Thanks to funding provided by the Jennings & Rebecca Jones Foundation, several educators from Rutherford County Schools and Murfreesboro City Schools were able to attend the annual convention of the National Association for Gifted Children.
The convention, which was held in Indianapolis, Ind., provides teachers with information about the current practices and issues in gifted education across the country. Fifteen teachers from Rutherford County Schools and 13 teachers from Murfreesboro City Schools attended.
“Rutherford County is now in its second year of a generous grant from the Jones Foundation that supports ongoing professional development in the education of gifted children,” said Susan Lewis, supervisor of Gifted Services for Rutherford County Schools. “In addition to the annual NAGC Convention our teachers have been able to attend workshops offered through the Tennessee Association for the Gifted, The Great Books Foundation and Vanderbilt University. These workshops broaden teachers’ understanding of gifted students and equip them with the tools needed to effectively differentiate instruction.”
The NAGC Convention is led by national experts in gifted education and extends participants’ understanding of the social-emotional and academic needs of gifted students, Lewis added.
Lea Bartch, the coordinator of Gifted Services for Murfreesboro City Schools said one of her favorite sessions was a presentation by Dr. Don Ambrose.
“He gave strategies that can be used to help students make connections and think metaphorically,” Bartch explained. “Students are more likely to retain information they can connect to what they know. It worked. I’m still trying to make connections with what he presented.”
Gifted students spend 80%-90% of their day with general education teachers. Knowing the why and the how makes a difference for all teachers and all students, Bartch added.
Many of the teachers noted that they had learned much about what motivates and what inhibits gifted children. Mia King, first grade teacher at McFadden School of Excellence said she learned that gifted children will “stay away from difficult tasks that could result in losing a game or making a bad grade.” They need encouragement and support in competitive endeavors where they can realize the value of hard work and the growth that can occur from struggle.
There is a need for teachers to understand how to identify gifted students in their classrooms, said Karen Loyd, an academic interventionist at Black Fox Elementary School.
“It is extremely important for teachers to attend a conference like this. Teachers are lifetime learners and methods change so frequently. We need to be informed of the best research-based instruction that we can obtain. This conference was so informative at every session and full of great ideas that teachers could use immediately,” Loyd said.
The National Association for Gifted Children has more than 8,000 members. Its mission is to “support and develop policies and practices that encourage and respond to the diverse expressions of gifts and talents in children and youth from all cultures, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and socioeconomic groups …”
Rutherford County Schools Spokesperson, James Evans