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Superstar CISD Teachers Share Insider GT Information

July 2, 2009

One of the most effective ways to provide meaningful education to gifted students is to provide a special program about gifted education for classroom teachers.  The Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development, located at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, provides this type of program.  The Belin-Blank Fellowship Program in Gifted Education makes it possible for a select number of teachers to receive specialized training in gifted education.

Educators throughout the United States applied to receive this fantastic training as a Belin-Blank Fellow.  Only twelve educators were chosen nationwide and two CISD teachers are among this prestigious group – Kari Lockwood from Austin Elementary and Tracy Gruman from New Tech High @ Coppell.  As Fellows, Mrs. Lockwood and Mrs. Gruman will attend an intensive six day workshop July 12 – 19. 

Kari and Tracy are posting comments on this blog about their experience.  Read on or click on the “comments” above for an inside peek at their experience as a Belin-Blank Fellow and feel free to post comments of your own.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. klockwood permalink
    July 6, 2009 7:03 pm

    Thank you for your interest in our Fellowship opportunity! I am eager to begin and learn more about Gifted education! For now, I have included a bit of an overview of the Fellowship program, as well as information about the assignments that we have completed prior to attending. We will post more next week, once the Fellowship begins.

    The Belin Blank Fellowship Program provides a unique opportunity for teachers that are NEW to gifted education to gain an initial understanding of the field. Its purpose is “to help teachers learn better methods for working with gifted children in their classrooms.”

    As stated on their website, the specific goals of this Fellowship program are to:
    Learn effective new ways to recognize gifted/talented students and meet their unique affective needs.

    Enhance their abilities to meet the different academic needs of gifted/talented students.

    Act as an effective resource in gifted education for other educators in their schools and districts.

    Review their new knowledge and skills for applications to ALL youngsters in their classes.

    Nurture the sense of social responsibility in the use and development of talents among gifted students.

    For more information about the University of Iowa College of Education Belin-Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talented Development, you can visit their website at

    Upon our acceptance into the Fellowship, we recieved 12 articles to read, as well as assignments to complete for each article. I have found these articles to be very informative and I look forward to learning more about these topics next week. The titles are:

    The Educational Rights of Gifted Students: Lost in the Legal Shuffle? (Charles Russo)

    Myths and Stereotypes of Gifted Students: Awareness for the Classroom Teacher (Nicholas Colangelo)

    Smart Boys: Talent, Manhood, and the Search for Meaning – Guiding the Intellectual, Emotional, and Spiritual Development of Gifted Males (Barbara Kerr)

    Internal Barriers, Personal Issues, and Decisions Faced by Gifted (Sally Reis)

    Counseling Gifted and Talented Students: Historical Perspectives and Contemporary Issues (Roberta Myers)

    Social-Emotional Development of Gifted Adolescents (Susan Assouline)

    Unthinkable Thoughts: Education of Gifted Students (James Gallagher)

    Use of General and Specific Aptitude Measures in Identification: Some Principles and Certain Cautions (Julian Stanley)

    Understanding Our Gifted: The False Security of Inclusivity (James Delisle)

    Contributions of Gifted Education to General Education In A Time of Change (Carol Ann Tomlinson)

    Educational Leadership: Gifted Students Need an Education, too (Susan Winebrenner)

    Giftedness: An Exceptionality Examined (Ann Robinson)

  2. klockwood permalink
    July 14, 2009 12:22 am

    Thank you for taking the time to read about our incredible Fellowship program at the Belin-Blank Center! We decided to collaborate on our blog entries, rather than repeating the same information in two seperate blogs.

    This morning began with an introduction to gifted education and a review of the history of how it has evolved. We learned that, although there has been a great deal of progress in the field, we still have a long way to go.

    We then shared our own definitions of the term “gifted” and talked about how society tends to view those that are gifted. We shared our frustration in the fact that society (in general) tends to value other things (such as sports, strength, physical attributes, etc…) so much more than giftedness and other academic talents. We also talked about the unfortunate fact that so many people often times view students that are gifted as “elitists” or “snobs”, etc…, which can lead these students to shy away from, or attempt to hide their talents and exceptional abilities. It can also, sadly, lead some teachers away from helping gifted learners, for fear of making other students feel insuperior. This conversation led to some discussion about the important role that parents, teachers, administrators, peer mentors and counselors play in the lives of gifted students.

    Following that discussion, we worked as a collective group to design a 2009 Fellows t-shirt (the Fellowship program is in its 29th year, and each year they allow the Fellows to design a shirt that is meaningful to them.) With the morning’s discussion in mind, we chose to have our shirts printed with an excellent quote by Jorie Graham (the 1996 Pulitzer Prize winner for Poetry), that we came across in one of our assigned readings last night. It reminded us of the discussion that we had earlier about how society sometimes views gifted students as “elitists” and will hopefully serve as a reminder of the important and unique role that gifted students hold in our world. It reads:

    “The root of excellence – from the Greek – is not, properly, to surpass others – or to be greater than they, but, rather, to rise up naturally, to raise – as a crop is raised. The oldest root in the word – from the Greek – is that for HILL.

    Imagine that hill. It was not placed on the landscape to make the prairie feel flat. It was not raised to make the sky tremble. Its job is to be a hill. We do not know why, but we do know that a hill-less world would be unbearable.”

    We look forward to wearing our shirts when we return and sharing this message with others!

    After lunch, we had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Susan Assouline, Associate Director of the Belin Blank Center, speak about identification of gifted students. Dr. Assouline is internationally known for her work in the field of gifted education. She spoke about how identification is vital in serving all students, including those with high aptitiude, where a “regular curriculum” is not challenging enough. She also spent a great deal of time speaking about the needs of twice-exceptional learners.

    Catherine Blando spoke to us about the Belin Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS) program. It is a summer program that serves gifted students in grades 4-9. Tracy asked if this program was open only to students in Iowa, or also to those in other states. They said that it was open to students nation-wide, but that there are also other Talent Search programs offered through different Universities, such as Duke and Johns-Hopkins. We will share more information about this opportunity when we return.

    Later in the afternoon, we took a tour of the Belin-Blank Center. We were “wowed” with every turn! Iowa is so lucky to have such an amazing resource for its teachers and students and we are grateful that they opened their doors to us (and that CISD has provided us the opportunity to participate.) Hopefully a similar opportunity will soon be made available in Texas as well! Until then, we highly recommend that other CISD teachers take part in this Fellowship in the future!

    We are really enjoying this program and the opportunity to “bounce ideas” off of each other. We all have such diverse backgrounds and experiences to share. All of the other Fellows are from here in Iowa, and many of them have voiced their appreciation for the fact that we are here from another state and can share new information and perspectives with them as well.

    We were pleasantly suprised by the lovely “care packages” that the Coppell Gifted Association sent us. We felt so special and the other Fellows appreciated that they were included as well! Thank you so much! It was so nice to get something from “home.” 🙂

    This evening’s assignments include several readings, including:
    Underachievement vs. Selective Achievement
    Choreography of Talent Development
    Patterns of Giftedness
    Recruiting and Retaining Underrepresented Gifted
    Impact of Vulnerabilities and Strengths of Twice Exceptional Students
    Challenging Expectations: Case Studies in Gifted
    Issues in Cognitive Development
    Myths of Gifted Education

    We will also be completing the Myers-Briggs Values Inventory.

    Tomorrow morning we will have the opportunity to participate in and observe a session of the BESTS Summer program with exceptional learners from across the country. Tracy will attend the Asian Pacific Studies Institute (secondary), and Kari will attend the biotechnology session for elementary students. In the afternoon, we will attend “Issues of Diversity” and “Formative Evaluations.” Tomorrow night, our group will take part in a Belin-Fellows tradition of having dinner at an Iowa City landmark, Airliner Pizza . It will be a nice break from our 100+ pages of nightly reading and assignments! 🙂

    Thank you again to Todd Kettler and the Coppell Gifted Association for allowing us this amazing opportunity. We can’t wait to get back and share all that we have learned!

    ~Tracy and Kari

  3. Communications permalink
    July 14, 2009 3:47 pm

    Wow – you are receiving a truly well rounded learning experience about gifted children. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us. Enjoy your evening at Airliner Pizza 🙂

  4. cgaregister permalink
    July 14, 2009 11:14 pm

    Now THIS is a huge boost for gifted kids! Teacher advocates for kids always trump parent advocates with respect to walking the talk! THANKS FOR INVESTING SO MUCH TIME FOR GIFTED KIDS!! Now, please stay in Coppell!! 😉

  5. klockwood permalink
    July 15, 2009 2:33 am

    Thanks for the comments! 🙂

    Today was yet another action-packed day! We spent the morning observing sessions of the BESTS summer program – which was UNBELIEVABLE! We will share more details about our experiences in tomorrow’s entry.

    We spent the afternoon investigating issues of diversity and how they affect gifted learners. That was very interesting and thought-provoking. We will definitiely have a unique perspective in the future as we consider the needs of all of our students.

    Tonight’s reading are:
    Giftedness: An Exceptionality Examined
    Current Research on Social-Emotional Development
    Counseling of Gifted and Talented Students
    Through the Lens of Giftedness
    Bringing Up Genius
    Teachers of Gifted Students
    The Differentiated Model of Gifted and Talent

    Tomorrow we will review the results of our own Myers-Briggs Values Inventory, read and discuss several case studies involving gifted students, learn about career counseling with gifted children, spend time researching in the Belin-Blank Research Library (WOW!), and have the distinct pleasure of listening to Dr. Nicholas Colangelo – an internationally recognized leader in the field of Gifted and Talented Education. If you are not familiar with Dr. Colangelo, you can read his bio at:

    ~Kari & Tracy

  6. klockwood permalink
    July 16, 2009 2:08 am

    This morning we began by looking at case studies involving students in our own classrooms that we feel are potentially gifted. We also took a closer look at various versions of the federal definition of “giftedness” and discussed our interpretations of each one. When we started the program, we were asked to write our own definition of the term, and then we will write it again on the last day, once we have completed the Fellowship, and compare them to see how they have changed over the course of the week. They will definitely have changed by then! 🙂

    We discussed the differences between a child prodigy and a gifted and/or talented child, the difference (and fine line) between “bragging” and “acknowledging accomplishments”, and learned the sad fact that only 2 cents out of every $100 spent in education today is devoted to GT programs! We were shocked and saddened by that figure! It made us all question what we can do to help change that. Unfortunately, there is no “miracle cure”, but we are hoping that we, as new advocates for gifted education, will somehow be able to spread the word and work for a positive change in the future.

    We finally had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Nicholas Colangelo speak about the needs of gifted students. He spoke about acceleration vs. enrichment and the social needs of gifted students, as well as the role that geography plays in education. He also spoke about his book, “A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students” and we got a copy that we will be giving to the Coppell Gifted Association to use as a resource for teachers and parents (we have already read the book as part of our assigned readings for the program. We found it to be very informative and hope that others will take the time to read it as well.) The books are free and available at We both agree that his session was, by far, the most valuable experience that we have had so far this week. He shared so much information and did not hesitate to answer any and all questions that we had. He even joined us at lunch to continue our discussion. He was so personable and a wealth of knowledge in the field. It was amazing!

    This afternoon we met with Dr. Megan Foley Nicpon, who discussed the importance of career counseling for gifted students. She described the RIASEC Inventory, which is used to help gifted individuals gain a better idea of career paths that align with their interests. We were so interested in this inventory, that we decided to look it up this evening, and we found several websites that offer information about it, as well as the actual inventory. We hope that others will consider sharing it with gifted children, as we feel that it could be a powerful tool. For more information you can visit (or “Google” search it):

    Click to access Career%20Interest%20Game.pdf


    She then broke us into two groups and asked us to work together to use M&M candies to design the ideal house for our group to live in. We were both in the same group, and we decided to use colorful peanut M&M’s to represent the outside structure of our house. We then decided that we each needed our own room in the house, so we each took one single color of plain M&M’s and made our rooms.

    Once we finished our floorplans, we gathered together to share them. We noticed that the other group’s house was made with a combination of peanut and plain M&M’s, and the colors were all mixed together. They also decided to make one large, open room where they could all be together and socialize.

    After looking at the 2 groups’ houses, we noticed that our house was very “logical”, we had used one type of candies for the outer structure, and a different type for the inner walls. We each had our own personal rooms, and we each had our own single color of candies for our rooms. Whereas, the other group’s house was very open, and there really was no specific color-code or logical order to the way that it was designed. We also learned that we had approached the activity in two very different ways. Our group started by making a list of everything that we wanted in our house, then sorting the M&M’s and deciding which kinds and colors to use, then we each added our own section to the house. The other group got right to work and all added bits and pieces to the house at once, in a collaborative act.

    Once we finished that activity, we discussed all of the differences between the two groups, and then she gave us the results of our Myers-Briggs Values Inventory. She then explained that she had grouped us based on the results of the inventory. Our group was the group that is labeled “introvert”, which she explained as “people that get the majority of their energy from alone time and personal space”, wheras the other group fell into the category of “extrovert”, which she explained as “those that get their best energy from being around others and collaborating within a group.” This explained a LOT!

    Here are our results:
    Kari – ISFP (introversion, sensing, feeling, perceiving)
    “quiet, friendly, sensitive, and kind. Enjoys the present moment and what’s going on around them. Likes to have their own space and to work within their own time frame. Loyal and committed to their values and to people who are important to them. Dislikes disagreements and conflicts and does not force their opinions or values on others.”

    Tracy – ISTJ (introversion, sensing, thinking, judging)
    “quiet, serious, earns success by thoroughness and dependability. Practical, matter-of-fact, realistic, and responsible. Decides logically what should be done and works towards it steadily, regardless of distractions. Takes pleasure in making everything orderly and organized – their work, their home, their life. Values traditions and loyalty.”

    Once we finished with Dr. Nicpon, we received a “crash course” in finding our way around the Belin-Blank Gifted Research Library, which we will be using quite a bit as we prepare for our final project on Saturday morning. (more on that at a later date…) 🙂

    Tonight’s assignments include:
    -A Nation Deceived: Chapters 1 & 7
    -Bringing Out The Best in Every Student
    -Characteristics of Effective Teachers
    -Teacher and Student Perceptions of Creativity
    -A Multi-Site Case Study of Successful Classroom Practices

    Sidenote: we recently learned that, in the 29 year history of the Belin-Blank Fellowship, we are the first two educators to be accepted into the Fellowship from outside the state of Iowa. We felt very honored to represent our state and district!

    And, as a final note, we were introduced to two incredible websites for gifted that we would like to share:

  7. klockwood permalink
    July 18, 2009 7:58 pm

    Well, we are officially done with the Fellowship. 😦

    Once again, I cannot even begin to express what an amazing experince this has been. Today was our final day and we had a special closing activity that acted as our “final exam” – it was a bit like giving a dissertation! 🙂

    We had a “mock school board meeting.” We were given a scenario to consider…that our school district was considering minimizing or eliminating the gifted program. Then, we were each given a specific “character” that we had to portray. My role was to act as the parent of a highly gifted student that had skipped a grade in elementary school, participated in the GT program, participated in the Talent Search program, had taken 2 AP courses, attended summer sessions at the Belin-Blank Center, graduated from high school a year early, and was a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist that was applying to Med School. I had to present my perspective and reasons for supporting the gifted program.

    There were also two people that had to act as if they were against the Gifted program…which was very challenging. Luckily, I went after they did, so I was all “fired up” and ready to state my case! My part was pretty easy, especially after all that I learned this week! I really focused on the fact that Gifted students need unique, differentiated, challenging opportunities in order to meet their fullest potential – rather than simply being expected to “mark time” in a classroom where they are not learning any new material.

    Some of the other facts that I stated include:
    – that a 2004 study showed that approximately 5% of America’s youth (or 3 MILLION children) have extraordinary intellectual and academic capacities and/or creative & artistic abilities, yet there is so little support for this program (on average, only 2 cents out of every $100 of educational funding goes towards gifted education!)

    – many U.S. schools do not offer GT programs or AP courses, despite the fact that a recent report by the U.S. Department of Education states that students that attend schools without a Gifted program (or AP classes) have a 33% chance of earning a Bachelors degree, whereas students that take part in GT or AP classes have a 76% chance! Their study also concluded that GT programs and AP courses contribute to overall school improvement. It showed that students that did not participate in GT or AP classes, but attended a school with these programs was considerably more likely to graduate, than those that attended schools without these programs!

    – it is incredibly important for teachers to receive training in teaching gifted students…especially considering the fact that 61% of teachers in the U.S. have no training in GT, which means that approximately 80% of a student’s time in school will be spent with a teacher that is not adequately trained to meet their needs.

    – and, finally, the fact that approximately 5% of all gifted students end up dropping out of school because their needs are not being met (they do not feel accepted, do not feel challenged, etc…)

    The entire “board meeting” was video recorded, and they will be sending us a copy. Although it was a bit intimidating to speak in front of the camera, I am glad that they did this because we will now have a record of everyone’s statements that we can use if we ever find ourselves in a situation where we need to defend the importance of Gifted education. It will be a great resource to refer back to (although I hope that I never have to!!!!) 🙂

    After the mock board meeting, we wrote a letter to ourselves that will be mailed to us in September. The letters will serve as a reminder of what we learned. Then we took our final exam and had a mini “graduation ceremony.” All in all, it was such an amazing week. I really do feel that this was the most influential and educational experience that I have ever particpated in. I went into the program as a general education teacher that really knew nothing about gifted education. I felt that gifted students were the “easiest”, and that they would always be successful, no matter what. After this week, I have a completely different perspective. I feel that I really have a good, solid understanding of the unique needs of gifted learners, as well as the challenges that they face. I also feel much better prepared to provide a meaningful educational experience for each individual student in my class. I consider myself a new advocate for the Gifted program, and I intend to work towards my endorsement in gifted education.

    Once again…thank you to Todd Kettler and the entire CGA for your support and for allowing me the opportunity to participate in this program. I look forward to spreading the word and sharing all that I have learned! THANK YOU!!!! 🙂


  8. klockwood permalink
    July 19, 2009 5:22 am

    P.S. – I have a pluthera of materials, including several books and all of the articles that we received throughout the week of the Fellowship (hard copies, as well as electronic copies on a cd.) If anyone would like to read or make copies of any of these resources, please feel free to e-mail me ( )

    I also got a copy of Dr. Colangelo and Dr. Assouline’s book “A Nation Deceived”, that I will give to CGA as soon as school starts again.

  9. July 20, 2009 3:36 am

    Loved reading about your experience. Thanks so much for sharing and for your dedication!

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