Lakeview graduate “Classroom Clown” helps others as a school psychologist | News, Sports, Jobs


Photo submitted Diane M. Ross, originally from Cortland, is performing a comedy in Northern Virginia. Ross’s memoir “First Generation Normal” publishes on Thanksgiving Day.

CORTLAND – In a life full of improbabilities, half-hearted student Diane M. Ross has become the lady who motivates reluctant youth to love education.

“I was not a good student, a bit of a class clown, and I mainly played sports” said the graduate of Lakeview High School in 1990.

A county-wide athlete who played softball and basketball, Ross fondly remembers her childhood in Cortland and how she shaped her journey to become a school psychologist, comedian and author. Now the kid who couldn’t sit still has written a memoir with humorous stories about growing up and being shaped by life in Cortland.

“‘First Generation Normal’ was born because I thought my story would resonate with people – overcoming obstacles, working through family dynamics – all through storytelling and humor.” Ross, 49, said. “The book is partly stand-up, partly therapy. This is not a “how-to” book, but it guides a reader through my process of healing and emotional growth. “

When she couldn’t convince a publisher to bite into her fiction, she would sort through 30 years of journals and write about her own life.

“It was also right when I started doing improv and stand-up. I really started to write humor and people were laughing ”, Ross said. “So I offered Olympia a few stories, and they loved them and said right away that they wanted the full manuscript. I didn’t have a manuscript at all.

“I had stacks of paper all over the place for months. Every morning I would get up at 4 am and write until about 7:30 am. Then I would work until 3:30 am, then write for a few more hours.

“Finally, in November 2020, the publisher said I had 30 days to complete or they would move on. I submitted the final manuscript on December 18. It took about a year to get it out. Longest. Process. Already, “ she said.

“Normal first generation” publishes on Thanksgiving Day on olympiapublishers.com/books/first-generation-normal and Ross’s website, firstgenerationnormal.com, among other outlets.

“Completing this book is important to me because as an ADHD Gemini, things rarely end. “ Ross said. “A lot of things are starting. And restarted. But completing a task like this is quite an accomplishment for someone who still has to buy winter gloves that clip on so they don’t get lost.

CHILDHOOD

“My childhood in Cortland was idyllic in many ways. I had a lot of freedom and space to let loose ”, she said.

His parents, Jerry and Bonnie Ross, “Let us run and be free. “ After her parents divorced when she was 6, he ran into her older brother and older sister – the children themselves – from “to augment” her.

“I was a handful” Ross said. “I was arrested by Bazetta police when I was 8 for driving my kart on McCleary Jacoby Road. He happened to be the chief of police and also my great-uncle, whom I did not know at the time. I wore a motorcycle helmet, so I had a certain sense of security. Anyway, he followed me home with his lights on.

“I enjoyed skating on the Cortland Roller Rink, from which I was eventually kicked out after a very unfortunate incident involving a ‘skate chase’ with ground clearance. I was quite difficult to catch on foot, let alone the skates.

“I was so out there when I was a kid. I had a ton of energy ”, she said. “We had a fort in the woods. As soon as I got a bike and two wheels, I was everywhere.

“I spent a lot of time water skiing with my dad on Mosquito Lake”, she said. “He’s very much the character and the source of much of the book. He raised me (and my siblings) to be fiercely independent and genuine, although you will never find his parenting tactics in books on how to parent.

She also noted that she almost shared a name with singer Diana Ross, “which was not only a joke of a lifetime, but the bane of my existence. I can’t even pass airport security. without someone asking me if I’m singing.

“I went to school with a Michael Jackson, so throughout school, kindergarten to grade 12, it was Diana Ross and Michael Jackson.”

EDUCATION

“I was a very bad student. School was difficult. Ross said. “College was never a priority in my family or in any way, but at the very last minute I decided to give it a go.”

She enrolled at Youngstown State University to become, unlikely, a teacher.

“As a child, I felt like school was a fun sponge – it absorbed all my joy. And I wanted it to be different for other kids like me ”, she said.

Ross was replaced at Warren G. Harding High School. “I was actually terrible. They would call me at 5 am and say, “Do you want to work today? Nobody wants to work at 5 in the morning.

She held a full-time teaching position in the positive education program in Cleveland, where the worst of the worst students were sent. Ross said the main reason she got the job was her ability to stay calm no matter what.

“It was a complete baptism of fire. I was cursed and called names I didn’t even recognize. But I learned a lot of things and I grew up thanks to the experience ”, she said. “And I found out that I was really good at it.”

She graduated from Kent State University with a Masters in Special Education.

“After a very difficult divorce in 2000, I resigned my teaching job to become a United States Peace Corps volunteer. I gave everything – my car, my furniture, etc. – and I went to Africa ”, she said. She was an educational consultant on teaching students with disabilities.

“I was a terrible Peace Corps volunteer”, Ross said. “I couldn’t learn the language, I hadn’t prepared any skirts, which is a serious requirement, forcing me to wear a tablecloth at some point, because you can’t just get in a car to go to. Target and buy a skirt.

“Essentially, for about six consecutive months, I lived in a hut with a dirt floor, a thatched roof, and no running water or electricity. I became obsessed with the outhouse. The title of one of my chapters is “There is peace in the outhouse”. she said.

Eventually, she returned to school for the third time to become a school psychologist.

“I tend to work with the kind of kids that no one else wants, those who are kicked out of class, those who are close to being suspended.” Ross said. “It clicked in my head and I know their struggles. I guess the story here is that I finally became the person or thing I needed most in school.

“I had to overcome a bunch of obstacles, which are woven throughout the book. Most importantly, I had to learn to assimilate to a culture of rules and expectations when I didn’t grow up with such things. I was a kid on the loose, used to running wild and doing whatever I wanted. Life is not conducive to such things, so I had to learn restraint, compromise and patience.

“For a kid who hated school, I only worked in a school my entire adult life. This is my 26th year in public education ”, Ross said.

Ross now lives in Manassas, Virginia with his wife, Kim, and their two dogs, Camp and Kona. And if she’s not home, you’ll probably find her outside.

“Nature is my happiness. It’s calming. And that forces you to get out of your head because in the scheme of the universe, we are tiny, tiny things ”, she said. “I have been involved in mental health initiatives and serve on the board of directors of a nonprofit mental health organization here in the Northern Virginia area.

“And yes, I love bourbon. I got into serious business about five years ago and started collecting hard-to-find bottles during the pandemic. Some people bonded with family, explored new ones. talents, I just bought some bourbon.

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