To say that Nancy Tedeschi, 59, was teased while growing up as a young kid in Miami and a teen in Saratoga, N.Y, is a bit of an understatement. Because of her bad overbite, she was bullied from about age 9 through high school.
“I was the kid whom everyone picked on, and I was the one who sat in the back of the classroom,” she says. Tedeschi, now the multimillionaire creator of SnapIt Eyeglass Repair Kit, admits that when the bullying began, she mentally detached from herself so she couldn’t feel the pain anymore.
As an adult, Tedeschi decided she didn’t want her experience to happen to other kids. So in 2010, she got involved in a program to spread awareness and stop bullying: The Don’t Wait Project’s “Don’t Wait to Unmake a Bully” Program, which has earned the Sage Colleges Champions of Character Award and endorsements from the Kids’ Coalition for Quality Children’s Media and The Anti-Defamation League.
The empowering program, launched by Mike Feurstein, goes into elementary, middle and high schools throughout the country. Students are taught to write and produce 60-second and 90-second films about their own bullying stories. Tedeschi helped get “Unmake a Bully” into New York schools where she lived.
An Empowering Program for Bullied Kids
The students are taught by professionals to do everything — writing, editing, sound — and then distribute the films to television stations and networks as Public Service Announcements. (To see some, go to the Don’t Wait to Unmake a Bully site.)
If you’re bullied at work, Tedeschi says: document every bullying event and then meet with the bully’s boss.
“Their powerful voices make these films,” says Tedeschi. “It really has cut out most of the bullying in the schools we have been in.”
It’s also important, Tedeschi believes, to figure out why kids are doing the bullying in the first place.
“There’s a reason that that kid is bullying, and it’s got to go deeper than the level at which you just say, ‘Go to detention.’ That’s never going to solve the problem,” she says. “I think if we teach that the bully is the one with the problem, and we can take the power away from him or her, the bully will retreat. That is the reason the program is called ‘Unmake a Bully.’ We have to educate the children not to give the bully the power he or she craves.”
In addition to working with Unmake a Bully, Tedeschi has spoken out against bullying at high schools and even colleges including University of Tampa and Bucknell University.
Bullying in the Workplace
She hopes to begin speaking to employers and their staffs about bullying as well because bullying happens in the workplace, too.
If you’re bullied at work, Tedeschi says: document every bullying event to have something in writing. Then meet with the bully’s boss to address each circumstance.
Sometimes, she notes, companies will make bullies take anger management classes.
From Victim to Business Success
Tedeschi credits her personal win over school bullying for helping her become so successful in business.
Throughout school, bullying caused her to have low self-esteem, little confidence and poor grades. A high school I.Q. test indicated she was borderline developmentally disabled. Tedeschi says that was a result of being bullied —she could barely read and write upon graduating from high school and didn’t speak up about it so she wouldn’t draw attention to herself. Her high school class voted her, “Least Likely to Succeed.”
After working various jobs, Tedeschi wanted to try college. At 26, she applied to a local community college in Troy, N.Y., but was rejected because of her bad high school grades. She was offered the opportunity to take remedial classes, though, and ultimately got in, graduating with a 4.0. Tedeschi then attended Albany State University and did well there, too.
After graduating, she took another I.Q. test. This time, the results had improved so much that her I.Q. was borderline MENSA. “What that bullying did to me was it took away who I was as a person,” says Tedeschi.
She began her career working as a mortgage originator and later owned a title insurance company. But her fame and fortune came as a result of trying to invent ornaments for eyeglasses. To make them, she had to keep removing and replacing their screws. That led to an epiphany and her invention of the SnapIt Eyeglass Repair Kit, whose time-saving screws have sold in the millions at Walmart, Walgreens, Office Depot and around the world.
Not bad for the “Least Likely to Succeed.”