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Lyman Hall Elementary teacher Neusa Wendt has been honored with the Georgia Association for Gifted Children’s Mary Frasier Equity & Excellence Award.
Wendt, a thirty-year educator, received the statewide award recognizing educators for exceptional work with gifted children from underrepresented groups, such as non-English speakers, minorities or economically disadvantaged students.
In a letter nominating Wendt for the prestigious award, Hall County Rigor Specialist Sally Krisel, who oversees the school system’s gifted program, describes Wendt as a "passionate advocate for equity and excellence."
Wendt authored the Building Resources for Intellectual Development and Guided Empowerment of Students program, a talent development program for English language learners better known as BRIDGES, at Lyman Hall. Wendt, who is fluent in English, Spanish and Portuguese, has been teaching gifted students, BRIDGES students and English for Speakers of Other Languages students at Lyman Hall since 1998.
The BRIDGES program identifies gifted Latino students who do not meet state Board of Education gifted standards because they have not mastered the English language. In the BRIDGES program, students are exposed to advanced content and gifted level programming designed to identify and teach Latino children who are intellectually advanced.
In addition to challenging Latino students, Wendt is adept at using technology and art to lure students into lessons, Krisel said.
According to Aaron Turpin, who is a former principal of Lyman Hall, Wendt’s BRIDGES program identified and served 75 Latino students, more than 10 percent of the school, in the 2007-2008 school year. In a letter to the award judging panel in support of Wendt, Turpin described Lyman Hall as a school in which 90 percent of the students receive English language learner services and 98 percent receive free or reduced lunches.
Krisel said Wendt is unable to accept the award in person Friday at Callaway Gardens because she recently returned to her native Brazil to be with her ailing father. But Krisel said there’s no doubt Wendt is deserving of the award that honors the memory of Mary Frasier, a University of Georgia education professor who died in 2005.
Krisel calls Frasier "an absolute giant in the field of education."
"She was my teacher, my major professor, my dear friend," Krisel said of Frasier.
Krisel said Frasier was a pioneer in developing practices that promote equitable identification procedures and high-quality gifted services to students from traditionally underrepresented groups.
"Neusa is such a fitting honoree because she really exemplifies what Mary taught us about looking at children with diverse backgrounds," Krisel said. "... There’s a profound effect Neusa has not just on the students she works with, but on the whole school."
Krisel said Wendt shares her teaching methods with other teachers in the school, in the county and in the state. In Hall County, Myers Elementary school has picked up Wendt’s BRIDGES program, and Sugar Hill Elementary may follow suit.