by Lisa Tome
Stavros Plagianakos was nervous.
He was minutes away from reading to a group of two and three-year olds and their parents and was reviewing the book - "The Firefighters' Thanksgiving" by Maribeth Boelts hoping he'd make it through.
Reading to children isn't a big challenge for many, but for Plagianakos it was a huge undertaking. He's not a parent and hasn't read to many children in his lifetime.
He also stutters and has since he was six.
"I should be okay. When you read, it triggers a different part of your brain. When I read or sing, I'm fine," he said.
Plagianakos, a School Resource Deputy who works for the Cecil Sheriff's Office and serves at Perryville High and its feeder schools, was invited to read at Bainbridge Elementary's weekly Toddler Time. He was hoping not to make any mistakes, but if he did, he was fully prepared to turn any flub into a teachable moment. "I think it's great to talk to the kids and let them know we're here for good stuff," said Plagianakos.
While he was paging through the book and waiting for his classroom appearance, Plagianakos stood in the hallway and talked about what it's like to have a speech impediment and be a role model.
He hasn't let his speech impediment impact his career. He said that sometimes, such as when he is teaching DARE to middle schoolers, it can be an important tool, especially if he is teaching about bullying, one of the topics in the DARE curriculum.
"I use my stutter as a teachable moment. I have a weird name and I stutter. It's perfect," he said.
He said he encourages students to close their eyes and then asks them to raise their hand if they've ever been bullied. "The kids buy into what I say about bullying because I have experienced it," he said.
He has also used his impediment in a number of ways.
"I had a DARE student who stutters. By the end of DARE she said 'if he (Plagianakos) can do it, I can do it'. It was really awesome," he said.
He has also met other students with similar issues. "They (students) see they can overcome. I'd love to do more of that. When you are a kid who is bullied, you think you are never going to be anybody. But just because I stutter doesn't mean I can't do anything," he said.
He said he has a strategy and offers it to students as advice. "I try to make fun of myself. I get it (bullying). I was there. I learned that if you go with it and make fun of yourself it takes away (the bully's) power," he said.
He paged through the book over and over, continuing to practice.
"There's a word 'sooty'. I know I'm not going to be able to say that," he said.
Once in the classroom, the uniformed deputy read the book flawlessly. He will read to another group of children later this week.