LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Devorah Ishakis

Position: Special Educator
School: Edison School
School District: Hazel Park Schools
City, State: Ferndale, MI

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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:

  • Creative
  • Unflappable
  • Dedicated
  • Humorous
  • Professional

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.'"

Comments (24)

I. Z. Posted 10 months ago

Ms. Ishakis is a LifeChanger! She is always focused on filling the needs of others and making them happy. She radiates positive energy and goes out of her way to help others, always with a smile. She does so much for her community and all those around her.

Yaakov Posted 11 months ago

As Mrs. Ishakis's son there is many things that I can attest to showing her fit for the nomination, but I will focus on a specific example that exemplifies care. For a significant amount of time, my mother worked within the same school system that I attended. During that entire time, I never knew who any of her students were. This school system at that period was not extremely large, and simply mathematically I must have known many of the students who my very own mother was helping, some of them were probably my classmates. If myself or any of my siblings would have known who my mother was helping it could possibly have been embarrassing for the student, and my mother scrupulously avoided this potential problem meticulously. The respect for others privacy that my mother displayed always amazed me. I believe it shows an aspect of great care and love for her students.

S. I. Posted 11 months ago

Mrs. Ishakis does a wonderful job at putting her students first, always ensuring that they are getting the education they deserve!

Debra B Rosenberg Posted 12 months ago

Devorah and I worked together for years. I always enjoyed her coming by and adding her tremendous insight to any situation. She is a great listener, easy to talk to, and cares about her employees and her students. I just adore her!

Adina Posted over a year ago

Ms. Ishakis is not only a kind and caring individual, she is also an astounding teacher. She gives each and every one of her students the care and attention they need. By doing so, she helps them grow.

Adina Posted over a year ago

There are no few words to describe Ms. Ishakis. Well there are. If you put together all the positive adjectives in the English dictionary. But not only is she all the positive adjectives in the dictionary, she is quite literally a LifeChanger. One of the many ways I know that Ms. Ishakis is a LifeChanger is the fact that she is always able to give each one of her students the care and attention that they need. By giving each of them the care and attention they need she is able to help them grow.

Andrea Andrea Golden Posted over a year ago

Devorah is a kind and caring individual who extends herself Beyond necessity. She finds creative and innovative ways to help her students understand their value and worth. Devorah makes her students feel cared for, she emphasis building relationships with them and makes it a priority to learn their individual needs, interests, and goals. Devorah strives to make a positive impact on her students and it shows in the success of her program.

Linda Ridgr Posted over a year ago

It is my pleasure to share my thoughts of Ms. Ishakis as "Life Changer of the year". I have known Ms. Ishakis for many years and my first impression of her was a calming presence, perfect for her position as coordinator of her current position. She has empathy and patience in working with participants who have diverse emotional and mental challenges. She is resourceful and has the ability to adapt quickly to difficult situations. She communicates well which helps her participants accomplish their goals. Ms. Ishakis is a joy to know and with her amazing, positive attitude is a perfect candidate for Life Changer of the Year.

Marc Sauer Posted over a year ago

Being a life changer necessitates traits that not only have potential for change but have been tried and produced definitive results. Devorah Ishakis is a true life changer. As a student she was always active and interacting with fellow students for the betterment of all. If it required studying with weaker students or being creative for classmates, she was there. That was true at every level of her education. Even Dr. Calvin Burnett, President of Coppins State University came to know Devorah Ishakis. It goes without saying that Dr. George Taylor, Chair, Special Education, Coppin State University, had the greatest respect for Ms. Ishakis. He was a mentor and followed her career. Dr. Taylor took special interest in his outstanding student and pushed her to excel. When it comes to striving to accomplish goals of a group, Devorah Ishakis is a real team player. Ask any teacher with whom she has worked and they form a choir of praise for Devorah. Ask any organization for which has volunteered and you will hear the same. Finally, ask any student throughout her teaching career how Ms. Ishakis has been a life changer. Hear how she cared and tried to make that student the very she could be. Yes, Devorah Ishakis was, is, and will be a life changer for every life she touches.

Channah Sauer Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Ishakis' ability help others be the best they can be takes many different forms. She has gone to bat in court for students who need special services pro bono. I have seen her give advice and time to community members who need help. Her creative way of suggesting solutions to problems and help implement the solution is beautiful. She has a special way of making the person think he came up with the idea so the person feels good about himself. I don't know how she does it, but Mrs. Ishakis knows who needs a hug, phone call, smile, or a listening ear and is there to give it. She has been a life changer for so very many people!

Nechama Goldman Posted over a year ago

I remember when Devorah was in college to get her degree. She worked passionately to ensure she could gain all she can to help people with special needs. Now, many many years later her passion has not stopped. It is truly amazing to see how an individual can have such a drive to make a difference in a life. Her understanding of people with differences is very unusual. She does not stop until she can pin point how to make the person succeed. The world needs more Devorah Ishakis’ to help the special needs children.

Mrs. Blau Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Iskakis has been an incredible role model to me! She has the able to reach all her students no matter what level or disability they have!! Thank you Mrs. Ishakis for being an amazing role model to all of us!!

Fern Herschfus Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Ishakis has an innate ability to understand the individual needs of her students and through her creativity and genuine compassion she is able to help her students access their maximum potential.

Michael Scott Posted over a year ago

Devorah Ishakis is a wonderful person! She is truly caring person that supports and helps with special needs adults. She has been working with my daughter Cassie for 2 to 3 years now and I have seen good changes with Cassie. Her nutritional habits have improved and getting her motivated to accomplish tasks has improved while working with Devorah. Cassie has always been kind person and working with Devorah has encouraged and enhanced her kindness. Blessings on Devorah Ishakis!

Steave Goldberg Posted over a year ago

We love Mrs Ishakis. She is a great role modal to our family not just in the school also in our community. Thank you Mrs Ishakis

Stan smith Posted over a year ago

Mrs Ishakis is a great teacher and mentor. I and my kids enjoy being around her and learning from her. She has gone above and beyond to help us not just in teaching but in the community

Sam Posted over a year ago

Mrs Ishakis is a great person. She is a great educator.

S s Posted over a year ago

Great person and great educator

S Posted over a year ago

Amazing vibrate teacher and educator

Sara Cohen Posted over a year ago

Mrs.Ishakis is a teacher who goes above and beyond in all that she does in the ECC. And she is a true lifechanger.

Mrs. Muszkat Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Ishakis has a unique talent of knowing how to make each person she interacts with feel like the most important person in the room. And always with a sense of humor! I would not be the person I am today if not for her! She has taught me so much!

Marci Lebenbom Posted over a year ago

Mrs Ishakis is the most dedicated , creative and fun teacher I know. She taught my kids many years ago and they still have great memories of her. She truly wants the best for her students .

Joy Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Ishakis is an extraordinarily dedicated instructor. She takes what she does to help her participants with passion and care.

Cassandra Scott Posted over a year ago

I like Mrs. Ishakis as a person and teacher. She is smart and fun. We do a lot of work in ECC. Mrs. Ishakis makes things exciting for us. Thank you for all you do!