WAUSAU (WAOW) -
A Wausau school administrator is saying goodbye to her passion.
After more than 30 years in education, Nell Anderson begins a new chapter in her life, retirement.
In a new Newsline 9 special segment, Nancy Yousef sits down with Anderson as she calls it a career.
"Today is my last day, I'm giving everybody hugs," said Nell Anderson, the former Director of Elementary Education for the Wausau School District.
A bittersweet day for 63 year old Nell Anderson, as she says her round of goodbyes.
"I'm going around saying goodbye to everybody," said Anderson.
Anderson played a key role when Wausau suddenly had a new population of students who couldn't speak English. That challenge changed her career. The journey began in 1977.
"I was an English teacher over at Wausau West High School and one of the counselors came up to me and said Nell I've got this Hmong boy from Laos and can you help him learn English," said Anderson.
She said yes. Opening her eyes to the world of teaching English as a second language, also known as ESL.
"When first son was born, I stayed home with him, we adopted a daughter and than we went overseas for two years and when we were overseas that's when I was put in charge of the English as a second language program," she said.
When Anderson came back to Wisconsin, she earned her ESL certification at UW-Stevens Point. In 1988, she began teaching ESL at Lincoln Elementary School in Wausau.
"That's kinda right when the Hmong refugee population started to really grow in the Wausau area," said Anderson.
Changes in the community meant changes in the classroom.
"The ownership of the child has to belong to everybody in the building and it can't be just the ESL teacher down the hall and that's kind of the method we were using and we figured no, we've got to figure out a better way of doing it," she said.
And they did. In 1990, Anderson became the coordinator director of the ESL program for the Wausau School District.
"I wrote quite a few grants that would fund classroom teachers to get that ESL certification. Since 1995, we have required all of our pre-k through 5th grade teachers as they come in to get assigned to teach a classroom have to get that ESL certification."
Anderson's hard work and dedication resulted in the district promoting her to the director of elementary education. That meant leaving classroom teaching behind.
"It was hard for me to leave the classroom when I did leave the classroom, but you realize you may make a greater impact on education opportunities for children if you can get some of the paper work and logistics of making it happen," said Anderson.
But she says what she loved most about the job was the connection she made with the students.
"Ways to be able to bring children the way of learning and coming to schools and seeing the kids and seeing them react to what you have to say, it's fun," said said.
Something a former student understands.
"Having come to the United States in the late 80's without speaking a word of english its because of ESL or ELL teachers like Nell who really inspired and really had the patience to work with Hmong students so that we can establish that proficiency in our English," said Nells former student, Yauo Yang.
Now Yauo Yang is a 6th grade social studies teacher at D.C. Everest Middle School and is a summer school principal at Lincoln Elementary.
"It's been a very good journey to come back here and be able to inspire young people like what you used to do for us," said Yang.
Now it has come full circle. As Nell Anderson walks the halls of Lincoln Elementary and Wausau West High School saying goodbye.
To students, to teachers, and to her passion.
"You walk out the doors but you know there are phenomenal people that will be able to carry on," said Anderson.
Carrying on a legacy that started out with the simple notion of helping a child learn English.
Anderson says retirement means moving to a lake home in the western part of the state with her husband. She says they have a couple of trips planned and can't wait to spend more time with their four children.