Betsy Wagenhauser has been a part of Ferst Readers for more than four years. She served on the Board of Directors beginning in 2011, then moved into the role of President in January 2013. However, her relationship with Ferst Readers began years earlier - in 2000 when she enrolled her one year old son in the Ferst Readers program.
Prior to joining the organization, Betsy spent almost 25 years living and working overseas. For seven of those, she was the executive director of a U.S. nonprofit in Peru and Ecuador. It was there that she met her husband (from Madison, Georgia) who was working for the US Agency for International Development (USAID). They spent the next 22 years living and working overseas, in eight different third-world countries on four continents.
Betsy was born and raised in Texas. She holds a B.A. in English and Spanish from the University of Texas and a M.Ed. from the University of North Texas. In Texas, Betsy taught Reading and English in high school and college, specializing in improving educational outcomes for low-literacy students. That experience ignited a life-long passion for literacy and a deep understanding of the difference it can make in a child’s life. Betsy now lives in Madison, Georgia with her husband and two children.
“I know firsthand what happens to kids who cannot read above the 3rd grade level when they get to high school. Those were the kids I taught - low-income, inner city ninth and tenth graders labeled “borderline juvenile delinquents” by the system and effectively forgotten about. The majority of these kids had so much potential, but were unlikely to rise out of their circumstances because they could not read. I wonder how their paths would have been different if they had gotten off to a better start early in life. Now I get to be involved in a program that does something for these kids - before they end up forgotten in the back of someone’s high school classroom. ”