Former teacher selected to lead CT Education Department

Dianna R. Wentzell was selected as the state’s new education commissioner by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today. Wentzell is a former public school teacher and has been serving as the interim commissioner since January. She will need to be confirmed by the state legislature.

“Connecticut is home to incredible students, great teachers, and fantastic schools. Our graduation rates are climbing and achievement gaps are beginning to close,” Wentzell said.

“However, we have much more work to do to ensure that all students are afforded the opportunity and advantages of high expectations and a high-quality education,” she said.

Wentzell would replace Stefan Pryor as head of the state Education Department.

Called ‘effective’ and ‘gifted leader’

Malloy said Wentzell is “the right person” to continue education reforms and progress in the state.

“Through smart choices, we’ve already raised the bar dramatically — graduation rates are at record highs, the achievement gap is down, and students are being prepared for the future like never before,” Malloy said on April 17, when making the announcement of Wetzell's nomination.

“Now what we need to do is set the bar higher to deliver a brighter tomorrow," Malloy said.

The governor called Wentzell “an effective leader, helping to coordinate the very strategies that are improving our education system and preparing students for a brighter future.”

State Board of Education Chairman Allan Taylor called Wentzell “a truly gifted leader” who “offers a clear direction and steady leadership, embodies all the qualities we need in an education commissioner, and will keep us all moving forward together.”

Teaching career began in 1988

Wentzell, who has a Ph.D., began her career as a teacher in the Farmington public school system in 1988, first at Farmington High School and then at Robbins Middle School, where she taught political science, history and social studies, and helped lead the school’s gifted education program until 1998.

She spent a year overseas in Pakistan in 1992, teaching sixth-grade technology education, high school creative writing, history, and photography courses at the International School of Islamabad.

Wentzell then was enrichment teaching and learning coordinator in the East Haddam public schools; a teacher, team leader and curriculum facilitator at Two Rivers Magnet Middle School in East Hartford; curriculum director of the Institute of Teaching and Learning for the Capitol Region Education Council in Hartford; and K-12 literacy curriculum specialist and literacy program director in the South Windsor public schools.

And then she was deputy chief academic officer, executive director of professional learning, and pre-K-12 assistant superintendent in the Hartford public schools.

Was state's chief academic officer

Wentzell joined the state Department of Education in January 2013 as chief academic officer, where her responsibilities have included oversight for implementation of college and career content standards and student assessment programs, as well as oversight of Title I, II, III and bilingual programming.

Shel has a bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College, a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Hartford.