Teacher's Corner--NAGC20: Truly Reimagined

Jeff Danielian

There is nothing like the feeling of attending an NAGC Convention!. Like many of you, the prospect of attending NAGC20 in Orlando started to quickly fade when news of the pandemic came. It soon became clear that the annual time to connect, engage, learn, present, recognize, socialize, and be enriched was not going to happen face-to-face. But, if classrooms could switch to a virtual environment, why couldn’t the largest annual gathering of professionals from the field of gifted and talented accomplish this, too?

Plans sprang into action! Leaders convened, work groups formed, data collected, suggestions and considerations offered, and soon the enormous schedule of carefully selected and curated events shifted to a different form. Just as educators across the nation did when they were faced with extreme adversity, everyone involved got it done—and done well. These past 6 days have shown, clearly, that a community of people, all focused on a common mission, will find a way. It has been different, and at times coupled with the sadness of not seeing our friends and colleagues in person, but I’m confident that we all will come away with tremendous appreciation for our work, each other, and gifted education as a whole.

In many ways, NAGC20 has been like school: Pre-conference and live sessions, keynotes, poster presentations, and daily on-demand classes for attendees presented in a jam-packed schedule. Hands-on practice, lecture, group work, and independent learning ensured that there was truly something for everyone. Participants attended meetings, “clubs,” and activities intended to create learning communities in support of NAGC’s ongoing goals. Instead of inside the halls of the hotel and conference center, folks conversed, listened, offered ideas, received advice, and participated in group and one-on-one meetings in chat and breakout rooms, over Zooms, and in lounges. There even were some “class” photos.

Unfortunately, physical education wasn’t present in the form of speed walking, escalator riding, and button pushing, but perhaps folks were able to get outside for a break at home. Lunch was still quick; some folks probably took advantage of nap time. The “book fair” was digital through NAGC’s virtual Exhibitor Marketplace. Friends gathered socially “after school," online and through text. Planned assemblies provided time to hear from our leaders about the current state of the field. Awards were given to new and veteran educators recognized for their contributions and dedication to NAGC and its mission. With each passing day, a record-breaking number of attendees filled their brains with new and exciting research-based practices and ideas. It was certainly a convention re-imagined!

And, the best part is, like many of the positive outcomes we have come to realize from this extremely difficult time, there is still time to experience NAGC 20. Every live session, keynote, and on-demand presentation has been preserved on the convention site. You can revisit your favorites or attend something new. Perhaps you know someone who missed out or couldn’t find the time to attend. They still can! The possibilities are endless. NAGC 20 is on demand, with the experts and practitioners sharing what they know. In an effort to change the perspective of what it means to be gifted in the 21st century, all of us will overcome this trying time and come away stronger than ever.

When I think about the annual convention, I can’t help but feel that if we can instill even ten percent of the enthusiasm we feel for learning new material, from exceptional teacher leaders, half of our work will already be done. I know that when I return to school, I will think a little differently about our students who were accustomed to waking up early, getting dressed, packing their bags, catching the bus, taking their seats, prepared to learn, who have had to adjust to a virtual environment. It’s not easy. But, whether in person or online, it is what happens next, when the class is quiet and the teacher begins to speak, that makes all the difference.