Gifted programming expands in its third yearWORTHINGTON — Just two years ago, Prairie Elementary, one of the state’s largest elementary schools, “had not seen any service, programming, or specific intent toward addressing the needs of the gifted for as long as anyone could remember,” reads a profile of the program written by Kelly Troe, a third-grade teacher who serves as the chairperson for the school’s Gifted and Talented Education Committee (GATE).
By: Laura Grevas, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Just two years ago, Prairie Elementary, one of the state’s largest elementary schools, “had not seen any service, programming, or specific intent toward addressing the needs of the gifted for as long as anyone could remember,” reads a profile of the program written by Kelly Troe, a third-grade teacher who serves as the chairperson for the school’s Gifted and Talented Education Committee (GATE).
“We started our program from nothing, and last year we served 206 (100) kids in different opportunities,” said Troe, who has completed coursework in gifted and talented programming.
GATE, comprising principal Paul Besel, vice principal Josh Noble and teacher representatives from each of the five grade levels, serves gifted students in three main areas: in-classroom service, enrichment opportunities inside the school and enrichment opportunities outside of the school.
In place of traditional programs that pull students out of the classroom for special instruction, the committee has focused its efforts on “clustering,” a popular nationwide program that gives support to teachers of students who are “tagged” when they meet certain criteria in reading and math. Last year, Troe also offered K-3 teachers an in-service lesson in characteristics of the gifted.
“Sometimes in schools people will use academic indicators and decide whether a child is a good artist or a good scientist and that isn’t always the way it is,” Troe said. “If you’re very good at art, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have great reading scores or great math scores. Getting indicators that are fair in those areas is our journey right now.”
Students gifted in areas like creativity, leadership and critical thinking may need to be differentiated by their teachers.
“Staff can look for that kind of child and we can actually service them in a more equitable way,” Troe added.
This year, Prairie has implemented a schoolwide curriculum in art, Art Tango, which should help standardize what is being taught. And that’s important, Troe said.
“If we don’t give everybody a chance at art, it’s very difficult to see who’s going to emerge,” Troe explained. “It’s a really good example of (why) you have to get curriculum at the school wide level … because you might miss someone if you’re just going by the seat of your pants.”
State funding for gifted and talented programming has also been used outside of the school. Last year, interested students were sent to the Conference for Young Artists, the Science and Nature Conference and a Conference for Young Writers, all provided by the SW/WC Service Cooperative.
Within the school, a literature and chess club has been started; Math Masters and a Spelling Bee are also available for fifth-graders. Last year also saw the inaugural science fair, which included 43 students in grades 3-5 — some of whom went on to win at the regional level.
In its first year, Troe said the committee’s efforts focused on the academically gifted, but now programming is increasingly being expanded for those gifted in other areas as well.
“It can’t just be the kids who have the fire at home or the parents with the money; we want to reach all kinds of kids.” Troe said.
She’s most proud the committee is continually searching for a better way to encourage the gifted, and all students, for that matter.
“I have extremely huge dreams,” she said. “The cornerstone of education is the flexibility to recognize the needs of the individual. As gifted education goes, so go the rest of us.”