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SPOTLIGHT: Restaurateur, teacher create book

Associated Press Published: October 11, 2012

BUFFALO GROVE, Ill. (AP) — When Eileen Gold Kushner began working at a McDonald's 37 years ago, she was told she would never progress past making french fries and milkshakes. She always had trouble processing what she was learning, but never knew why until she was an adult.

Eventually, she took on the challenge of taking customers' orders.

With the help of her husband, Larry, Gold Kushner practiced at home with empty burger boxes and cups, adding up orders and giving change before the advent of computerized registers.

Diagnosed with a learning disability, she worked hard to overcome it, and 10 years after starting at McDonald's, the now 68-year-old moved from Detroit to Illinois and bought her own franchise.

"It took a lot of energy, a lot of time and a lot of pushing myself," Gold Kushner said.

Now the life story of the woman who lives in the Buffalo Grove area is the subject of a book. "Smart on the Inside" is co-written by a former special-education teacher and Cary resident Kathy Young.

Gold Kushner has severe processing disorder, which makes it difficult for her to process and retain what she is reading or learning. She said she still has to overcome it every day because reading, spelling and math are hard for her.

"Slowly I started to learn it," Gold Kushner said. "I took baby steps because baby steps become giant steps. That's how I learned."

Gold Kushner now owns three McDonald's franchises, one in Buffalo Grove, and two in Palatine.

Young, who is retired from District 300 and District 102, worked as a special-education teacher for fifth and sixth grade.

After reading a newspaper article about Gold Kushner, one of Young's students invited her to speak to the class.

Young and Gold Kushner have been friends ever since, and Gold Kushner was a regular speaker to Young's students.

For 16 years, Young's students created displays for bulletin boards that were displayed at one of Gold Kushner's restaurants. The displays discussed famous people who overcame learning disabilities: Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Woodrow Wilson and John F. Kennedy. They also covered strategies students can use for reading and writing to overcome their disabilities and process information better.

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