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Elise Klein, friend, guide, teacher and mentor died recently.  She was a force to be reckoned with.  As President of Teachers Against Prejudice she constantly strove to make the world a better place through education. Elise Klein speaking out

A member of she was one of the founders of the Social Responsibility Caucus which she helped move forward to become a TESOL Interest Section. She was a presence at TESOL conferences and was slated to be on our Social Responsibility panel next March in Boston.  We’ll carry on in her memory, she wouldn’t have wanted us to waste time or energy on bereavement but to carry on the struggle.  This is what we will do.

It was a pleasure knowing her, it will remain a pleasure continuing the work she started which, unfortunately remains unfinished.  Where ever prejudice and discrimination rear their ugly heads work remains to be done.  Thank you Elise for showing us the way and reminding us that moral courage comes in many shapes and forms and that the power of a good teacher is to right wrongs and change through education.

Elise, you will be missed but your spirit will live on.

Pax et amare,




  1. Well said, rob.

    • OMG, rob, I didn’t know. I was a close friend and colleagues of Elise for over 10 years. I only heard today. What happened?

        • frothquaffer
        • Posted November 11, 2009 at 07:41
        • Permalink

        Hi Kate,
        this is what her partner David sent out to TAP:
        From: David Bedell
        Sent: Sun, November 8, 2009 2:37:16 AM
        Subject: passing of Elise Klein

        It is with great sadness that I have to report the death of Elise
        Klein, president and founder of Teachers Against Prejudice, as well as my partner of twelve years. She passed away suddenly on Wednesday
        evening due to a cardiovascular event.

        I believe most of us have come to TAP through our acquaintance with
        Elise. She had so many different circles of friends and colleagues
        who loved and respected her for who she was and what she did. Having
        lost most of her biological family by the time she was 30, she created
        a new family along the way, gathering members from many nations and
        all walks of life.

        Much of her professional life was spent teaching English to
        international students, starting in Germany and then for many years
        with ELS Language Centers in New York and New Haven, and also with
        American Language Academy in Portland, Oregon, and Boston. Many of
        you met Elise during one of her presentations at the annual
        conventions for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages
        (TESOL). It was while teaching classes full of students from many
        nations that Elise developed the concept of TAP, using popular media
        to spark discussion of prejudice and to bridge cultural differences.

        After starting TAP, she often worked with independent schools, and she
        spoke a few times at the National Association of Independent Schools
        People of Color Conference. Her work took her everywhere from
        Wisconsin to Texas to Hawaii to Brazil. Last month she gave the
        keynote address at a national conference of English teachers in
        Mexico, followed by two talks at the Mexican Supreme Court. Everywhere
        she traveled, Elise wanted to learn about local history and local
        culture, and she loved to bring back souvenirs if she could buy them
        directly from local artisans. She had a special affinity for Native
        American culture, and despite her busy work schedule, she managed to
        fit in vacations to Alaska, Utah, and South Dakota, combining visits
        to Indian reservations and visits to national parks.

        Elise was dedicated to interfaith cooperation and respect. Proud of
        her own Jewish traditions, for several years she ran a program for
        interfaith families in our local area, and one of her most treasured
        moments came two years ago when she received a Leadership Award from
        the Muhammad Islamic Center of Greater Hartford.

        She was also committed to justice for LGBT people. Just two weeks ago,
        she spoke at the New Jersey Gay-Straight Alliance Forum, on the
        subject of alliance building. When Connecticut legalized same-sex
        civil unions in 2005, Elise became a Justice of the Peace, and she was
        looking forward to speaking about same-sex ceremonies at a conference
        for Connecticut JPs this Saturday. Of all her many jobs, I think she
        enjoyed her work as a JP the most; she considered it a pleasure, not
        work, to bring together two people who love each other.

        Finally, and perhaps most important, she was a devoted mother to her
        son, David Wemhoener. When David was younger, Elise worked hard to
        make sure he got the best education possible, both in school and
        through travel and other experiences. I remember not long after I met
        Elise, she told me she just hoped to live long enough to see David
        graduate from high school. She got her wish, and in fact lived to see
        him graduate from college and enter graduate school. She was
        intensely proud of him, and she will live on through him and through
        everyone else her life has touched and inspired.

        Elise followed her passions and was doing everything she loved at the
        time of her death. TAP will never be the same without her, but I hope
        we will carry on TAP’s mission and continue as a community dedicated
        to combating prejudice.

        We are having a private burial, but are planning a public memorial
        service for Elise sometime in the spring, to which you will all be

        David Bedell

  2. Oh, what a terrible blow. Thanks for the wonderful obit for Elise, rob.

  3. ELise will always be remembered for her passion and her objectivity (except where prejudice or social injustice were encountered!). She inspired generations of students and teachers with her energy, her tenacity, and, as David intimated, her boundless love. It’s hard to imagine TSR, or TESOL, without her; without her critical input and her creativity and willingness to support others in pursuit of social justice.
    Yes, rob, we must have her presence felt – and her life celebrated – when we meet in March. VSJ

  4. Elise and I bonded as soon as we met through the YWCA in Greenwich when she was the Diversity Coordiator and we served on the Diversity Committee. We had some success in alerting our community to the pervasive racism and bigotry. Her contribution to our town was enormous. As she moved on to establish TAP we met often for an Indian meal and brainstorming in New Canaan although we had become a little lazy or too busy towards the end to maintain our ongoing friendship. We boldly asked for contributions to TAP events where others would fear to tread, but as she always said, if you don’t ask, you’ll never know and have nothing to lose. I treasure that advice and will incorporate it more boldly in her honour going forward.

  5. What sad news )’:
    I will never forget such a wise extraordinary lady. I will always remember those wonderful chances when we sat and chatted after school at ELS Newhaven. I met no one with that sweet and kind spirit! No Elise did not die, she was an angel on earth and just went back home to heaven, where she was supposed to be. God bless her soul.

    Miss you ) :
    Ahmed, Saudi Arabia

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