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Tierney Cahill Nevada
Tierney Cahill

A mother of three and sixth-grade teacher at Sarah Winnemucca Elementary School in Reno, Nevada, Tierney Cahill did not expect herself to become politically active. Her expectations changed however, when teaching her students a simple civics lesson on how elections and the government work.

After telling her students that any American can run for political office, they disagreed, and said that they didn't believe "normal" Americans could be a legitimate candidate. They challenged her to prove that ordinary Americans can run for office, and in order to inspire her students, she dedicated herself to running for the District 2 Congressional seat.

Cahill ran as a Democrat, and to her surprise, beat the other Democratic candidates to take on Republican incumbent Jim Gibbons. While she did not have a lot of money for her campaign, she threw herself whole-heartedly into the race, talking about the important issues - education, mental health and nuclear waste.

In spite of the vast difference in campaign budgets between Cahill and Gibbons ($7,000 to $320,000), Cahill received an unexpected 34% of the vote. Although she lost, she succeeded in teaching her students the value of civic duty. On the night of the election, with her students in tears by her side, she said, "Think about why we did this and what we did. Can an everyday American run for office? Yes. We have lots to be proud of."

Cahill's story is the subject of an upcoming film, Class Act, starring Halle Berry and written and directed by Doug Atchison. Her personal memoir, Ms. Cahill for Congress, was published in 2008 by Random House. She has also been featured in the nationally-published book, Teachers: The Enlightened, the Exceptional, the Extraordinary. Her story is a true inspiration - not only showing the value of education and civic duty, but because it shows that one person can change the lives of others. She is highly energetic, humorous, and motivating, and has made a true impact on the world of education.


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  • Ms. Cahill for Congress: Stepping Up to the Challenge - For many years, Tierney Cahill lived with fear: fear of not making it month to month financially, fear of not having enough time, fear of not having enough for her family, and fear that she could never change her life. As a teacher, she promised her students on a regular basis that they could become anything they dreamed, as long as they took responsibility for their lives. In 2000, while talking to her students about democracy, her students challenged her to run for office and prove to them that any normal person could do it. They forced Cahill to take responsibility for her life, and take steps that would forever change her. Cahill's goal is to inspire others and break down walls of self doubt, encouraging others to live their destiny and step up to the challenge. By being called upon by her students, Cahill now lives without fear, ready to face any challenge!
Ms. Cahill for Congress
Ms. Cahill for Congress: One Fearless Teacher, Her Sixth-Grade Class, and the Election That Changed Their Lives Forever

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