An Inside Look at the NAGC Convention

Donna Campbell, Chair of the Convention Local Arrangements Committee and George Betts, NAGC President Elect and Convention Program Chair

It’s always good to turn to the “insiders” when making a decision and the NAGC Convention is no exception! We asked two NAGC members who are veteran Convention attendees and have been part of the planning team working to ensure your NAGC Convention experience is first-rate. Donna Campbell is the chair of the Arizona Local Arrangements Committee and serves on the board of the Arizona Association for Gifted and Talented. George Betts is NAGC President-Elect and in that position serves as Convention Program Chair. Let’s hear their thoughts on what sets the NAGC Convention apart and why you need to register today!

How many NAGC Conventions have you attended and what role did you have in gifted and talented education?

Donna campbell.jpgDonna: I have been attending conventions since the 1980’s first as a gifted specialist, then as a district coordinator of gifted programs and services, teacher/facilitator of a program for highly gifted students, and as president and board member for the Arizona Association for Gifted and Talented.

George: I have attended 33 NAGC Conventions since 1980. I started attending when I was a teacher/counselor and coordinator of alternative education at Arvada West High School. I had some knowledge about gifted education but I knew there was much more for me to learn. I made connections and friendships that first year that are still important to me today.

What is your best memory of a past NAGC convention? What was the impact of that memory?

Donna: At one of the earliest NAGC conventions I attended, Dr. Francois Gagné found an empty seat at our table and asked to join our group of teachGeorge-Betts.jpgers from Fargo, ND, for lunch. We had only known Dr. Gagné from his research and writings in our field and were grateful to have the opportunity to meet him. What impressed me then and still has an impact on me now was his interest in our gifted students. He inquired about our identification process, how we assessed each of our student’s needs, and what strategies we were implementing to meet those needs. There were questions about how we were supporting classroom teachers and parents.

I have thought about that conversation many times and how strongly I believe in the importance of knowing our students. Not just scores on a multitude of tests, but who they are. What are their interests, aspirations, gaps, and how can I help to maximize the opportunity for each one of them to grow and thrive? I resolved to become even more of a student of the field of gifted education to be the teacher and coach wel equipped for these unique students.

George: My best memory was a session with James J. Gallagher and Joseph Renzulli. During the session they shared their points of view and really LISTENED to one another. Their final point was that there are many types of gifted children. We must listen carefully to what each of them has to say, because they are experiencing their own giftedness, and we can learn from each of them.

What if someone is thinking about coming to NAGC Convention? What would you tell them?

Donna: Come! The convention has never failed to empower, enlighten, and energize me. There is something for everyone, whether you are new to the field or are a veteran. I have always found NAGC to be a step ahead to prepare me for the next issue to tackle or to learn a better way to achieve my goals with my students. Remember, in Phoenix it is Everything Gifted Under the Sun!

George: Gifted children and youth need to be with others like them. The same is true for gifted adults. I have attended the Convention for so many years because it provides me with an opportunity to be among such a positive, nurturing group of people. There is a culture that builds during the convention that will impact you as an educator and as a person. No one has all the answers, but we can build a greater community to support gifted education through this Convention.

What are you most looking forward to about the Phoenix convention?

Donna: All of us on the NAGC Convention Local Arrangements Committee look forward to welcoming you to Phoenix. We know you will love sitting in the sun, chatting with colleagues from around the country, sharing ideas, and maybe having an unexpected encounter with one of the leaders in our field!

A highlight will be the showing of the documentary that led to the movie, Spare Parts. Like many, Arizona is a state of diverse populations, and we share a concern for the identification of and the service to our underserved students. It is important to highlight what a small group of committed teachers and students can accomplish against all odds. On Saturday, prior to viewing the documentary, you will have the opportunity to meet and hear from some of these students and their teachers as well as the author of the article and book, who brought them to the attention of the world. It is both inspiring and a time to celebrate the forward movement of NAGC in addressing these issues. See you in Phoenix!

George: As NAGC President-Elect and Convention Program Chair, I had the pleasure of working with many people to develop the Convention program. I believe there is truly something for everyone at this event. When Convention comes, I will work with you as the new NAGC President, so I will be delighted to see everything come to fruition.

On a personal note, I also look forward to having my wife, Donni, with me as she celebrates her birthday!

In the Valley of the Sun, you will have an opportunity to experience the expansive beauty and diverse culture of the Southwest. Because this diversity includes the 22 American Indian communities that currently inhabit Arizona, we are excited to be offering a fitting pre-convention program, “Identifying and Serving Gifted and Talented Native American Students,” to highlight this underserved and under-researched population in the field of gifted education.

I believe we are ready for change and growth in the field of gifted education. We have an opportunity to move to greater areas of understanding in our field, including a continued emphasis on diversity, the melding of research and practice, and going beyond the classroom and the school to address the whole child.