A Matter of Panache - an adventure story and portrayal of public education

tour special needs family

A Matter of Panache is a unique memoir that is both an adventure story taking readers from the most remote corners of Alaska, into the isolated canyon lands of southeastern Utah, and onto an army post in Colorado during the height of the crisis in Iraq.

It is a fascinating, sometimes shocking portrayal of some of public education’s greatest triumphs and most shameful failures.

The story is told as seen through the eyes of Debra Sanders, a woman who spent nearly twenty-five years championing for the rights of children with disabilities as an educational psychologist in some of our nation’s most challenging schools.

It isn’t often that I recommend a book like this to you, but then, it isn’t often that a book like this comes along! Well, this time I am recommending you something different and I will tell you why:

A Matter of Panache, upon initial glance, appears to be a memoir about a woman who sustained a head injury. Books on this topic are certainly likely to be inspirational and of course we like to support them. But rarely do I feel so strongly about books in the memoir genre that I would take the time to send them your way.

Why Panache? I can only tell you this: This is like no other memoir I have ever read.

Panache is somehow less about one particular woman and more about each of us. This author’s story goes right to the core of everyone’s personal struggle to walk away from the ease that accepting mediocrity brings. It is about accepting the challenges brought with living up to the values and expectations we have established for ourselves; and it is about finding the personal fortitude and courage to do so even when everything we thought predictable and clear, changes.

This is powerful stuff and I want everyone to read it!

The author, Debra Sanders, tells her story in a way that sucks you in from the first line where she, as a beginning school psychologist in a remote village in Alaska, finds herself at 3:00 in the morning, sleeping in an isolated school building, with an unknown number of very drunk intruders breaking into the school. Sanders’ only option seems to be jumping out a frozen window into a twenty foot snow bank, where despite immediately losing her hiking boot, she takes off running (sans boot) in the -20 temperature looking for help. It is a hilarious introduction to this self-confident and adventurous woman who later finds herself cowering to a powerful school administration that she believes is not only approaching the education of families with special needs with an endorsement of mediocrity, but in a manner that appears unethical at best, illegal at its worst.

Matter of Panache, Debra SandersWhat is so compelling about this story is that although Sanders had stood up and advocated for children for over twenty years in her role as an educational psychologist, by part three of the book she is no longer the award winning, highly respected educator she had become following that first introduction to her in Alaska. Instead, she is a woman with a newly acquired head injury, who for the first time in her career, questions if she has what it takes to stand up to the people in charge… people who can now dismiss her advocacy for change as the fodder of a woman no longer capable of being in her professional position.

What would you do if you suddenly woke up unable to think?

That is the “hook” line on the back of Sanders’ book and it is a good question. Don’t we all strive for living our life, present in the moment? Surely we all work hard to reduce our stress and embrace the values we determine important and spiritually relevant to living the life we believe we are put here to live. But what would we do if we no longer trusted our self to think?

In the words of one reviewer (see Amazon.com reviews):

“An author can never know the manner in which her words will affect a reader. In my case this story's effect on me was so profound that two months later I was standing on a frozen lake in Alaska, experiencing for myself the crisp, cold silence of the Arctic winter that she describes in part I of the book.

And I've returned two more times since then. But that is not the only impact this book had on me.

Debra's story is visceral and visual. It is big, broad, wonderful and wild, yet intimate, tender and warm. In reading Panache, I felt as if I had stood on the precipice with Debra, confronted demons and desk jockeys, retreated into darkness and desolation, felt her pain, loneliness, frustration, exceeding joy, and emerged transformed... soaring”

A Matter of Panache is actually three stories beautifully pieced together to create one stunning mosaic. It is the story of the educators and the educational system that sometimes fails the children it is there to serve and protect.

It is an insight into the life of a fiercely independent woman whose intelligence, humor, tenacity and tenderness are altered by the injury, and who discovers that “passion without panache” is a recipe for personal and professional, public and private disaster. And it is the story of the quirky, funny, fascinating and endearing children that Sanders cared about so deeply and of the lifelong friend whose battle with cancer serves as the catalyst for her leaving Alaska and setting into motion a series of events that take readers on a rollercoaster ride of emotion.

In the end, Panache is an odyssey, so beautifully written that the reader’s greatest regret is turning the last page and having to leave the world of this funny, intelligent, tender woman who both with and without panache, captures our fascination and perhaps even our hearts.

Anyone who cares about children, has been touched by the effects of injury to the brain—theirs or someone they know; anyone who has ever had to dig down and grit their teeth during times of enormous stress and/or adversity; and anyone who enjoys a provocative story that makes them think and question both themselves and others, will find this a worthwhile way to spend the time it takes to read.

Debra Sanders is a retired, nationally certified educational psychologist now living in Colorado with her two beloved, four-legged children. She considers herself still in the same business she was in for most of her life, but now she expresses energy and words on paper instead of in the hallways and classrooms of America’s schools.

I invite everyone to visit this author’s website at debrasanders.com and take advantage of the incredible bonus gifts being offered by me and by others who support the message behind the story of this remarkable book.

The story itself is compelling and you cannot help but love the wild, whacky, intelligent, funny and idiosyncratic children and families that Sanders presents as her story unfolds. But the real heart of this book is not so much in Sanders’ story, but in how by reading hers, we are able to give ourselves permission to look at our own.

Take advantage of the hundreds of dollars of free bonus gifts, by buying A Matter of Panache today at debrasanders.com. The bonus gifts are time-limited, so be sure to buy the book TODAY so that you can have access to the many ebooks, MP3s, workbooks, free consultations and fabulous other gifts offered as a way of showing support and saying thank you for your purchase of this unusual and inspiring book.

I encourage each of you to check out debrasanders.com in order to access your free gifts and purchase this very fine book - A Matter of Panache.

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