills and understand the opportunities available to them as they transition from school to the work world. Ms. Ishakis treats them as adults and insists they be referred to as participants, not students.
Ms. Ishakis has initiated a rigorous yet stimulating program, including field trips to potential job opportunities. One such trip was a behind-the-scenes tour of Detroit Metro Airport. The participants observed the performance of the many jobs that make the airport run while getting up close and personal with actual planes on the tarmac.
Ms. Ishakis has expanded the program's micro-businesses from a single bagel cart to include smoothies, soups, rolls, and other culinary delights. She guides the participants as they develop shopping lists, travel to the stores to do the shopping, prepare the food, take the orders, and make deliveries. The program assists the participants in developing responsibility and hands-on knowledge of business operations.
Ms. Ishakis employs creative methodologies to address each participant's needs and get the participants to keep their eye on the goal so that they achieve personally satisfying accomplishments. Some participants do not have the best home situations and sometimes need help with what to eat. She observes a strict kosher diet and, as such, needs to bring along her own food, a fact that the students noticed and are sensitive to.
One of the program participants had a part-time job working security and was assigned to the Detroit Auto Show. The program took a trip to the show at a time that this participant was working. When the program group met with him, Ms. Ishakis noticed that something wasn't right with him and asked if he had eaten that day; when he answered that he had not, she offered him her food. The participant knew that if he accepted the food, she would not have what to eat and initially refused. Ms. Ishakis insisted, and once he ate, he felt better and went about his work with renewed vigor. This experience is just one of many examples of Ms. Ishakis showing human empathy.
"While the above is not a major act, it's the little things that add up," said Ieshula. "The participants are observant and know that Ms. Ishakis cares. That, I believe, is the 'secret sauce' that allows her to connect with the participants and why they respect her, even when she must be firm, and why she is truly a 'LifeChanger.'"