Empowering Educators

Posted by Janae Melvin on September 29, 2015 in College, Education, Gifted, The They are students we all remember in school. Sometimes they were pulled out of class for independent study, sometimes they were bussed to a different school for specialized classwork. They are gifted students, students that have an exceptional understanding of specific areas of study or interest. It could be math or science or music or engineering. They are students who possess extra gifts and talents that teachers, administrators, and even parents, don’t always understand.

A shared passion for teaching others about gifted educational instructional strategies and a desire to empower the advocacy voice in gifted education led to a unique partnership between Ottawa University and University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kan., thanks to Dr. Amy Hogan, OU school of education dean and Dr. Gwen Landever, USM education department chair.

“Gifted education is a limited field of study,” said Dr. Hogan. “Our desire is not to only help those who wish to become licensed gifted educators but rather to empower and resource the classroom teacher with best practices in gifted education and differentiated instruction to guide children within this spectrum.”

Through this partnership, the Gifted 101 workshop was developed. Many who participate in these workshops are classroom teachers who are looking for resources that will allow them to better serve the gifted students they teach every day. Held one to two times each year, participants gather to practice strategies, advocate, network and educate themselves further on teaching these talented and creative young minds.

“The collaboration between the two institutions allows the ability to grow a broader professional learning community for the educator in candidacy for a gifted education license,” said Dr. Hogan.

Dr. Landever feels that knowing what is best for gifted children but not having fully funded resources to meet their unique needs is a challenge facing educators today. Resources are limited and the knowledge base can be even more limited with regards to best practices for children, so these workshops can help ensure that educators have access to the tools they need in the classroom as well as take advantage of the opportunity to learn from others across
the state.

“I really value the collaboration with OU since we both have the same vision and desire to better prepare educators and advocate for the needs of gifted students,” said Dr. Landever. “Together, we have designed coursework that is practical and meaningful for those educators, and parents, seeking information on gifted learners.”

Beverly (Clinton) Fink ’56, a gifted facilitator at Manhattan High School in Manhattan, Kan., feels strongly about providing as many tools as are necessary to gifted students at all levels of education.

“I’m not sure how many administrators, educators and parents understand that the social and emotional needs of these students are far wider,” said Fink. “Being a gifted educator is like being a coach. Gifted students do better if they have a coach. Someone who works with them individually and identifies exactly what they need to reach their full potential in the classroom.”

Fink believes that each person within a gifted student’s life needs to understand what his or her individual needs are. The student may need independent study time, or possibly an internship or mentorship that gives them practical, hands-on experience.

“We are really losing out when we don’t recognize that we have gifted kids in our midst – and they could do wonderful things,” said Fink.

Challenges continue to exist but Fink knows that workshops like Gifted 101 will help educators better understand how the gifted student learns. “Anything we can teach the classroom teachers to help them work with these students is a step in the right direction.”

Fink is passionate about what she does and speaks with tremendous pride when talking about her students.

“It’s been very rewarding. I’m in awe of some of my kids and what they have done with their lives,” she said. “Sometimes I’ve wondered if I have done anything for them. Then I get a letter or a note from a former student and they tell me that they wouldn’t be where they are today if I had not supported them in high school. And that’s what it’s all about.”

Indeed, it is.