Lizbet Agrusso

Position: English Language Learner (EL) Teacher School: Harvey Elementary School

School District: Utica Community Schools

City, State: Sterling Heights, Michigan

About the Nominee: Lizbet Agrusso was nominated by her principal, Laurie Pritchard.

Lizbet Agrusso is a LifeChanger in the Harvey Elementary School community. She joined the school’s staff three years ago as an English Language Learner (EL) teacher. In that period of time she has changed the lives of both students and staff.

Mrs. Agrusso is passionate about teaching her students and will do whatever it takes to make sure they succeed. She speaks fluent Spanish as many of the school’s EL families do. When the office staff or a teacher need her to translate for parents, she will drop everything she is doing in order to make sure the school can communicate with the students’ families. She works very hard to make sure her EL students feel welcome and a part of the school - even if they do not speak any English - with her smile and her bubbly personality. Mrs. Agrusso is an advocate for her students and makes sure their needs are met. She makes sure they eat breakfast and lunch and have proper winter weather clothing, school supplies and necessary school documents filled out by their parents. On her own personal time during the summer, she holds a pre-school class and a summer tutoring program in one of Sterling Heights’ neighborhoods to give the students extra practice with their reading and writing skills. She will call parents and knock on doors to make sure their children come to work with her during this time. Mrs. Agrusso is a LifeChanger for EL students and their parents by making sure they understand how Harvey Elementary functions and what they need to do in order to be successful. She is passionate about making sure EL students and their families have access to all that Harvey Elementary has to offer.

Mrs. Agrusso is a LifeChanger because she has improved school culture for the staff and EL population. She works closely with other teachers and provides them with teaching strategies that work with English learners. Mrs. Agrusso has educated staff on the unique needs of EL children, which has enabled the staff to better understand what these students are going through. She has helped staff to be better educators of EL students. As a result, the EL students feel more comfortable at school, and their achievement is improving. Harvey’s non-EL students are very accepting of the EL students; Mrs. Agrusso has helped students and staff understand the importance of partnering English speaking students with EL students as part of a buddy system to help them acclimate to school if they are newcomers. Over the past three years, Harvey Elementary has seen an increase in the amount of EL parents coming to and volunteering at school events due to her community outreach. Mrs. Agrusso has been a LifeChanger by improving school culture for EL families.

Lastly, Mrs. Agrusso is a LifeChanger because of her teaching skills and teaching style. She holds a wealth of knowledge on how to teach reading and writing, and she has become a leader at her school by sharing her knowledge with her colleagues. When watching Mrs. Agrusso teach, one can see her engaging her students in their lessons, scaffolding her support until students can complete a task independently, utilizing graphic organizers and other visuals to help students develop their language skills and providing hands-on experiences for her students. She makes the curriculum accessible to her students by teaching them in a variety of learning modes (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic). Mrs. Agrusso expects only the best from her students, and does not lower her expectations for their achievement because they are classified as EL students. She believes in every child and in their ability to learn, and she gets amazing results due to her high expectations. Mrs. Agrusso is a LifeChanger for her students because she is a masterful teacher. Harvey Elementary is so fortunate to have a LifeChanger like Mrs. Agrusso in their building. She makes a difference every day at Harvey!

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