Declarations of Gifted Education Week as a public awareness and outreach mechanism began in 1982. This was several years into the campaign to achieve a state statute requiring services for children and youth who are gifted, talented, and creative. (This statute was not created until 1988.)
The earliest records of Gifted Education Week were simply printed press releases from the governor’s office. Eventually a similar declaration was also issued by the office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, though today the actual documents are hiding in unknown files in unknown locations. We do know that there were a number of years in the 1990s when the requests for the Gifted Education Week declarations seem to have ended. The practice was revived in the early 2000s and several of those documents have been preserved.
In 2012, WATG’s annual conference was held at the Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan and Sheboygan’s mayor, Terry Van Akekkem, attended the banquet on Friday. He signed and presented WATG with a similar Gifted Education Week Proclamation for the city of Sheboygan. This is perhaps the only time a city made such a show of support!
Newsletter and board meeting minutes over the years reflect frustration in getting declarations for Gifted Education Week publicized in a timely manner; often they were realized as the fall conference was already underway or even after the conference concluded. Eventually the requests went out earlier so that the WATG Board had the opportunity to distribute the declaration to school districts, compose local press releases, and allow school staff to use the week before and/or after the conference for professional development.
Gifted personnel also created ways to share information, teaching ideas, and thoughtful pieces about gifted students with their colleagues. I can speak of a couple of things that we did in the Janesville Schools.For example, when WATG had pens and pencils created with the logo and website, we would buy enough to put a few in each of the teachers’ lounges. This was pricey enough, considering there were 18 buildings in our district! But it got conversations started around gifted students and gifted education, so it was worth it.
Another creative idea, (which cost nothing but time and a little paper), was to print “myth busters” about gifted kids, or inspirational quotes from the great authors and researchers in gifted education on colorful paper and tape them on the inside of toilet stall doors. Restaurants advertised there; why not us, we thought?
Another idea we tried was to wrap small gift boxes with these same quotes and fill them with small candies, also for the teachers’ lounges.
I share these ideas with you to inspire you to think of ways to celebrate gifted education in your schools. All of you are so creative, and technology is so much more sophisticated nowadays. There is no limit to how you can share information and inspiration.
It is just as important today to keep the need for free, appropriate, systematic, and continuous appropriate programming for our gifted and talented students a part of the conversation within public education. If services for gifted children are not provided in public schools, then only those families wealthy enough to send their children to special schools, camps, clubs, and classes will be able to satisfy the needs of their children. Let’s work together to celebrate gifted education every single day. If you’ve got some great ideas, please share them with us at watg.org. We’ll be glad to share them with others.
Ruth Robinson, Past President of WATG