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Austin Elementary is buzzing with Renzulli excitement

June 14, 2010

Laurie O'Neill, Austin Elementary Principal

Shhhh . . . Can you hear that buzzing sound on Moore Road?  It’s coming from Austin Elementary which is about to embark on a new and exciting focus.  During the 2010-11 school year, with the support of CISD Superintendent Dr. Turner, the administration and staff will implement the Renzulli Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM). This program was created by Dr. Joseph Renzulli who is a professor at the University of Connecticut and a world-renowned expert in gifted education.  The SEM focuses on enrichment for ALL students through high levels of engagement and the use of enjoyable and challenging learning experiences that are constructed around students’ interests, learning styles, and preferred modes of expression.

To prepare for implementation, the Austin “Enrichment Vertical Team” consisting of teachers Heather Cechin, Teresa Raney, Liz Malone, David Barnette, Sarah Daugherty, Cathy Kirby, Debbie Sblendorio, and Beth Cook along with Principal Laurie O’Neill and CISD Administrator Joy Smart will attend the University of Connecticut’s Confratute from July 11 – 16.  A typical Confratute day will start at 8am with classes about SEM, followed by break out sessions of different presentation strands with a particular focus.  In the afternoon, attendees will pick mini courses taught by well-known education experts.  The days are long at Confratute as each night ends with a guest speaker after dinner and then a social gathering where attendees from around the world can meet and converse with all of the famous speakers and presenters.  The educators stay in the dorm suites at the University and get to know their suite mates from around the world as well.  In an environment like this, one can see how the learning is non-stop, even while the brain processes during the short nights of sleep.

Upon their return to Austin Elementary, this team will lead ongoing professional development for the rest of the educators at Austin.  The hope is that the SEM can be introduced to students in the Spring of 2011.  The process has already begun in earnest as every Austin student and educator took the Rezulli Profiler this past Spring to determine his or her interests, learning styles, and preferred modes of expression with the Renzulli Learning site license that Austin has already purchased.  With this information, the students will be placed in Enrichment Clusters that will meet in the Spring every Friday afternoon with a teacher or two that has similar interests.  Mrs. O’Neill also plans to invite cleared parents and community members with similar interests to participate in clusters.  During this cluster time, they will explore their interests and engage in learning that will create passionate, life long learners.

CGA offered 2010 Summer Grants to all educators in CISD for gifted education summer training.  And while every type of learner at Austin Elementary will benefit from this engaging education model, the CGA board agreed that this amazing program would especially benefit the GT students at Austin as well.  Therefore, CGA granted Mrs. O’Neill’s request that enabled her to take 2 additional teachers to Confratute this summer.  CGA is thrilled that the funds we raise from Summer MOSAIC allow us to continue to support CISD educators in meeting the needs of GT students.

If you’d like to read about the Austin Enrichment Team’s experience at Confratute click here where Mrs. O’Neill and the Austin attendees are posting real-time comments while they are in Connecticut.  You can also visit renzullilearning.com to learn more about the Schoolwide Enrichment Model.

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