by Gina Lima, Parent
Is it ever too early to chat with an astronaut? Have you dissected a cow eye? How would you like to be interviewed by top executives in the engineering field? Maybe competing at nationals in Washington DC is more your style? These are all experiences that my children have had in their Gifted and Talented (GT) class.
People say, why is GT important? I would ask, why is providing a class that supports the needs of any student important? If kids are ready and willing to do extra work and to try new things, why not challenge them? As a parent, I have been astounded by the variety, complexity, and magnitude of what our students can achieve and create in a class that meets for 30 minutes a day.
In our district, anyone testing 75% (proficient) is welcome to join the GT class during resource time. The classroom is a large, open space with 10-20 kids of all races, ethnicities, and religions shuffling in all day to find a spot at shared tables. This variety of proficient and gifted learners stimulates the group both socially and academically as they all “figure it out” together. They have a flexible curriculum that allows for new material and guest speakers, while offering a list of assignments and projects that are repeated with new themes every year.
The GT teacher acts as the bridge between the students and the real world. GT teachers are dedicated to expanding the reach of our student’s capabilities by finding new courses, distance learning, grants, competitions, summer programs, and often, local professionals and parents who will donate their time to enhance the classroom experience. Their position allows them to match students’ unique interests to programs and professionals that parents would not know about. GT resource teachers are constantly encouraging our students, following up on their progress, teasing out their skills, lending a helping hand, cheering them on, creating that safe, creative space, and expanding their horizons. They have the job of pushing them past what is comfortable and easy.
Over the last 12 years, my children have each told me that they look forward to their GT class period. It’s a safe place, where like-minded peers can learn from each other, challenge one another, and dig deeper into new ideas. It is an exploratory place and unlike any other class. These learners create groups, compete as teams, or work independently to deliver assignments. The assignments are chosen because they give an extra academic boost to a variety of subjects including spelling, word analysis, essay writing, geography, history, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Assignments that repeat every year focus on continuous practice of certain skills, critical thinking, research, and interdisciplinary and experiential approaches to STEM.
I can attest to the fact that my three daughters have all been challenged, enriched, and engaged in their GT classroom. They have surprised me with their talents, and more importantly, they have surprised themselves! They seem confident starting new projects, speak effortlessly to groups or professionals, are able to work in teams, and complete projects that require research skills, scientific analysis, problem solving, and essay writing. They can identify and solve problems, manage their time, and see their projects to completion. In time, they have identified themselves as leaders and as competent students.
As a parent, I will continue to support GT curriculum for students in our district as well as any further investments to future GT programs nationwide. GT classes meet the needs of capable students who are curious and creative, ready for more intense challenges. GT teachers support teachers with the overall goal of reaching the highest learning potential of every student. In my opinion, GT elevates the reputation of our school district and gives our kids a chance to shine while they make positive choices about their own education.
Student and Parent Voices
Hear from and about gifted and talented students and parents across the state Wisconsin.