About Damian Nesser Ed.D

Host:  @dr.n.LIACpodcast

1. Birth-20 Years

In 1967, my family took a vacation in the Catskill Mountains (i.e. Southeastern N.Y. State) and one afternoon, while my parents, Joseph (Lebanese) and my pregnant mother, Celia (Italian) were dancing to Frank Sinatra’s ‘Fly Me To The Moon’,  my mother’s water broke! The family (i.e. immediate & cousins) jumped into their ‘smoke ridden’ cars (i.e. most smoked) and rushed to the Catskill Hospital. Once they arrived, Celia didn’t feel comfortable with the atmosphere and the ‘vibes’ of the doctors so she insisted to be driven back to Rochester, N.Y. via Hyland Hospital. Once they arrived, doctors chose to utilize ‘forceps’ instead of doing a cesarian; my birth was a two-month premature miracle because my mom lost two previous babies due to still born/miscarriage.

Initially, the doctors at Highland Hospital didn’t believe I would survive and stated, ‘I was a tenacious fighter!’ When I was almost three years old, my parents had a neurologist watch me play with blocks and he stated, ‘your son is very intelligent but he has a mild case of Cerebral Palsy and may have various issues to overcome!’

Shortly after this observation, I had an operation on my right heel so that I could walk straighter. As a result of my CP, the right side of my body is slightly smaller than the left. Also, I have limited motor skill agility in my right hand. To improve my right hand’s motor skills, my parents made me take guitar lessons for two years. This continuous finger motion increased my agility and I gained confidence while eating utilizing my right hand. I’m a natural ‘southpaw.’

At St. Louis School (i.e. Pittsford, N.Y.), in first grade, I rushed through my classwork and homework throughout this school year and as a result, I had to repeat the first grade with my favorite teacher, Mrs. Gallea. In the fall of that year, I had to line up in the first-grade line instead of lining up with my best friends in the second-grade line. This devastated my confidence level and it seemed like I would never advance to the next grade!

In sixth grade, I had Mrs. Gallea a third time and I was excited because we had a great rapport with one another. My mother, Celia was the ‘class mom’ who became the teacher assistant twice a week when she finished at Style-O-Rama Hair Salon, a family owned business for 40 years. Her real purpose was to keep an eye on my reading and math progress. I was in the ‘low group’ for both classes and I became very insecure about school. My best friends were in the ‘high group’ for math/reading. Today, this would be referred to as Intensive Math/Reading classes.  The only reason I looked forward to 6th grade was because I was one of the captains our undefeated basketball team and started at point guard.

In eighth grade, our basketball team went undefeated 10-0 just like our 6th grade year. The greatest fear that loomed consistently in my mind was taking the McQuaid High School Entrance Exam. My three older brothers attended this Jesuit School and one attended Pittsford Sutherland H.S. The day arrived when I took the exam and I failed it miserably, one of the lowest scores in their school’s history! I was and still am a terrible test taker. Mr. Bunce, one of the administrators allowed me to be ‘on probation throughout my freshman year’ to prove that I could keep up with 2-3 hours of homework per night. I maintained a 80% average while starting on the basketball team with my then, b-ball arch rival, Wakili who became one of my best friends. Ironically enough, he is a principal in Rochester, N.Y. and he will be an honored guest on one of my Podcast episodes.

After completing my sophomore year, I wanted to transfer to Pittsford Sutherland H.S. because I knew the classwork at McQuaid would become very intensified and I didn’t want to face this ‘stressor’ on a daily basis. The following fall, I attended Pittsford Sutherland H.S. against my parents’ wishes; one other brother attended 10 years earlier. In the fall of my junior year, I was kicked off the varsity basketball team for skipping practice due to ‘skipping school and partying with my friends'. The next two years became a downward spiral of smoking marijuana and drinking with my pool table buddies. During this two-year period, I became more depressed as result of not placing importance on my grades and not desiring to go to college. One evening that summer a friend and I decided to not go to The New Edition Concert and sell our tickets on the street. We came across the ‘gang members’ who stole our tickets and stabbed my friend in the leg. I had to take off my shirt and wrap it around his leg to slow down the bleeding. When we were in the emergency room, my friend’s mom came into the emergency room and looking at us with tears in her eyes and stated, ‘God spared your lives tonight!’ This was a turning point in my life.

After graduating from Pittsford Sutherland H.S., my life was at a crossroad because I didn’t want to remain in school.  During the summer of July 1986 at eighteen years old, I was invited to Maranatha Fellowship Church in Farmington, N.Y. After attending various services, I found my faith that has anchored my life for the past 34 years.

2. 20 Years-30 years

After completing my associate degree at Monroe Community College, I told my parents and brothers that I was not going to continue for my bachelors. After a plethora of arguments, I gave in! I enrolled at Roberts Wesleyan College in North Chili, N.Y. in the Business Administration Program. Throughout my two years, I developed two key relationships with my friend, Jeff and Mr. Haseltine, my Economics Professor. I was failing in my accounting/economics classes and Mr. Haseltine noticed ‘the stress on my face’ and asked me to go to lunch with him in the café after class. I thought he was going to give me a huge lecture on why it was important to remain in school etc. He told me about his 23 year-old daughter that was driving to Geneseo State College in N.Y. on a rainy day and she lost control of her car. The car proceeded to smash into the guard rail and rolled down the side of a large hill. She died on impact. As tears flowed down his face, he said, ‘Life is too short!’ I told him I would complete my degree.

After graduating, I accepted a job in collections with Chase Manhattan Bank and within three years, I was promoted into a management program. During the following two years, I was being trained in all the various positions within our branch office system. I wasn’t content remaining a banker. After doing some soul-searching, I decided to resign from the bank and take a month off and travel to Israel/Egypt for one month.

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(left to right) My uncle Robert, me, brother Matt, Cousin Amir in Beruit, Lebanon

The Israeli and Egyptian authorities detained me at their airports because they questioned me concerning my extensive travel to several countries assisting churches/schools. While in Cairo, Egypt, my friend, Pastor Ron and I decided to climb one of the Pyramids of Giza. The guards were paid $100 U.S. dollars for allowing us to climb a pyramid at 1 a.m. our final evening. We climbed half-way up and stopped because one of the guards told us to climb down, lol! My plane from Israel returning home was delayed because the Israeli airport police decided to not allow me to take all my presents and pictures for my family back to N.Y. Finally, at 4.a.m I walked down the isle of the jumbo jet and I could feel the ‘passengers piercing me with their stares’ as if to say, how dare you! I felt like ‘Linus on Peanuts’ trying to find an available seat and the only things I had were the clothes on my back, a blanket and my sandals! Lol.

My experiences of traveling to several countries in my 20’s enlightened me to how other individuals from various cultures live their daily lives. As a matter of fact, I dined in a restaurant during a Nile River Cruise in Egypt and I ate one of their delicacies, ‘grilled pigeon.’ Lol.  It tasted like the Lebanese chicken that my mother, Celia made for the Nesser Tribe of five boys. My mother exposed us to a plethora of Italian, Lebanese, Chinese, Greek and Spanish dishes growing up.

3. 30 years-present

After returning from the Middle East, I decided to venture into the education profession, and I took a job as a paraprofessional at a middle school in the Rochester City School District. The district paid for half of my Elementary Education Master’s Program. As destiny and fate would have it, I met a teaching tandem, Tom/Gail (i.e. husband/wife) and they assisted me in the process of being tested by the school psychologist and confirmed my ADHD.  As a result, this allowed me to gain extra time on my N.Y. State Teaching Exams and without such accommodations, I wouldn’t have passed my state boards.

With that said, one night I went out to a birthday party at a restaurant. I made a ‘horrific choice to drive home.’ The police pulled me over for not staying in my lane and long story short, I was found guilty of a DWAI (i.e. Driving While Ability Impaired; a violation in NY State). Shortly after going through the course work and doing a lot of reflecting concerning making better decisions, my father, Joseph was diagnosed with Lymph Nodes Cancer. On the ‘catastrophic day, via 9/11’ my father was receiving chemotherapy and we watched as the World Trade Centers were struck by terrorist ridden planes. This was the only time I witnessed my ‘street wise’ father cry. This revealed my father’s caring heart and I realized more than ever, I needed to ‘give back’ daily. John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach from U.C.L.A. stated, ‘You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will NEVER be able to repay you.’

A few years later, my father passed away from his battle with cancer and with only a two-day notice for his funeral at St. Louis Church, there were more than 1,500 people from all over the country who attended his funeral. As I sat in the pew waiting for the service to commence, an older woman came up to me and gave her condolences. I didn’t recognize her but I stood up and immediately hugged me. I hadn’t seen her in 38 years, it was Mrs. Gallea, my first grade and sixth grade teacher! Wow. Talk about a teacher with a loving heart, enough said. A week later, my dear friend Cathy, a Chef in Nashville, TN called me to consider interviewing for a nanny/teacher job for Wynona Judd’s kids, Grace (i.e. second grade) and Elijah (i.e. third grade).  I flew down for the unconventional interview which consisted of: riding go-carts, riding a horse, playing card games, meeting the family and spending time with Cathy so that she could give me insight on what a typical day would be like wearing two hats. After spending time with Wy and her amazing manager, Keri, I accepted the two-year position. It was an incredible experience and as a matter of fact, Elijah is getting married soon! Wow, time flies so make each day count!

In 2007, I moved to Florida to be close to my brother, Matt and his family as well as accept a fifth-grade teaching job at Palm View Elementary. Over the last 13 years, I’ve worked as an ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages), Gifted teacher at Kinnan Elementary, School Counselor at Southeast HS, a Middle School Counselor at Azalea MS (i.e. low performing and difficult/diverse student population) and currently a Student Support Specialist at King M.S. (i.e. Dean/School Counselor roles). Two years ago, I completed my Doctorate in Teacher Leadership at Argosy University.

Finally, no matter what role and or circumstance I found myself in, I’ve always followed these leadership principles: Knowledge, Commitment and Passion!

Furthermore, this leadership philosophy gave me the courage to ‘step out' and take over the role of Marketing Director of Patty’s Peppers LLC and become a vital segment of this wonderful company.  As a result, over the past 2 ½ years of making our presence known on FB/IG, I’ve developed a rapport with a plethora of foodie/wellness influencers. The wellness influencers motivated me to lose 70 pounds by cycling  and changing my diet.

With that said, several influencers encouraged me to launch the dr.n.liac.podcast on Apple Podcast platform where the focus will be to facilitate engaging conversations with experts from both professions which will allow me to ‘give back’ to a diversified listening/viewing audience.

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