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