Wendy Brandt is a teacher’s teacher. Described by her colleagues as a gifted and humble leader who has supported teachers for more than 20 years in her various roles as a mentor teacher, consulting teacher and New Teacher Program Specialist, Brandt recently was selected the Whittier Union High School District’s Teacher of the Year for 2012-13.
“Without a doubt, Wendy’s impact on new and veteran teachers throughout her career has been exceptional, and thus, in an indirect manner, she has positively impacted many students beyond those in her classroom,” said Whittier Union High School District Superintendent Sandra Thorstenson.
As the district’s New Teacher Program Specialist, Brandt facilitates the professional growth of the district’s new teachers and has been instrumental in welcoming teachers into the district. With her help, the district created a special teacher training program called Teacher Power that has assisted teachers for two decades. She is also a part-time teacher at Santa Fe High School, teaching physical education and guided studies.
“I’m really very humbled and overwhelmed by this award,” Brandt said. “My teaching and mentoring assignments afford me the best of both worlds – I am a teacher of students and a teacher of teachers.
“With an open mind, patience, and a good sense of humor, I am blessed to serve as a teacher and support my students and fellow colleagues,” Brandt added.
Brandt is often sought out by district and school administrators as well as teachers for her wisdom and insight into teaching as well as her extraordinary human spirit, Thorstenson said.
“Wendy Brandt is, both formally and informally, a mentor for so many and I count myself among those fortunate to be influenced by her,” Thorstenson said. “Wendy is a highly deserving recipient of the Teacher of the Year award for her selfless leadership and inspiration.”
“Wendy keeps her eyes focused on her new teachers and what they need to accomplish, but also lends a helping hand in any way she can,” said David Chavez, a biology teacher at Santa Fe High School. “She stresses professional improvement and expects high-quality work yet does so while providing support and a sense of humor when needed.”
“As a first-year teacher, Wendy’s support was great,” said Dyan Acevedo, a Pioneer High School teacher, who is now in her second year as a full-time educator. “She helped provide me with strategies and procedures that I’ve incorporated into my classroom.”
Michele Jones counts Brandt as her first mentor. Jones has worked with Brandt for 15 years and is a district new teacher advisor, instructional coach, and Chair of the Social Sciences Department at Santa Fe High School. She said watching Brandt work with new teachers inspired her to become a new teacher advisor herself.
“Wendy has this amazing ability to gently and compassionately work with new teachers to help them find their areas of growth and guide them to where they need to be,” Jones said. “She makes it her goal to see that new teachers find success and she does it in a way that builds trust and respect that filters down to other students and teachers.”
Brandt also is appreciated for her leadership as a teacher in Santa Fe High School’s Guided Studies and Physical Education programs. She has been instrumental in organizing and implementing Santa Fe’s Fitness Testing program, through which students consistently achieve high scores. In Guided Studies, Brandt provides students who need extra support with the essential skills and motivation they need to be successful in high school and college.
Her contributions to education go beyond Whittier Union. During the last few years, Brandt has played a vital role in the professional development of countless educators across Los Angeles County as a focus team member for the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment Program (BTSA). She has been instrumental in editing and improving the BTSA induction process and often trains teachers in other districts as a part of her work for LACOE.
Whittier Union stands as a constant reference for other school districts within the LACOE consortium because of Brandt’s leadership, input and demonstration of Whittier Union’s successes, Jones said.
“Wendy has a vision for creating, organizing and simplifying processes that makes the lives of new teachers so much easier,” Jones said. “When you’re looking at the giant mountain called your first year of teaching, Wendy gives you the resources you need to make it to the top.”