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TAGT 2013 Reflections

February 9, 2014

CGA provided scholarships to 23 CISD teachers and administrators for the 2013 Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented (TAGT) Conference held in Houston in December 2013. Here is what some of them had to say about their experience at TAGT.

I really appreciated the opportunity to attend the TAGT conference this year.  As a classroom teacher this really helped me better understand our GTi program and how I can better help the learners in my classroom.  I look forward to sharing all the ideas that I learned with my school – I found a particular speaker very helpful that shared “high impact low preparation activities” that will better engage all learners and help to extend the thinking and vocabulary of GT learners.  Thank you CGA for this experience!  I hope that more classroom teachers are able to attend in the future as it was very beneficial and applicable to the everyday classroom with GTi learners.

–   Sarah Wilcox (Denton Creek)

One of the most beneficial parts to any gifted conference is the opportunity to network with educated people about gifted education. Oftentimes it feels like we are on an island, advocating and designing learning experiences by ourselves. Not only is it inspiring to learn from others in our field, it is also reassuring to know that we are not as isolated as we sometimes feel.Thank you so much for this opportunity. I really appreciate your support.

–   Laila Sanguras (CMS-West)

The TAGT Conference was an eye-opening (and mind-opening) three days. Not only did the various sessions reaffirm my belief that we need GT services for our gifted learners, but it also reinforced the idea that maybe we should start looking at how we deliver those services. We have so many students who need a creative outlet and require that same creativity from their teachers. The final session I attended, Leadership and Change in Gifted Education, looked at several different views of giftedness and gifted education, including asynchronous development, differentiation, and the talent development model. The idea that giftedness is malleable and constantly developing was fascinating, considering so many gifted students test in at a young age and stay in GT through high school. We have to look for ways in which to ensure gifted students remain fully engaged not just in their classes but also in specific areas of interest and passion. I am excited about the information I received, as well as the work we have been doing in CISD to lead us toward this model.

–       Matt Bowden (CHS)

Thank you CGA for allowing me the opportunity to go to the Gifted and Talented Conference in Houston. A couple of my big “take-aways” follow. In the session titled “Creating Proficient, Engaged Problem Solvers: Increasing Thinking, Reasoning, Discourse, Proficiency, and Achievement” the presenter mentioned that we must always give students time to think, reason, and reflect about new mathematical concepts. I know this might seem obvious; however, I’m not always sure we put this into practice. The learners need time to discuss new mathematical ideas. There is nothing more important than to teach a gifted child that there is more than one way to get to an answer. I also went to a session on performance tasks or assessments. The beauty of giving a performance assessment is that it requires the learner to be active, rather than passive. The learners are able to be demonstrate their knowledge of specific content in a creative way, rather than on a multiple-choice test. Both the social and cognitive needs of the learner are met. Finally, in reference to our twice-exceptional learners, too often we place so much emphasis on a learner’s deficit, instead of building up what the learner can do. I left the session challenged to show my learners “interesting” things, to challenge them, to allow them the opportunity to extend their knowledge.

–   Maddie Sokolosky (CMS-East)

To CGA: During my time at TAGT, I was able to broadcast all the wonderful things being learned here in Coppell ISD. My colleague Melanie Ringman and I lead a session entitled: I’m Flipped. I’m Innovative. Am I Done Yet? Using Differentiated Strategies to create a Personalized Learning Plan for your Students. Educators from all over Texas were able to come and listen to real life examples and strategies being used right here in Coppell ISD. They benefited from the perspective of an award winning teacher, Mrs. Ringman, as well as a perspective from an administrator. Thank you for all the wonderful things you do for our educators and administrators. It is greatly appreciated and well used!

–   Kimberly Kindred (CMS-North)

Dear CGA,

Thank you so much for the opportunity to attend the TAGT Conference in Houston this year.  As a new GTi Specialist I gained valuable information not only as an educator, but also as a parent of a GT learner.  One of the “AH-HA” moments I had during the conference was from Bob Iseminger’s “Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted Digital Learners” session.

During this workshop, I found the Kaiser Family Foundation Research fascinating.  It said that a child spends about 53 hours a week on entertainment media (computer, TV, ipad, etc.).  Although educators have no control over this, we deal with the consequences.  Mr. Iseminger explained that it takes one sleep cycle for the brain to process something new. When kids wear their EarPods to sleep every night their brains can’t get deep REM sleep. For this reason, he said, “Technology should be out of the bedroom, every night”.  It is important for educators to partner with parents so that we can all work towards the same goal–moderation.  It is difficult for kids to slow their brains down which affects academic work and social/emotional relations. Mr. Iseminger shared that “static reading on the computer is not the issue.  The issue is the fast images.”  Moving images on a screen trick the brain.  Laptops are great tools but there is a time we have to move away from them and replace them with face-to-face communication.  Providing learners the opportunities to “Think-Pair-Share” an open-ended question and giving them a time limit for each to talk and be a good active listener is a way we can begin to balance and moderate technology in the classroom while also encouraging future ready skills.

I plan to use this strategy in my classroom as well as be an active parent at home with my children in moderating their technology usage.  I also plan to share this information with the GTi parents at my school through my website.

Thank you again for this awesome learning opportunity!

–   Kati Castellanos (Valley Ranch)

Dear CGA,

I would just like to express my deep appreciation for sponsoring me to go to the TAGT conference. I was greatly anticipating this conference, and the keynote speakers and break-out sessions did not disappoint! One of the presenters that benefited from was Bertie Kingore, who discussed what a rigourous learning environment should look and feel like. Another big takeaway from this session were the  examples of learning experiences with authentic applications, which is meaningful for me with our campus initiative being PBL. She also gave quick strategies for engaging and challenging learners that can definitely easily be implemented right away and shared with campus teachers. This was just one of the sessions I attended! I got SO much out of this conference. Again, thank you!

–   Heather Ashby (Mockingbird)

I really enjoyed the sessions about differentiation. I’m always on the lookout for trainings about differentiation because with the ever increasing number of kids in my classroom I need to make sure I’m reaching all of them with content that helps them learn the material in their own unique way. I’m really looking forward (and have already) applied some of the ideas I learned about properly designed presentations for teaching.  My favorite session was the one called “Step Away from the Bullet Points” (which was about presentation design) because it gave me useable information and ways to get more information when I got home. I did get a lot of information about potential technologies that would be useful to students in Coppell ISD.  I did hear from a couple of districts about great projects their gifted students are doing.  Their school models are a little different than the model we use at East, so again there are things that I’ll pull from those projects to use in my classroom.

I want to thank CGA for providing me with scholarships to go to various different conferences all over the USA.  Thanks to their scholarships I’ve gotten the opportunity to go to the National Differentiation Conference, UConn’s Confratute, and two different TAGT conferences and I am grateful for all the world-class training I’ve received there. I really wish I saw more people taking advantage of opportunities like these.

–   Tyler Horner (CMS East)

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