Spring 2016

ATPE News is the official publication of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, the largest educator association in Texas. The magazine addresses the most important issues affecting public education in the state. Learn more at

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20 | atpe news How did you get into talented and gifted education? It was by chance. I applied for a position at Forest North Elementary School, and because there was a high degree of turnover there, I was considered for a number of positions. The principal must have seen something in me that she thought would be suited for a talented and gifted position. What are some of the unique challenges that you face as a talented and gifted specialist? Talented and gifted students are quirky i n t h e i r ow n way. Th ey s t r u g g l e w i t h perfectionism and underachievement, and they face stress from their families to excel in everything. I strive to create a consistent, credible, and challenging program. I like to see the end product, to know what I'm working toward. And I am constantly tweaking the program, which means I am willing to dump practices that have outgrown their usefulness. I spend a lot of time collecting data, studying the environment, and brainstorming ideas to create the right classroom for my students. I make sure that my students learn rigorous and relevant material and that they build resilience and relationships. I call this strategy R to the fourth, meaning that if all of these concepts are applied at the same time, learning can only grow exponentially. I'm also responsible for testing all the students who are being considered for the program. Legally, anyone who wants to be tested for the program can be, and I usually test 80 to 100 students per year. Of course, not everyone who applies will get in, and handling the expectations of parents and students can be challenging. I tell parents that even if the test doesn't show that their child is gifted, that doesn't mean they're not gifted in any area. It's just a matter of fnding that area. What makes your classroom unique? I give my students lots of time for discussion. I don't mind what they're talking about; I want to see what they think. I do a lot of metacognitive analysis. Also, I only give homework three days a week. Those other two days, they decide what to work on. They diferentiate their own homework based on what their challenges are, but they must do 30 minutes of math a day. I also don't have typical classroom decorations. One wall has posters of places around the world that I have traveled to. The kids really love to see that. I also have a world map at their eye level. We talk about where things are on the map. I'm all about world events and current events in my classroom, even in math classes. As an assignment, I send my kids to HEB. They take photos of cereal boxes with their smart phones and recalculate the data to tell their parents which is the better buy. There is math all around them, and I want them to see that all their learning is to better understand the world. What do you think is the biggest issue facing Texas schools and teachers today? The biggest issue facing Texas schools is their difculty retaining high- quality, technology-savvy teachers within the frst fve years of them entering the profession. Schools spend money training new teachers, but that money is lost when "The biggest issue facing Texas schools is their difculty retaining high-quality, technology-savvy teachers within the frst fve years of them entering the profession."

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