KCS GT Update

September 2021

Principal's Perspective of GT

Years ago when I started with Knox County as a first grade teacher, I never really had much contact with the TAG (Talented and Gifted) teachers at my school. I thought they were really creative people who helped the advanced kids in the intermediate grades, but that was the extent of my knowledge.

Then I became an administrator, and I got to see how the TAG role had evolved into GT - Gifted and Talented - and how the GT Department was working to help ALL teachers with advancing activities for ALL ages. I got to work closely with my school's GT coach to schedule times to work with 3rd - 5th graders, as well as to offer PD for teachers who were interested. These PDs weren't always well attended - let's face it, everyone wants to know more, but time is precious, and why stay after school to learn how to help those high kids that are so easy to teach?!

Then my own little boy began having trouble in school - super smart kid, but he doesn't fit into that "good student" box. At the same time, I had a family at my school who was advocating for their son to have more challenging work - they didn't want him to end up hating school because he was bored. It was an awakening for me. Why had I not advocated for my own son? Would he be a bigger fan of school if I had advocated for him to be challenged more? I became determined to help all the advanced students at my school have a more enriching experience. I worked with Daphne and my GT Coach at the time, Tiersha Adkins, to work in enrichment in every grade level. We assigned one teacher per grade level to meet monthly with Tiersha and to plan enrichment activities that they could do during Core Extension, or other times if needed. We pulled the more advanced students in each grade level to work with this teacher at least once a week. It was a great experience for everyone involved.

With all the learning loss with COVID, we have not been able to devote one teacher per grade level to an enrichment group in two years, but we continue to use our GT coach, now Sally Cunningham, to help our teachers with advancing strategies for their classrooms. She offers help with Canvas and offers to help teachers find resources for all their students. Is it a magic solution for all those super-smart kids that don't fit into the "good student" box? No, but I do feel that the resources and materials the GT Dept. is working on are a great start. We have to stop thinking that our higher students are the easy ones - we need to work just as hard to grow their love of learning as we do with our low students. As an administrator, I have a duty to ensure all my students are being challenged in appropriate ways, and I am grateful that the GT Dept. is working hard to help us with that goal.

Shawnda Ernst
Ritta Elementary

“But the world may be a little better because you made a difference in the life of a child."

What's happening in GT?

Thinking, problem-solving, and questioning are at the forefront with GT. Fourth & fifth-grade groups have ramped up and are in full swing. These students are being introduced to new grade-level competencies that complement and extend the competencies they learned last year. Using modules that incorporate thinking, problem-solving, and questioning, we hope to encourage our GT students to grow in their competency.

Fourth Grade: Competency: self-assessment, self-management, success criteria.

This month, we introduced our new group of 4th graders to their competency with a focus on self-assessment, self-management, and success criteria through a module called “Welcome to GT, 4th Grade” that includes 6 suggested areas for self-management:

Promote a growth mindset

Promote perseverance and grit

Nurture motivation to learn

Practice goal-setting

Focus on controlling emotions

Integrate mindfulness practices

We will revisit this competency throughout the school year

Fifth Grade: Competency: self-advocacy

This month we also introduced the fifth-grade competency that focuses on the concept of self-advocacy through a module called “Welcome to GT, 5th Grade.” We would like 5th graders to gain the confidence to advocate for themselves academically, personally, and socially. As in 4th grade, we will revisit the competency frequently during the school year. We will use scenarios to help students learn how to advocate not only for themselves but also for others. As with 4th grade, we will be revisiting the concept of advocacy throughout the school year.

We encourage you to support your 4th and/or 5th graders as they practice their grade-level competency during this school year.

Big picture
Big picture

What are students saying about GT?

Hello, I’m Virginia Ann Councill and I was nominated for the GT spotlight this month and I am here to tell you about why I love being in GT. Well, I guess we should start from the beginning. I first started in GT in third grade and now I’m in fifth grade. Now, what you are really here for: Why I love GT. Well, it’s really because of how challenging it is. Some people might not like a challenge but it really helps me think through everything. I also love it because of the people. My GT teacher Mrs. Gurskyj is always pushing us to have an open mind and is always challenging us to do so much more than we’ve ever thought of. To sum it up, I love GT so much. It has helped me grow as a person, helped me connect with a lot of people, and has given me a fresh perspective for the learning environment.

Teachers are Talking about GT

My name is Amy Long and I am a first-grade teacher at KCS Virtual Elementary School. I want to share with you what our Gifted and Talented Department is to me. As an avid advocate for our youngest learners, I have found an amazing resource to support me as a classroom teacher and my students through advancing strategies and materials.

More importantly, I have found a department full of caring, committed, and open-minded educators that are eager to support classroom teachers in any way they can! I have found that many of the concepts and materials that are available can be used in multiple ways for the benefit of all of my students.

I am particularly thankful for the new Research and Inquiry resources the GT Coaches prepared for us in connection with the Reading Department and our new curriculum. With a solid foundation and personal support, I was able to adapt the resource into an amazing and engaging opportunity for my students.

I encourage any educator or parent that needs a think-partner, advancing materials, fresh strategies, or support meeting the needs of their students to reach out to your GT Coach! I can honestly say that my teaching is undoubtedly better for the input and support I have received from this department over my teaching career!