I went to a book signing today. It wasn’t just any book signing and it certainly wasn’t just any author. Kate Laack, author of In the Shade of Olive Trees was a fifth grader in my class many moons ago. I will always remember her multipotentiality, which included brilliance with the written word. I’ve never ceased to be impressed by Kate, and this accomplishment is a big deal. She wrote a fantastic and compelling novel set in Italy.
When I walked in their door today, Kate’s mother met me and we chatted. She said, “I’ll always remember the day Kate came home and said that Mrs. K. told me I’m a gifted writer.” Today’s inscription from Kate read, “Mrs. K., this doesn’t happen without you. You dreamed it first.” Wow! It got me thinking about all the students I’ve had over the years. Am I still empowering gifted students? Am I still trying to make a difference like I did with Kate? I hope so.
I decided to share this story because Kate and her mother reminded me that it does matter that teachers put effort into reaching and teaching students with gifts and talents, even though these days it seems like all of the focus is on students who struggle and need interventions. Our professional goals are usually connected to serving the most struggling students, but all students deserve our attention. Today reminded me that we shouldn’t forget to see, really see, gifted students and tell them that they matter too. Even if gifted students never come up during staff meetings or goal setting sessions, I need to still be the teacher I was back in Kate’s day. Indeed, we all need to be inspirations for kids like Kate.
So often gifted students work on their own work outside of class; it motivates and engages them. I have known this for many years, so I opened a door for their creative expression by creating a student magazine. I’ve linked our latest issue here:
Mustang Magazine - Merry & Bright.
My magazine staffers are writers, artists, and video content creators in 4th - 6th grade. Some do this work on their own time; others have their curriculum compacted by their teacher and are able to contribute more work and be editors of our sections during school time. Mustang Magazine provides a chance for me to get to know what my students are interested in and passionate about, and then share their work with a real world audience. I didn’t have the magazine when Kate was in my class, but I think she would have loved it.
My challenge to you is to find ways to lift up the gifts and talents of your students. The possibilities are endless, and the rewards are often surprising. Make it your New Year’s resolution to try something with your advanced learners, and share your idea with us at WATG. We’d love to hear from you!
Sarah Kasprowicz, Past President and Current Board Member
WATG would like to thank Esther Vasquez Guendulain of the Appleton Bilingual School for translating this article into Spanish for our Spanish-speaking families and educators.