“No Man is an Island” is both a book, and a selection from the prose quotes of author John Donne. This metaphor illustrates the literal meaning of how an island is separated from other landforms by oceans; it also asserts that humans cannot afford to be islands. We need each other, both literally and figuratively. And so it is with organizations, such as the Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted.
As an organization, we are deliberately reaching out to other individuals, groups, and organizations so that we can share our messages, get new insights, and grow. We are both teaching and learning in these efforts, and we’d like to share some of our most recent work.
Most recently, our Government Action Committee has been enormously busy on multiple fronts reaching out to legislators. First of all, they are currently working with legislators to increase the amount of funding for gifted and talented education in the upcoming budget. Wisconsin currently receives $237,200 annually in small competitive grants for projects that serve gifted students and their educators. Our neighboring states, by comparison, invest much more money - Minnesota, approximately $13 million per year, and Iowa, approximately $40 million per year. The No Time To Lose report (published by the National Conference of State Legislatures) examines the critical role of the states in developing the country's economic competitiveness, and the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding in the previous Wisconsin budget cycle recommended increasing our state's investment in gifted and talented education. To support this effort, Board members and others testified at Joint Finance Committee Budget hearings in April. However, our work as a board (and with you as our partners) is never done. We invite you to contact your legislators as the budgeting process evolves, and to share personal examples of how gifted education impacts your family, our students, state, and our nation. Most legislators never hear about gifted/advanced learning or talent development K-12, and are shocked when they see how little investment Wisconsin makes to find and develop gifts and talents compared to other states. To find your legislators, go to https://legis.wisconsin.gov/ and click on “Find My Legislators,” and join us in this effort.
Another way that our Board is reaching out to others is through the work of our Membership Committee. Recently the Membership Committee surveyed our members about ways that we can best serve their needs. Currently, this committee is analyzing and sharing its findings with our other committees so that we can provide a targeted approach to growth, and provide necessary requested services. We are actively soliciting members, partners, and supporters to further our mission. To see the benefits of becoming one of these affiliates, click here. This Membership Guide has recently been translated into Spanish, and will appear soon on our website, providing access to our Spanish-speaking constituents.
Additionally, board members are providing professional development to other groups around the state. For example, on April 1, WATG Board Members provided a workshop entitled “Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted Learners, or TAG! You’re It” to the Wisconsin School Counselors’ Association. Additionally, plans are in the works to present at the August Wisconsin Public Education Network conference. These are all ways to ensure that WATG is not an “island” organization.
Finally, Our Programming Committee is working hard to organize events that will encourage parents and educators to learn together. Our Townhall Meetings have been a great success, and have encouraged discussions around various topics related to gifted education. If you have ideas for an upcoming Townhall theme, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are more interested in podcasts, WATG has been recording and sharing them on Spotify. Here is the link. Again, if you have suggestions for future podcasts, or can point us to future interviewees, please contact us.
Recently, our Programming Committee surveyed our Membership regarding our Fall Conference, “Leading the World Into the Future,” October 4-5, 2021. During these challenging COVID times, it is extremely difficult to plan for events, and to weigh the risks and benefits of a face-to-face conference versus a virtual event. After examining all of the survey results, doing an extensive benefit/risk analysis, and much lively debate, our Programming Committee made a decision on April 24 to go virtual. More details will follow.
This decision was very difficult to make, but we are confident that we have made the best decision at this time.
As a Board, we continue to examine ways that we can remain connected to others who care about gifted and talented individuals. We look for your ideas, and welcome you to share your time and talent. This is another way that we can ensure that we are not an island. The more connections we make, the more we are joined in strength and outreach. We are currently seeking several new board members, so if you’d like to join us, please contact us at email@example.com.
WATG extends a huge thank you to Dr. German Diaz of Milwaukee Public Schools for translating this article into Spanish for our families and educators who speak Spanish. The translation can also be found on our website.