Keeping Gifted Children at the Center of our Efforts

George-Betts.jpgIt is my honor to be the new President of the National Association for Gifted Children for 2015 through 2017. NAGC is a very rich community of parents, teachers, administrators, counselors, psychologists, university personnel, and researchers. We not only serve this community, but they also serve our organization and our gifted children and youth through their commitment and passion.

My primary vision is to place the gifted child right at the center of our organization’s efforts. NAGC will help all those involved in supporting talented youth to meet their diversified cognitive, social, emotional, and physical needs. The goal is to develop the whole child through the committed involvement of educators, parents, siblings, peers, adults, and the community at large. In other words, lets do it WITH them, rather than TO them!

I believe one of the major goals of educators of gifted learners is to be facilitators. The emotional development of these children and youth is as important as their cognitive development, especially when we consider that our learners are in school approximately 185 days per year, but they are gifted 365 days per year. The traditional school day is normally less than 8 hours, and provides most of the formal learning, while the informal learning of our children spans many additional days and hours.

I applaud the research that has been conducted and is ongoing. I value the research-based practices being implemented in the area of gifted education, and I hope to see the research expand as a foundation for further investigation. This can be achieved by the collaboration between researchers and the educators who interact with them daily. What if we had more examples of researchers that collaborate with classroom teachers in the development and implementation of their research?

At NAGC, we also want to ensure that students who are currently identified as gifted and those who have hidden potential are well served. In the case of many learners, their potential is evident, but with others we need to look deeper, ask probing questions, and provide a variety of opportunities to allow their gifts and talents to emerge. Most importantly, we can enhance the skills and abilities of all learners, and create the means for them to discover their passions. Move over, give them space, the freedom to experiment, and time to develop these passions. In other words, get out of their way and let them be themselves! Most of the time their passions will not be the same as our own. However, when we move from being dispensers of knowledge to facilitators and guides, we can offer students the opportunity to become learners who are in charge of their learning rather than students who are passive participants.

NAGC is an organization that is committed to diversity in its broadest terms, including students from low socio-economic and ethnic minority backgrounds, English language learners, twice-exceptional learners, and GLBTQ youth. This commitment is evidenced by the association’s mission statement indicating our support for “…policies and practices that encourage and respond to the diverse expressions of gifts and talents in children and youth from all cultures, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and socioeconomic groups.”  There are also a number of board-adopted position statements that elaborate on the strategies needed to support a range of gifted learners.  This commitment and support also has long been manifested through our Special Populations Network and their many sessions at the NAGC Annual Convention. The convention also highlights signature sessions dedicated to serving the needs of diverse learners with high potential.  In addition, our national standards for teacher preparation and PK-12 programming resources are written to ensure we will not overlook high potential learners from diverse backgrounds. And certainly the Javits-Frasier Teacher Scholarship Fund seeks to increase culturally and linguistically diverse students' access to talent development opportunities through teacher and school counselor/psychologist training and support related to equity and excellence in gifted education.

I look forward to serving as your President for the next two years, and working with you to enhance the services to our gifted children and youth.