Nora Cietek with a graduating studentI write this based on my personal experience. My daughter, who is now 22 and a high school graduate, was diagnosed with ADHD at a very young age. The schools in Schenectady were aware of this, and my goal and plan was to work very close with the schools throughout her academic career to ensure her special needs were met, and she was able to attain a good education. However, what I experienced from the schools was not that, meeting after meeting for her entire academic life, I was told about her “behaviors” although her behaviors were actually symptoms of her diagnosis as I attempted to inform the schools, counselors, teachers of this.

While my daughter was in Middle School we received a blessing by the name of Mrs. Cietek. She saw and heard my daughter yelling and running in the hallway, and she stopped her and spoke WITH her, not at her; from that point on, she helped my daughter, and she advocated for my daughter with me. Mrs. Cietek was the ONLY person in the district who stopped and actually heard and saw my daughter and heard me and listened to me. For the first time, my daughter had a voice at school, and she wasn’t the “bad child” that she was labeled.

As a result of my daughter’s academic career, she has some other issues stemming from being in trouble at school being spoken down to by the “professionals” that “worked” with her. I believe that had it not been for Mrs. Cietek, my daughter would not have graduated from High School and continue to go to College. Mrs. Cietek saw, heard, and listened to my daughter for the first time, and my daughter had a voice; I had a voice.

Mrs. Cietek is a dedicated professional who genuinely cares about the children and helps to provide them with a good education. She listens and doesn’t label them. She looked at my daughter how I see her not as a mental health diagnosis, not as a “bad child,” but as a beautiful, smart, caring young woman that she was and is. I accredit most of my daughter’s success to Mrs. Cietek for giving her a voice and advocating for her. The takeaway from this is that if you want a caring, dedicated professional with many years of experience working with a diverse population of children, it is Mrs. Cietek.

~ Dinah S.