Saturday, December 17, 2016

"Long friendships are like jewels, polished over time to become beautiful and enduring." Celia Brayfield

The holiday season often provides opportunities to reconnect with friends, extended family, and colleagues, whom we do not always have the chance see throughout the rest of the year. I have been fortunate to attend two luncheon events in the past two weeks with my retired colleagues and friends from North Allegheny School District, where I taught for 35 years, and at both of those events, I spoke to my friends about how lucky we have been to have our wonderful friendships throughout the years. 

North Allegheny is a large district north of Pittsburgh, nationally acclaimed for its excellence in Education. High expectations are the norm for the district, the parents, the staff, and the students, a culture which I embraced upon my arrival to North Allegheny.  For years, the District has been number one in academics, sports, music, strings, science, ROTC, and more. The importance of being the best was totally embraced by the staff, and as colleagues, we worked together and held each other accountable to be the best teachers we could be.  But that is not the whole story. 

The teachers in my school were more than school friends. We ate lunch together, had coffee together, planned lessons together, had meetings, erc. in a single teachers' room for years.  (This changed after several renovations and the creation of department centers, which I believe hurt the climate of the building. I will save that for another post.) That room was the center of our collective universe; a place where everyone was welcomed and embraced.  I am thinking of how we cried together in that room at the loss of a colleague to suicide and others to cancer; how we decorated that room for baby showers and 40th birthday parties; how we planned "5th period luncheons" and everyone pitched in to make it all happen in a mere 30 minutes! Teacher friends had baby clothes exchanges in the teachers' room, and that room is even the place where I found out that my divorce from my first husband was final - from the three friends who drank coffee and read their morning newspapers 40 minutes before the students arrived.  I was thinking about all of these 35 years of memories when I was sitting at the tables for the luncheons..

We were so more than colleagues; we were true friends.  We helped each other through illnesses and divorces, new babies and burials.  We concocted amazing lessons and school activities, and we taught kids that there is no substitute for Excellence. We helped the needy with enthusiastic canned food drives that netted over 16,000 cans, and we made Christmas happen every year for hundreds of families who would have had no Christmas without our building.  We taught our students that by working as a team, great things can happen.  I was so lucky to belong to such a staff, and even luckier to have those friendships continue through the years. 

Even today, the friends from school continue to hold each other up. The friends helped me though the most difficult time of my life when my husband Scott was diagnosed with cancer, dying slowly for 30 months.  We help each other with issues of aging parents and Alzheimer's; spouses who are in failing health; children with issues and grandchildren on the spectrum. We have a "well of friendship" that has never gone dry, and is, in fact, replenished each time one of us is in need.  None of us has forgotten those bonds forged over our 35+ years teaching and working together, sharing both our triumphs and tragedies.

I hope that teachers reading this post are having the same wonderful experiences in your school buildings as we had in ours.  Life is so much better and enjoyable with true friends, which make even the hardships of life more endurable.  40 years later, our friendships are still going strong. 

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. Rittman Publishing, LLC ®

GRADY GETS GLASSES was the winner of Best New Children's Book 2016 from The Authors' Zone. For more information about The Authors' Zone, please visit  

Visit Dede's webpage for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER. Many colleges have made the book required readingSigned copies are available Dede is also a national speaker on The Three C's for Classroom success: Confidence, communication, and Creativity; Avoiding Teacher burnout; and many other inspirational topics. 

I LOVE writing. And I love writing children's books- my newest passion. Although it will be a ton of work, I am looking forward to selling my books.  Since I was a secondary teacher, I know that I have much to learn about elementary students, and I will have to follow my own advice and be my genuine self.  However, I also know that I am passionate about helping kids who have to wear glasses, and that GRADY GETS GLASSES sends a positive message. I am willing to work hard and do all the things that also made me a successful teacher for 37 years. I remain inspired! 

Elementary teachers in Western Pennsylvania and beyond - I am willing to come into your classroom in person or as a virtual field trip through a group called Field Trip Zoom.  Check them out! 

Teacher friends- let me know if you want me to read GRADY GETS GLASSES at your school. I am willing to come in to discuss the creative writing process, why writing is important, and personal fulfillment through writing, along with reading my book.  I would appreciate the exposure, and I would make signed copies available for purchase in your classrooms following the reading.  Please email me at  The website now has plush Grady bunnies for sale!

Please like Dede's new page Grady Gets Glasses for updates about her children's book. 

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