There is a perception that the current struggle (with WATG initiatives, and with life in general) is new, when in truth there have always been struggles. It didn’t start with us and it won’t end with us. The important thing is that we continue the work, despite the struggle. Keeping this in mind, I thought I would take you back not to the beginning, but to WATG initiatives within the current
century, and highlight the work accomplished despite the struggle.
Most of 2004 was spent in planning and collaboration to write a proposal to hold a Gifted and Talented Summit at the Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin. The S. E. Johnson Foundation manages the beautiful Wingspread property. It was designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright, and the unique surroundings are tranquil and intended to inspire successful meetings.
The purpose of this proposed Gifted and Talented Summit was to convene leaders and policy makers from education, government, business, and industry to envision the future for the full development of Wisconsin’s gifted and talented students, both for their own intellectual and social/emotional development and for the development of the state’s economy.
Attendees at the Summit included WATG Past-Presidents Pam Clinkenbeard from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Shirley Paulsen from Green Bay, Tom Zigan from Wauwatosa, and Ruth Robinson from Janesville. Also in attendance were Mary Olsky of EAGLE School - Madison, Susan Corwith from Madison, and Terry Downen from Colby. Jim Wiswall from Neenah, Congressman Paul Ryan, and then-DPI Superintendent Tony Evers were invited but were unable to attend.
The Summit featured a panel of high school students who participated in a round table discussion led by Michael Clay Thomson. The record of the planning, implementation, and results of the conference are included in the files soon to be added to the Wisconsin Historical Society. The lead organizer for the event was Dr. Clinkenbeard.
Additionally, a series of highly successful workshops were supported by competitive grants from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to WATG. The grants were written and directed by WATG President Jackie Drummer and were held over a span of four school years, from 2007-2011. The Grant Application for the 2011-12 school year was not funded. Over that span of years, 27 workshops and professional development programs were held across the state, from the far north to the south and central, and east to west in nearly every Cooperative Education Service Delivery area. The workshops featured topics including diverse populations in Gifted Education, Gifted 101 (beginner) and Gifted 201 (advanced) sessions, Supporting the Emotional Needs of Gifted (SENG) training, and “Grand Rounds” training for physicians, psychologists, and health care professionals about the unique characteristics of gifted children. The SENG training (Marshfield, Kenosha, and Madison), and the “Grand Rounds” training (Milwaukee and Madison), were led by Dr. Jim Webb, SENG founder. A Creativity Guide, a Survival Guide for new Gifted Education Coordinators, and a Speakers’ Directory were created and made available to anyone. Finally, a series of online webinars were developed with these funds, and other projects were begun. This was an amazing volume of work! Though the struggles were real, the payoff was outstanding for gifted education in Wisconsin.
Again, the planning documents, programs, and evaluation summaries are ready to be preserved at the Wisconsin Historical Society. Once that is accomplished, the papers and publications of Dr. Robert E. Clasen and Dr. Donna Rae Clasen are being organized for the archives of the
University of Wisconsin. We stand on the shoulders of giants as we continue our work together. Out of our many struggles progress is born!
Ruth Robinson, WATG Past President 2003-04