LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Amanda Goeller

Position: ESL Family Outreach Specialist
School: West Hartford Public Schools
School District: West Hartford Public Schools
City, State: West Hartford , CT

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Amanda Goeller was nominated by her colleagues. 

Every child deserves nurturing adults in their lives.  Ms. Goeller is the epitome of an exceptional educator by profession, and a natural-born humanitarian by personal mission. In her role, she embodies an uncompromising vision for excellence without exception for each and every student.  She brings a unique background, art, and science to cultivating relationships that foster positive outcomes for students, staff, and families. She not only provides high quality services, support, and resources that students deserve, but she provides the genuine care and passion for human welfare that all children need to thrive.

"The exemplary contributions that Amanda makes to West Hartford Public Schools make us all proud and grateful," said Haskins. "The far-reaching influence she has had on the lives of children and adults in our community make her a LifeChanger."

There is no instructional manual for how to show compassion toward others in the face of adversity, despair, loss, fear, grief, or uncertainty. Ms. Goeller demonstrates an innate spirit of care and cultural competence in her interactions with others, especially during times when understanding, patience and respect are most needed. Her role involves outreach to new immigrant students and families who are learning to navigate systems, despite language and cultural barriers. It can often be awkward to probe into the personal lives of families to better understand their needs or to answer their questions. However, Ms. Goeller's patient, compassionate spirit builds trust, brings comfort, and preserves human dignity during times of challenge and change. She's a real LifeChanger because she doesn't just do what is required. She does what's necessary, even when that means extending herself beyond her scheduled work days and hours. 

There is a multitude of evidence that reflects the ways in which Ms. Goeller has changed the lives of people in which she has been entrusted, guiding them through complex, confusing systems. One notable example includes a time when she provided guidance and support for a middle school student with undiagnosed hearing loss. This student had spent most of her life with impacted hearing, and a teacher had requested Ms. Goeller's involvement. Ms. Goeller not only served as the primary contact between the family and school, but she also accompanied the family to many appointments for testing throughout the diagnosis and treatment process. She did not allow medical costs to be a deterrent for the family. She led a school fundraiser, which helped the family purchase hearing aids for their child. Seeing the student’s tearful joy at hearing the ticking sound of a clock, as well as the bright smile the outdoor sounds brought to her face, was described by Ms. Goeller as one of her job’s greatest rewards.  

Another example of Ms. Goeller's sensitivity and service was when she uncovered and helped a student who was coping with depression after the loss of a horse due to a sad barn fire.  Finding counseling services for a student with limited English was difficult, but Ms. Goeller found a Portuguese-speaking provider who would work with the student and help him through his grief.

Ms. Goeller helped another family secure a wheelchair and necessary healthcare services for the adult sibling of a school-age student. She saw it as her “human duty” to extend her support beyond the scope of her professional role. Her empathy, insight and advocacy undoubtedly clears paths for students to thrive in the classroom, performance stage, athletic arena, and in the community. For families, she fosters feelings of safety, inclusion, and engagement, and she empowers parents to support their children’s learning, growth, and development. 

As a recent immigrant from Brazil, Ms. Goeller draws upon her own personal experience to understand and respond to the challenging circumstances of immigration which often result in confusion, distrust, separation, and even depression.  She uses storytelling to share her experiences of hardship and success. Her shared journey has inspired courage and sparked hope in adults and students. Undocumented and first generation college-bound students attest to imagining themselves on a college campus because of her story, coupled with her hands-on assistance and encouraging coaxing through the lengthy college application process.  The district’s rise in high school graduation rates and college enrollment among English Language Learners (ELL) can be largely attributed to Ms. Goeller's work.  

Relentless teachers who strive to reach struggling learners have shared their successes using strategies and approaches suggested and modeled by Ms. Goeller during professional development that she has facilitated in the district.  One teacher recalled an account of how Ms. Goeller's attentive response helped to discern that a new elementary school ELL student’s underlying difficulty with reading decoding was the root cause of her reading anxiety. The rapport Ms. Goeller developed with the student, as well as her collaboration with the school’s instructional and support team, resulted in the implementation of oral discussion strategies, comprehension methods and special accommodations that helped to accelerate the student’s academic performance and boosted her confidence.

Through her own brave and willing vulnerability, Ms. Goeller elevates the voices of those who are often silent or reluctant to speak up. District staff members, students and families characterize her as “a powerful and fearless advocate,” “warm,” and “welcoming," with an “effervescent demeanor,” and a “profound understanding of culture.”

“Amanda has changed the way I see my students and do my job. We are so grateful to her," said a colleague.

“Our world is made better by people seeking to make the lives of others better, especially children. We are lucky to have Amanda," said Tom Moore, West Hartford Public Schools superintendent.

Ms. Goeller is a fierce supporter of her district’s equity, diversity and inclusion efforts.  Members of the Equity and Diversity Council (EDC) regard her as a “change agent” who questions policy and practice when she sees inadequacies or inequity.  In a richly diverse district where over 70 home languages are spoken, culturally responsive practice is critical. Ms. Goeller is keenly aware of this.

"Amanda's professionalism and skillful approach to grounding others in meaningful dialogue, both in meetings and on the fly, effectively mobilizes stakeholders toward creating systemic equity," said Chalise Moore, Ms. Goeller's supervisor. "Through her work, we as educators, are better able to do our best work. She not only makes school engagement more accessible for families, but she also helps us develop our understanding and ability to discover our connection to the unique strengths and cultural backgrounds of the students and families we serve."

Ms. Goeller recognizes diverse identities in the contexts of teaching, learning, and human interaction by accessing the funds of knowledge and background experiences that all students and families possess. She displays great enthusiasm when she is involved in the planning of multicultural school celebrations. She adds perspectives that enhance authentic honor and respect for differences. In doing so, she inherently helps to build community and foster a positive climate.  

"Although Amanda’s acts of dedicated service, enduring commitment, courage and empathy do not go unnoticed, she often credits others for the life-changing impact that she has had on students and families," said Haskins. "Her humility reflects her selfless demeanor and collaborative team spirit. ‘Ela é uma mudanca de vida’ means ‘life-changer’ in Portuguese, which is her native language. She is a true reflection of such, and we are tremendously grateful for her contributions."

Comments (29)

Sharon Davis Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Amanda ! It has been a pleasure working with you this year and you truly deserve this honor ! I can not thank you enough for all of your efforts and collaboration . I look forward to our continued partnership ! Sharon

Pren Woods Posted over a year ago

Amanda, parabens! Thanks for your work with ESOL communities which can often feel invisible and marginalized. Thanks for “seeing” them and being a voice on their behalf. Obrigado.

Nicolas Williams Posted over a year ago


Noele saar Posted over a year ago

Hi Amanda, the person who is writing this comment is Isabelle. In name of everyone in my family, we would like to thank you for all of your help And all of your dedication. You are an awesome person, and inspire many people. My brother and my mom, also would like to say thank you for all of your help. We wish that you will shine way more. We all love you, with all the truth of our Hearts. We wish the best for you and Liam and all your family. ??

Katia ferreira Posted over a year ago

Amanda is one of the purest and good hearted people I know, I can never give enough thanks for everything she has done for me and my children, I ask god to keep blessing her life and to continue to be the excellent role model she is.

Alison Lantz Posted over a year ago

Amanda is such a kind-hearted and hard-working individual. She has gone above and beyond to make this community a better place by providing students and their families with resources to be successful. She is empathetic towards what these individuals are experiencing and treats them with the utmost respect. I highly recommended Amanda for this award!

Melissa Caballero Posted over a year ago

In my three years working as a special education department supervisor for our District, Amanda has been a vital colleague in bridging the language gap and supporting our Portuguese families in every aspect of school and life. She consistently goes above and beyond her role to ensure these families are able to be active members in their child's education and access eligible outside services. While many in her role would simply attend meetings or translate, Amanda supports them seeking medical care, facilitates school visits for out of district placements by physically touring the schools with families, completes forms with families and communicates with any related service providers in District and out. It is because of Amanda's true dedication to families that I can share these families are active members of our school communities, their voices are heard and their children and family are supported. I can not recommend her enough for this award! Amanda, thank you for all you do for our families and being such a collaborative colleague! Your nomination is well deserved!

Ryan Cleary Posted over a year ago

Amanda has been an extremely helpful person for both families and teachers at Morley School. She has gone above and beyond all expectations to support families and partner with schools to find success for students. She is not only there to celebrate when things go well, but also is there through the difficult times as an encouraging presence focused on problem solving and bringing people together. Her efforts are incredible and her impact on students, families, and teachers is long lasting. Congrats Amanda!

Chalise Ross Posted over a year ago

When you meet Amanda, you can't help but be drawn to her friendly, effervescent demeanor. If you are lucky enough to continue your relationship with Amanda, your life will be changed! I am truly blown away by the comments shared here by parents that she has helped. No one can say it better than they can. I have also been changed by my work and friendship with Amanda. She daily models what it means to be compassionate and supportive. She has pushed me to see our work from new perspectives, challenging barriers that our new immigrant families face upon moving to our town. Her devotion to supporting others is inspiring! Congratulations, Amanda!

Lusmaia Farias Goncalves Posted over a year ago

When I arrived here in west Hartford, I was completely lost, I needed a lot of help, my daughter Natasha, has diabetes and is going through a very delicate moment. When I met Amanda, it was like a miracle, she helped us tremendously. She helped us get a doctor for Natasha, taught us with so much love and care how to understand diabetes treatment. Amanda went to my house when I needed her help. But in particular, she really transformed our lives this morning, Amanda picked me up from home, and took me to the social services department in Windsor, after four hours of a lot of talk and determination, Amanda was able to help the social worker approve Natasha's health insurance. I cried of emotion, and that sure will make a huge difference in my daughter's life. Amanda, you're a gift from God, as I told you, I don't know how to thank you, but I'm sure God will bless you a lot. You are certainly a life changer.

Tamara Vizioli Posted over a year ago

How to express such admiration in words? Amanda is simply a gift to all the people who meet her on this far, and often painful path of life. A sweet woman but above all, a warrior. A professional ahead of her time, she can be kind and professional just right. Fight with families but also points the way and then teach us how to walk with our own legs. Even with a busy schedule, she knows how to manage her personal life as a daughter, wife and mother. And with all the admiration and love that I am so proud of you! Thank you for taking such good care of our children. We are so luck to have you!! May 2020 be a year of many awards and achievements in all areas of your life!

Jose Soares De Oliveira Posted over a year ago

My name is José, I'm a parent from King Philip Middle School. I would like to share a little of my experience working with Amanda. Right when I arrived here, in Connecticut, I needed to enroll my son in school, my family had a lot of difficulty with the language, just like most immigrants, communication is for sure it is the hardest part of this process. When we went to King Fhilip we met Amanda, she proved to be a very competent and dedicated professional. She helping us with the language translation but she not only translate, she really advocate, she explains, she thinks about the culture differences and she does not measure efforts to make us feel welcomed.. Amanda is transforming lives every day, we know she really loves what she does, she is always working after school hours, It's not anyone who would like to work after your normal day of work. Amanda has already helped my family with so many things, and I really admire how hard she works to make sure we are well and comfortable. When it comes to the student, she spares no effort to make things happen, nothing is impossible for her. King Philip School must be very proud to have Amanda on their team. So, I am convinced that Amanda deserves to win this award, for my family and all immigrants who study in West Hartford Amanda is certainly a life changer!!! She is very important to us .. This award is yours Amanda!!! Thank you so much for taking such good care of our children while they are in school, you educate and connect with all students with so much love. You have a big positive impact in all of the students and families lives. Thank you West Hartford Schools, for having such a precious professional to help all of us.

Cremilda Oliveira, LMFT Posted over a year ago

As a Bilingual Child and Family Therapist, I have seen Amanda going above and beyond to provide the support that many immigrants need in order to get adjusted to the new culture. She is culturally sensitive and capable of identifying potential cultural challenge and strategies to address them to better serve our community. Many of my clients have gained access to mental health treatment thanks to Amanda’s persistent efforts.

Carlos Vizioli Posted over a year ago

For us, Amanda is a true life changer. Thanks to her, our kid is well integrated and socializing despite his special conditions! Nothing of this would have happened if it wasn’t for Amanda‘s careful attention and personal dedication.

Tamara Posted over a year ago

Como expressar tamanha admiração em palavras? Amanda e simplesmente um presente para todas as pessoas que encontram com ela neste caminho tão longe e muitas vezes dolorido da vida. Uma mulher doce mas acima de tudo guerreira. Uma profissional a frente do seu tempo, consegue ser amável e profissional na medida certa. Luta junto com as famílias mas aponta o caminho para depois caminhamos com as nossas próprias pernas. Mesmo com uma agenda cheia de compromissos sabe administrar sua vida pessoal sendo filha, esposa e mãe. E com toda admiração e amor que tenho muito orgulho de você! Obrigada por cuidar dos nosso filhos. Que o ano de 2020 seja de vários prêmio e de várias conquistas em todas as áreas da sua vida!

Travis Goeller Posted over a year ago

It's amazing to see how far Amanda has come in such a short time. It seems only yesterday that I met the shy yet confident Brazilian who only responded to my questions with uncertain nods and a simple "yes" or a "no". It is just as apparent then as it is now that Amanda was destined to brighten lives and share her enormous passion for community, resolve to make any task a matter of not if but when, and willingness to go above and beyond to make the lives of everyone around her better. The other day she told me about helping acclimate a new friend to his kindergarten class to which I responded, "Don't you mean a new student?". With a big smile she replied, "all my students are my friends". Its moments like these I am grateful that Amanda found her calling changing the lives of these students who are met with the very uncertainty and challenges she herself had to overcome. I can not think of a more deserving candidate than Amanda Goeller and am excited to witness her continued campaign of connecting and integrating ESOL students and changing lives with her large heart and limitless compassion.

Flaviana Alves Roberto Posted over a year ago

Amanda, Since I arrived here you have been a light in my life. And I can also speak for all immigrant families in West Hartford.You are an angel in all of our lives. I remember the first day I met you, I was terrified, not knowing how to enroll my children in school, and many families referred you. When I called you, you answered me in a welcoming voice, and then offered to help me. I didn't drive at that time and you went to my house to help me and explain everything about the schools. And this was not the only time, you also came to my house to help me read so many papers that the school sends home, and I could not understand absolutely nothing what all those papers said. And so you continue all these years supporting us, encouraging us to move on and always willing to help with all the care and attention. Your work doesn't end with the school hours, when you go to your home you're still ready to help us, regardless of time and day. I am so thankful to God for giving us this opportunity to have you in our lives. I don't know what it would be like for us here without you. My children are inspired by you, and every day they want to be better people, and that comes from the incredible work you have done every day with all the students. You brought something unique to schools, you have been teaching these children to dream and believe, you are teaching them to be better humans. My children's future will be different, and much of that difference came from you. You are THE BEST life changer!!

Aureana Souza Posted over a year ago

Amanda is a very special person who I don't even have words to describe what she does and keeps doing for me and my son. I had a lot of difficult times at West Hartford schools because my son had special needs, as I don't speak English I had a lot of difficulties in communicating with the people at the schools. Many times I cried, got despaired and even got to the point of thinking about returning to my home country, Brazil. And during that turbulent moment, it was when this wonderful person, an angel sent by God appeared at the school. Amanda is very polite and very kind, she is always ready to help. Your generosity goes beyond what is part of her job. With her I learned how to deal with my son's needs, learned to navigate the school system, she explained to me in a unique and beautiful way what special education is. Amanda always answered me and helped us when my son had crises in school. When it was decided that my son would be transferred to a special education school I was very scared and worried, and once again Amanda was by our side, and accompanied us with every step of this process. She visited the schools with us, participated in all interviews and advocated for us, she truly was our representative, I would even say that she was a family member. Today my son is in an excellent special education school, thanks to Amanda's effort and dedication. My son is happy at this school and so am I. Last year, my husband injured his spine and was unable to walk, consequently unable to work, Amanda helped us through this difficult time, took us to the town hall social worker, helped us get a doctor, and it was certainly through of her help we got through this difficult time. I am very grateful and pleased with the work she has been doing in schools. West Hartford is lucky to have her!! I believe she is the most suitable and deserving person to receive this award because not only me, but also she has helped other mothers of international students, and all of the students see her as a positive model in their lives. She has made a big difference in our community transforming our lives daily. I don't know what it would be like for us without this amazing person in the West Hartford district.

Ires Nascimento Posted over a year ago

Amanda is such a gift! No one more deserving!! Amanda has the best heart and changes lives every single day!!

Célia Sant’Ana Posted over a year ago

Amanda, uma menina doce delicada é muito comprometida em tudo que se propõe a fazer,desde pequena sempre se preocupava com o bem estar das pessoas, tive a sorte de trabalhar junto com ela e lhe passar um pouco do meu aprendizado,Fico orgulhosa de ver a mulher que se tornou, parabéns e muito sucesso na sua vida!!

Karen Kukish Posted over a year ago

Amanda is truly special and unique, beyond measure. She is a tremendous asset to our school system and the numerous students and families that she serves. Amanda becomes personally involved in each and every case, and will overcome any obstacle or hurdle in her path towards ensuring that ALL of our ELL learners receive every opportunity and privilege to reach their maximum learning potential within our schools. She forms lasting, meaningful relationships with students based on high levels of mutual trust and respect. Amanda often finds herself as a bridge between two worlds - helping to close the gap for students and easing the difficult transition to a foreign country and a brand new culture. Our ELL students are successful in large part due to Amanda's efforts and outreach. Not only is she a tremendous asset in terms of navigating school protocols, procedures, and guidelines, she also assists and supports families in their everyday lives - her efforts range from facilitating the acquisition of health insurance coverage and doctor appointments to setting up cable television and other utilities in the home. Amanda changes lives in a multitude of ways on a daily basis. We are so very fortunate to have her with us!

Maxine Smith Posted over a year ago

Amanda is certainly a life changer. I have been working with Amanda for a few years and she does a nice job with our families. Amanda is a true liaison between home and school for my families. One case come to mind where Amanda has done the following for one of my students: 1)attends all PPT and other meetings with the parent 2)meets with student's teachers 3)takes parent and student to appointments with audiologist 3)always available to pass on a message from school so she can translate for parent 4)voice for my student when he needs to let his teachers know his needs 5)assist with getting student involved with intramurals 5)assist in coordinating holiday gift giving to the family 6)assist in getting the student clothing for school. This is to name a few. Amanda has done much much more. Our school certainly benefits from Amanda and the role she plays in the district.

Fernanda Wischer Posted over a year ago

Amanda is a blessing in my life. Thank God this humanitarian person leaves right by me. She has being my friend for awhile now but more then my friend Amanda became my best friend and I’m sure I can also say family. I can’t count how many times I needed her, called and she dropped everything to help me. Amanda has such a big heart that sometimes I don’t even need to ask she is always willing to help and offers to help without me saying that there is a problem or a need.

Célia Sant’Ana Posted over a year ago

Amanda, uma menina doce delicada é muito comprometida em tudo que se propõe a fazer,desde pequena sempre se preocupava com o bem estar das pessoas, tive a sorte de trabalhar junto com ela e lhe passar um pouco do meu aprendizado,Fico orgulhosa de ver a mulher que se tornou, parabéns e muito sucesso na sua vida!!

Gabriela Nascimento Posted over a year ago

Amanda is the most dedicated person I know when it comes to a problem. She’s always open to help those in need, and it doesn’t stop there. She is caring for her family and for her students, and for anyone that comes to her, either with a simple question or a big problem. She’s always willing to help, even if she is busy, she’ll make time. I have no words to describe what she has done for me and my family (also her family). She helped me, as her sister, with everything. From filling all my college papers, and filling all my visa papers, and giving me a loving home until she did the same for my parents. I believe society is a better place when Amanda is around.

Carly Cartisano Posted over a year ago

Amanda is one of a kind, West Hartford schools are lucky to have her! Amanda’s compassion and commitment are true gifts she shares with all of those around her.

Francisca Oliveira Posted over a year ago

Amanda changes lives on a daily basis. She is so passionate about what she does. She loves helping others and she does that with her whole heart. We are so lucky to have her in our lives!

Clarice Sant'Ana Posted over a year ago

Amanda is trully the best!! It's impossible to be around her and not feel her positivity and Love. She bribgs so much joy to our lives. She is a real Life changer!!! We Love you Amanda!

Shiji Isaac Posted over a year ago

Amanda is a true gem. She will drop anything she is doing to help someone in need. She puts 110% into everything she commits to. Amanda has the best work ethic of anyone I know and is incredibly compassionate. She changes lives on a daily basis just by being in them. As Fred Rogers said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping”. Surely, Mr. Rogers was talking about people like Amanda. She has a heart of gold.