DENTON, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Noel Jett is learning to live on her own for the first time.
“Broil on high for ten minutes is too long for pizza,” she jokes. “It will burn!” Typical life lessons for a teenager who is anything but.
Nancy Shastid, Noel’s mother, says she knew her daughter was smart from a very young age.
“We’d talk about Elmo at a different level,” said Shastid. However, she didn’t realize how far ahead of the curve Noel was until kindergarten. While other students were learning their letters, Noel was reading books by the chapter.
Weeks into the school year someone suggested getting her tested. Shastid says the woman who gave her the results advised her to pull Noel out of public school right then and there, and begin homeschooling. So, she did. “With me and a dry erase board I got at a garage sale, we just got to going!”
It didn’t take long for Noel to outpace her parents.
“We ended up getting a tutor for her at nine,” said Shastid. “And she started college-level math at ten.” She didn’t just excel at academics: she can write, sing and play the piano.
At 13 she read a piece of her own poetry the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Lyle Lovett.
She began taking classes at Tarrant County College around the same time. The next year she and her mom moved to College Station so she could enroll at Texas A&M.
While she was an Aggie, Jett competed on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Whiz Kids Week.” Then 15, Jett took home $25,000 in prize money, but she says the real treat was meeting the host, comedian Terry Crews.
Despite being the youngest among her peers, Jett was chosen to lead a group of student researchers for the Aggie Research Scholar program. Jett graduated from A&M with her bachelor’s degree at 16, but she wasn’t finished. Her next college adventure was at UNT, where she spent three years completing her PhD and dissertation in educational psychology.
At 19, she is the youngest known PhD grad in the school’s history.
And she’s still not finished.
Texas Tech just invited her to their online master’s program. “And that would yes.. require more school,” joked Jett. “I can’t believe I agreed to that, after all this!”
Her focus is on mental health counseling.
Jett is interested in helping all kinds of people, including profoundly gifted students. For her dissertation, Jett interviewed ten adults who had attended college at least three years early to learn more about their experiences and needs during that time.
She says academically advanced children are sometimes bullied and mistreated, even by adults.
Jett and Shastid both believe there should be more resources for children who excel early. Shastid, who says she “didn’t know anything about anything” when she started teaching Jett, now serves on the board of Texas Parents of the Profoundly Gifted.
Mother and daughter have traveled around the world to attend and speak at various conferences on the subject.
Now as Noel prepares for her next adventure, she hopes to help kids who may feel isolated by their intelligence. “Are you going to have a typical college experience at that age? Probably not. Can you have a good one? Yeah.”