We had a nice turn out for our 2018 Spring WCAGC Parent Event. Many great resources from our teachers and board members. Also, thank you Shauna Williams for presenting and sharing ways to help motivate our gifted children!
We had a great time at the Dinosaur Site Museum today. Thanks everyone for a fun event!
Here is our Ruthann Gibbs handouts and great resources from our Parent Night.
We had a wonderful night with Ruthann Gibbs speaking to use about how to help our gifted children. We enjoyed all the fresh new ideas and suggestions she gave us! Look under our resources to check out her handout from the meeting. It is called, "Journeys with Bright and Gifted Children: A Survival Guide."
My journey with giftedness began in Salt Lake in 2010 when I was asked by my oldest son’s teacher if I wanted to have him tested for the Gifted and Talented program. I declined because I was very happy with the education he was receiving and the way his school worked and didn’t plan on sending him to a magnet school. Unfortunately, with a new principal the next year the school changed how things were run, and we spent the next year and a half with little challenge occurring in the classroom. Mid-way through his 3rd grade year I discovered he had stopped turning in assignments. He was 6 weeks behind and failing. After he made up all of the work in less than two days, I knew I needed to have him tested and find a way for him to be challenged.
I had both him and my second child, a 1st grader at the time, tested and they both qualified for the program. After one year in the GT program in Salt Lake we moved to St. George and I was happy to be able to have both of them start directly into the program at Diamond Valley Elementary. My second is currently in 5th grade, and my third son is also in the program is in 3rd grade.
It has been wonderful to see how my children thrive when in an environment that suits them. While my oldest and third children have done well interacting and making friends with many types of children, my second child has not. When in 1st grade, before I had him tested and he joined a GT program, he would come home from school very upset wondering why he had no friends among his classmates. He would unintentionally say and do things that isolated him from his peers. It was amazing to see the contrast when he started in the GT program and was with others on his same level.
When the Washington County Association for Gifted Children was organized in 2015 I was asked to be treasurer. It has been wonderful to meet with parents and educators who are committed to advocating for the high-ability learners of our area. I continue to learn and am able to get ideas from others on how to best help my children succeed. I love attending the family get-togethers where I can use others as a sounding board. I constantly find myself in new waters as my children get older and I enter a new phase of their education.
While there are a few things I wish I would have done differently as I navigated this road, the biggest is when I had my oldest son tested. Even if you don’t plan on utilizing one of the magnet elementary schools (they aren’t right for every child) or if your child is older and out of elementary school, in this case knowledge is power. Having the testing to back you up helps as you work with your child’s teacher and administrator(s) to get him/her the education that is needed. You are child’s best advocate.
I want the best for my kids, as we all do. I am my children’s most important advocate, and my journey in the education system has led me to meet some wonderful people and become involved in the Washington County Association for Gifted Children. Let me tell you my story.
In 2012 we moved to the St. George area from near Salt Lake. Being sure my kids are challenged in school has been a long-time priority for me. That was the case in the Granite School District, and continued when we moved to the Washington County School District.
My second-grade son was tested gifted at the end of his first year here and was invited to be part of the district's Advanced Learning Program. He participated at the magnet elementary level for three years and had a wonderful experience. He made friends who "think like he does" and was able to be more challenged, move at a more appropriate pace, and have more opportunities. I now have a daughter in the ALP program in third grade, and she is benefitting in the same way. I am thrilled that the district identifies gifted kids in elementary school and has something concrete to offer them at that level.
I decided to be proactive, and ran for Community Council at our middle school after the first year here. I realize how vitally important it is to help the low-level students--I am an English as a Second Language teacher and it doesn't take much to get me to fight for the underprivileged. But lots of resources go to supporting those students. So I spoke to the principal and Community Council of the importance of being sure everyone's needs are being met, and of putting resources into helping the high level students. The principal thanked me for my efforts and let me know they made a difference.
Similarly, I am on the high school Community Council. While honors and AP classes give advanced students a place to be challenged, I still want to be sure they are being recognized and given what they need. At the intermediate school, I have gotten with other parents of gifted kids to meet with the principal to talk about how their needs can be met and how to best transition kids from the ALP program to the intermediate school. Additional parents have vocalized their gifted kids' needs, and it is making a difference.
Having kids in the ALP program and being on the Community Councils helped me get to know like-minded parents. In 2013, I attended the original meeting about forming the WCAGC. In 2015, because of those connections, I was asked to be on the WCAGC board. I have enjoyed getting to know more parents and teachers in the district who are passionate about gifted education.
June of 2016 I went to the Utah Association for Gifted Children (UAGC) Conference in Park City. This was a great experience for many reasons, including meeting a parent from a small town with basically no services who was negotiating how to help her son. I was able to learn the lingo and heard a fascinating session on depth of knowledge. This is a great time to be the parent of gifted children.
As a parent, I also take responsibility for my kids' learning. I try and expose them to opportunities like music lessons, science camps, volunteering, etc. I feel like one of my greatest accomplishments is having children who love to read. (Having to make my kids stop reading at the dinner table is a problem I feel lucky to have.) I have learned to balance my expectations, and from time to time have to remind myself that, yes, my kids will be successful adults. My children are all thriving and excelling in ways I never imagined when we first moved here.
For me, WCAGC has been a great place to network with teachers and parents concerned about gifted education. Sharing our stories and our experiences can help those navigating the same terrain. I am confident that we can continue to make a difference with our united voices.
Let me start by saying I took classes in gifted and talented education for students in college and even attended a few conferences and workshops. But my passion didn't start until our school was chosen to be the pioneer school for the Advanced Learning Program (ALP) in our district in the spring of 2011. My coworker took me to a Utah Association for Gifted Students annual conference in Provo, Utah. At this time I was still learning about the differences and needs of gifted learners. My coworker and now dear friend asked me, "Mel would like to be on the ALP team for 3rd through 5th grade with me next year and help start this program?" I was a little bit scared and unsure because I felt I wasn't really qualified to teach these types of students. Then she introduced me to other gifted teachers in the Alpine and Salt Lake County school districts and we began to collaborate about programs for gifted classrooms and organization of magnet schools. It did strike my interest, so when we got back, I talked to my principal, Mr. Mitchell, and he asked me if I would like to be the 3rd grade ALP teacher for the next school year. He said, “If you do then we need you to jump into getting your gifted and talented endorsement now!” The next week I started taking classes while I was still finishing up a technology endorsement I had begun the year before. I still was a little bit nervous to teach a full class of gifted students. I learned more information and then my two friends and teammates, Darlene Tanner and Shelly Larsen, and I planned, created, and organized the first gifted magnet school for the Washington County School District. My nervousness changed to excitement to be a part of giving these students what they needed in their education.
During the next several months everything went very smoothly with the curriculum, student enrollment, transportation, and even learning walks in the Salt Lake magnet schools and classrooms. We knew we were headed in the right direction. Our team was super strong, determined, and we had a special bond between us teachers and our administration. We would do whatever necessary to make this program highly successful. That did cost us many late nights planning and lack of time for our own families, but we knew it was worth it to challenge these students and give them a rich education.
This is where my deep passion for gifted and talented began. I taught 3rd grade ALP for three years at Diamond Valley Elementary and then transferred to a new school two years ago teaching 2nd grade at Crimson View Elementary. The main reason I came to Crimson View was because of my love of technology and they are a strong STEM school in our district and have one to one iPad devices. My passion for giftedness didn't change, it only became stronger as I am now currently the gifted and talented coordinator for the largest elementary school in our district and I get to help teachers identify and test gifted students. Also, I have created advanced discovery projects for high ability students at Crimson View. I get to meet with the 2nd and 3rd graders weekly which includes around fifty to sixty students each year. I have presented at SECON and UCET conferences to teach other teachers about project based learning and using technology for gifted learners. As I said, my passion for giftedness and love of technology has just enhanced my students’ education and learning as a whole.
Last year I partnered with UVU and our district in teaching educators the evaluation and identification of gifted learners as part of the district's Gifted and Talented endorsement courses. I have found that I have enjoyed sharing my experiences and educational knowledge with other teachers who come from all subject areas and curriculum. We have many teachers from all school levels, high school to elementary taking these classes to learn to better serve our gifted students. As a teacher in this community and part of the school district, I feel that we are trying more and more to look at both ends of the spectrum and make sure every child in Washington County School District is educated to truly fit their needs.
As an advocate in my community I was asked to be part of the first Washington County Association for Gifted Students board three years ago and I enjoy helping with educating parents, teachers, students, and anyone interested in learning more about gifted education and the gifted identification process. I have enjoyed my position on the WCAGC board and working with an amazing professional team who share the same passion for giftedness either as mothers of children who are gifted or other teachers in our school district who are working with gifted children every day in the classroom. We are a very passionate board and have been successful with starting our own branch association here in Washington County. We have a energetic president who goes over and beyond her job description and makes us all try harder to help our community be informed.
In conclusion, this is how and why I have became so passionate for gifted education. I have a strong bond with these highly intelligent students and I know that this passion will just keep on growing!
2nd Grade Teacher
I cannot speak for all the members of the board past, present, and future, but I will try and put into words why I am a participating member of the Washington County Association for Gifted Children.
As a parent of precocious children, it is encouraging to be able to encounter others in our community who have had similar experiences with their children. As an educator, I am constantly trying to better myself in an awareness of the needs of children, as a whole, in the community. The more I assimilate, my awareness increases of how little I know and how much assistance there is in absorbing from others knowledge that betters the lives of those with gifted tendencies. Parents of children with a disposition towards higher aptitudes in one or more subject matters, in my experience, find that a traditional classroom, with a traditional teacher, may not have the optimal experience for their children’s learning style. This is not to say that traditional teachers are flawed, or doing less than their best, or that their classrooms and approaches are failing.
One example that I remember clearly involved a child who came home from school in tears. The teacher had asked the class members to do a math problem and then explain how they came up with the answer--simple enough, right? Well, this child explained the process in which the answer was acquired and was met by a blank stare from the teacher. Finally after an awkward silence, the teacher responded, “I don’t understand.” This child was crushed because “even the teacher” did not understand what was going through this child’s head. The child felt alone, strange, an outcast, crushed, etc. We may see it as “not a big deal.” Unfortunately it was a life-changing experience for this student for the negative. The student learned to withdraw, not participate for fear of being misunderstood, etc. Fast forward to a year when the same student was allowed to be in a classroom of children who also had an aptitude for math. After one day, the child came home glowing. Then asked about school, the child chattered on excitedly; but, the first comment was, “There are other people who think like ME!” This was an exhilarating moment for a child who was used to being alone, misunderstood, and misperceived. My experience was a heart ready to burst with joy for a child who finally was experiencing (after 5 years) joy in learning in a classroom setting. Some will make light of this experience. Some will say that their child has never experienced joy in a classroom setting. To me, that does not change anything. My goal is to allow growth for all children, no matter their aptitude. If we do not start somewhere, it will never get better.
Let me back-track to the original teacher and the math problem. Was the teacher deficient? Of course not. Teachers attend years of school and they go to continuing education classes and workshops. Every year they learn, they grow, they stretch, they try and better themselves. The hard truth of the matter is one teacher cannot be everything to every student. Teachers pick and choose their emphasis, their endorsements, their areas of expertise. They share, share, share their wealth of knowledge with anyone who will listen. Still, there are not enough hours in a day for one teacher to learn and master it all; nor is it possible for all teachers everywhere to accomplish all there is to grasp. Legislatures can pass laws, school boards can introduce programs, parents can continue to place all the blame on teachers for what their child does not know; but, that will NEVER fix the issue.
So why Washington County Association for Gifted Children? I feel that by having resources close to home for students, parents, educators, school board members, legislature, community, and news outlets alike allows for growth. If one teacher, in one classroom can find our site, and help one student, then we have succeeded! If one parent can find our Facebook page and reach out and talk with another parent and discover that this child they do not understand has a purpose and a capacity for greatness they do not comprehend, and now this child has a community on their side rooting for them and passing along resources to help with perceived problems or weaknesses in their day-to-day living and experiences, once again, I feel that we have succeeded. If we can advocate for the needs of the few; if we can pass along testing date windows and information on who to contact at your local school for help; if we can create a list of resources for teachers and parents to better the life of one or more student, we have succeeded!
We are Washington County’s (and any surrounding Counties) local resource for information on children and students with gifted tendencies. We are Washington County’s (and any surrounding Counties that do not have a local chapter) local resource for learning opportunities for educators and parents. We are here because there is a need. I hope that you will join our community of learners and share what you know and glean from others who can fill the gaps in your knowledge. We are here to help--volunteers who have full-time jobs, full-time families, full-time lives. Volunteers who make space in their lives to better the community for the precocious, those with an affinity to learning, and those predisposed to stand out in a way that only a truly gifted and talented individual will.
Washington County Association for Gifted Children