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Dear Teachers of the Gifted

By Lori Comallie-Caplan.

Each month a different member of the SENG team describes a personal passion in the realm of social and emotional needs of the gifted. In the last SENG Update, Director Jane Hesslein shared an article for parents, “What Your Kids Want You to Know.” This article follows up with what our gifted kids want teachers to know, by SENG Director Lori Comallie-Caplan.

Dear Teachers of the Gifted:

In November of 2009, I facilitated an essay contest for the New Mexico Public Education Department’s Gifted Advisory Committee. The essay topic was “Why I am Thankful for Gifted Education.” As I read these essays, I realized how very important the teachers of the gifted are to the academic and emotional success of our gifted children. As you prepare to begin another year with our precious children, I wanted to share some of their quotes about how they feel about you. I hope they will be as inspiring to you as they were to me.

“In fourth and fifth grade, I was in the C level gifted program. I had an amazing teacher, Mrs. R. She taught our class so many good strategies on how to learn, and made us have the responsibility over our own learning. All that I learned last year really helped me this year in sixth grade. The gifted program has really helped me to get stronger on the inside. I feel more confident. Being a gifted student makes me proud, and I feel really thankful to all of my teachers who challenged me throughout my life. The gifted program also has made me more responsible, and I am thankful for that trait that I now have.” – C.K., Albuquerque, 3rd grade

“I am thankful for gifted education because it…expands the classroom to the world. My gifted teacher shows us that everywhere we are is a learning place, and we are not limited by the classroom walls.” – T.P., Shiprock, 3rd grade

“Teachers in gifted are very kind, and I am grateful for them. I don’t think that my learning experience would be as enjoyable as it is now without them. In my opinion, gifted would not be as fun if my teachers were not the same. They encourage me and always help me when I am confused. My teachers also make my experience fun and exciting, encouraging me to do better work. The teachers that I have are extremely important in moving me forward, and I am very thankful for them…. In conclusion, if gifted education was not there, my life would not be the same. Now, I seek challenges. Therefore, I am very thankful for the gifted program.” – I. G., Albuquerque, 4th grade

“My gifted teacher encourages us and helps us express ourselves and move on. My teacher helps us accomplish things. Gifted class helps me become ambitious and excited for work. When I grow up, I’m going to be an architect, and my gifted teacher taught me to be confident. Gifted is not always fun. It’s a lot of hard work, and you have to be able to do challenging work. I’m thankful for gifted because the gifted teacher appreciates us for who we are. I’m thankful for gifted because gifted is a place where we can express ourselves and because we get to create projects and get to debate. In gifted, if there is a problem, all we have to do is compromise. Gifted is the most fun class. I think we have the most fun projects. In gifted, you have to have courage in yourself, and you have to want it. Gifted is hard work, but Ms. S. makes the hard work fun!” – C.Y., Kirtland, 5th grade

“Our teacher lets us share our ideas and opinions in seminar and shared inquiry discussions (I think she does this because, since it is not that big of a class, it is not going to be as noisy). One of the things I am also thankful for is that my teacher appreciates every student. Some students are gifted at math, others are gifted in English, and some are gifted in everything. She tells us that we are special in our own way and that when we grow up we could do wonderful things.” – Anonymous, Sandia Park, 5th grade

“My fabulous teacher is also something I’m grateful for. She teaches me new things and pushes me to go above and beyond standards. I’m like a lawn mower that feeds on grass of knowledge, and my teacher pushes me across that lawn of knowledge so I can consume more of it. She opens the door of opportunities and walks me through.” – Anonymous, Albuquerque, 6th grade

“Probably one of the most important factors in a successful gifted program are the educators. They are exceptionally helpful and supportive. Without such talented teachers, the entire objective of a positive learning environment is ruined. Our instructors make learning fun and inspire you to do your very best. The teachers are a critical part of why I enjoy the gifted education program.” – K.C., Albuquerque, 7th grade

“The way the teachers and their classrooms are so open, and how it helps to promote a better working atmosphere for me and my peers makes such a large difference. The teachers get to know you better, and the classroom becomes an environment where you not only get to do work, but learn about what you want to achieve later in life. Gifted classes let me have more than the traditional school experience, teaching with some non-traditional methods, and more challenging work.” – S. M., Albuquerque, 8th grade

“When classes have just a handful of students, that means you get more one-on-one time with the teacher. With more attention from the teacher, you receive more sincere care from him or her, which results in a greater interest in your life to help you with whatever you need. They ask you about things in your life that you might need help in and also make sure you are focused and you are doing what you need to be doing. Gifted students more often than not have lots on their mind, and the teachers in these classes are like our free counselors. Gifted students, whether people believe it or not, do require some kind of special ‘attention.’ These gifted classes provide exactly what the gifted child needs. It provides security, individuality, and a place to think the way you naturally think. Without gifted classes, gifted students would probably lose the very essence of what it means to be gifted.” – S.C., Albuquerque, 9th grade

“Our teachers, aware of our fierce opinions and ardor, love to provoke us and observe the fireworks as we animatedly discuss the day’s political buzzword. Several weeks ago, we began discussing Thoreau’s ‘Civil Disobedience,’ only to find that when the hour was up, we had sparred our way through the threat of federal control and the War on Terror, and soared on to the religious state of our nation, abortion, the ideal woman of the Cult of Domesticity, and the oppression of Poland throughout history. …The gifted program has helped us to become intelligent leaders who are confident not only in ourselves, but also in the strength of cooperation and humility.” – A.P., Rio Rancho, 12th grade

“The teachers which are a part of the Gifted Education program are, in my opinion, what make the program so special. I have gone through almost all of my high school journey and have not yet met one teacher who was not genuinely concerned for my future and current state in my education. I can name numerous members of the faculty of Gifted Education that have greatly inspired me to press harder, think broader, and explore new ways of learning, and those people and their lessons will remain with me forever.” – T.G., Las Cruces, 12th grade

Gifted students want teachers who:

· Show that they care about the student as a whole person, not just the academic achiever.

· Know their students’ passions and incorporate those passions into their learning.

· Give their students responsibility and choices in their learning.

· Allow their students time to learn with like-minded peers.

· Give their students a glimpse of their future.

· Expand the classroom to the world and give their students the confidence to explore and contribute to it.

I’ll leave you with the words of Jim Delisle:

“When times get tough, politics get dense, budgets get cut, and criticism piles high, you have one place to turn that will always renew your spirit: the gifted children you teach. They look to you for wisdom and guidance; you need to look to them for support. If you get the privilege to know gifted kids who continue to connect with you long after they leave your classroom, then you will truly know what it means to be a teacher.” “A Message to New Teachers of Gifted Children,” Gifted Child Today, 28(1), 22–23. Winter 2005.

Have a wonderful 2010-2011 school year!


Lori Comallie-Caplan, SENG president-elect, is currently Gifted Education Faculty at New Mexico State University and Independent Educational Consultant. Over the last 25 years, Ms. Comallie-Caplan has gained public school experience in the field of gifted as teacher, counselor, educational diagnostician and program specialist. Ms. Comallie-Caplan earned a lifetime membership for her accomplishments as the 2005-2006 President for the New Mexico Association for the Gifted (NMAG) and she continues as the webmaster for NMAG. She frequently presents at SENG and NAGC annual conferences. She is married to Dr. Marc Caplan, a clinical psychologist in Las Cruces and between them have two gifted sons.

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