National Stuttering Association

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Craig CieslikHealth and History Teacher

    Craig Cieslik

    Coto de Caza, CA
    Health and History Teacher
    Alvord Unified School District

    Briefly describe your daily job duties.
    Teaching Health and History to high school students. This is my 25th year!

    As a person who stutters, share the most challenging part of your job.
    I explain to the students on day one that I’m a lifelong stutterer and we all struggle with things in life and I’m lucky I stutter. It could have been worse. I also teach students that most people who stutter don’t talk for a living, and I do. That they can also overcome any disability or fear that they have and pursue their dreams like I did.

    What are your long-term career aspirations?
    I have been married almost 12 years now, and have a 6 year old son. I have gone from coaching record-setting high school football teams to coaching 5 and 6-year olds in soccer and basketball. It’s been fun, and I joke that it’s not that much different than coaching high school kids! Maybe someday I will coach high school football again. I’ve been blessed beyond my wildest dreams from a young kid who was scared to talk because of my stutter to being able to have my dream job the past 25 years, travel the world with my wife, raise a child, and live in Orange County, California (one of the greatest places in the world!).

    Did you self-disclose your stuttering during the job hiring process?
    Yes, I am always upfront about it. I had the privilege to take a course on stuttering with Dr. Sheehan 30 years ago who was a pioneer in the stuttering field. She taught me to always come out and say ‘this is who you are’ to put everybody at ease. That way, people won’t guess or think you are nervous, which could impact your hire. I also joke around a lot about my speech. I will say, ‘I stutter, but I make up for it with good looks!’

    What is your proudest moment at your current company?
    Proudest moment was setting national records as the head coach of the football program. Like with my speech, we were underdogs and we outworked everybody else and did some amazing things. Lots of the records still stand over 10 years later.

    I’m also proud when students tell me how much they loved my class and how they get used to my stuttering and don’t even see me as a stutterer. I keep students at ease by joking about my speech and saying things like, ‘you can either listen to me stutter, or we can just do the work’.

    At one time I had to sue my district after some administrative discrimination and mocking due to my speech disability. I stood up for myself as I have always been taught, the judge ruled in my favor, and the district settled the case.

    Describe how stuttering makes you a better, more valued contributor at work.
    Ever since I was a child I felt I had to always prove myself and work harder then anybody else. By working hard and being good at school and sports I wasn’t judged by how I talked, rather I was judged on my skills. That gave me so much confidence to talk, to ask out a girl, etc., and also helped me to deal with kids who made fun of me or thought I was weird. I got great self esteem from working hard and having great parents and siblings who always encouraged me and didn’t cater to or feel bad for me. My siblings also never made fun of my speech problem which is pretty amazing and cool.

    What’s your best advice for people who stutter just entering the workplace and for those in a career striving to achieve greater success?
    You have to be upfront about and proud of your speech difference. I’m glad I stutter. It made me the person I am today, and it has made me popular in ways with people my entire life saying things like, ‘you know, that tall guy who stutters. Oh yes, Craig. That’s his name’. You have to be confident in your abilities. A lot of people may doubt you and even talk down to you, but it’s just a lack of education on their part. Be a team player and everything else will work itself out.