Ad. Learning Programs & Services

Gifted Services Update December 2020


The holiday season is upon us. We in Advanced Learning wish you and yours a safe and healthy winter break. See you in January.

One change we want to share with you is that Terry McGuffin is retiring. Her last day is December 18. Terry has been in RISD in various roles for thirty years, the last twenty here in this department. Many of you have interacted with her over the years. We wish Terry a wonderful retirement!

If you have questions or concerns and you would normally reach out to her, please reach out to one of us. Our contact information is at the bottom of the newsletter.

  • Jasmine Patel for gifted services testing and identification
  • Sara Mooney for Credit by Exam and acceleration
  • Joe Russell for secondary services
  • Monica Simonds for anything else

Please remember that our offices will be closed at the close of business on Friday, December 18. We will reopen on Monday, January 4 at 8:00 AM.

Connect With Us

We love to hear from you! Here is one way you can connect with us at any time. You can ask us a question or leave us a comment at

RECURRING: NAGC's "Supporting Your Gifted Child During Covid19"

The National Association for Gifted Children is dedicated to supporting professionals and families in the gifted community. Among their Parent TIP Sheets are resources to help families navigate their child's responses to Covid19. Here are two with one already in Spanish. We hope these resources provide some support for you.

Supporting Your Gifted Child During Covid19 - English

Supporting Your Gifted Child During Covid19 - Spanish

Managing Grief and Anxiety During Covid19

Advanced Learning Services Gifted SubCommittee Kickoff

The Advanced Learning Services Gifted Subcommittee held its first meeting on December 1. Monica Simonds, Director, provided an overview of the Advisory Board scope and then a deeper dive into the four areas of work for this spring.

  • Explore academic competitions we offer and that are available for consideration.
  • Create a Profile of a GT Graduate using the Texas State Plan, the NAGC Gifted Programming Standards, and the RISD GT Competencies.
  • Perform a Strategic Plan and Equity Policy audit.
  • Provide ongoing review and suggestions for the website.

The work groups will formally begin in January. If you are interested in participating in one of those areas, please email

Elementary GT Referrals and Testing Update

This year is unique in all aspects and that includes our referral and testing procedures. We know that we have families who are making instructional model decisions based on various reasons and needs. Because we are in an ever-changing health and safety situation, we will be sharing testing processes in phases with updates as new information is available. This intentionality will allow us to communicate with you with the fewest changes possible.

  • In-person Kindergarten testing will be completed this month.
  • 6th-grade placement letters for referred and current GT students will be in Parent Portal by end-of-business on Friday, December 18.
  • Grades 3-5 will be tested in January.
  • Grades 1-2 will be tested online in February.

Winter Brain Breaks

We know for some of our students, winter break is a time for rest and rejuvenation. For others, it drags on with fewer opportunities to feel challenged. Here are some ideas for all ages regardless of what winter break means to them.


  • Each week we upload an enrichment activity to Google Classroom. Students do not always have time to work through them. Now is a great time to engage in something new. If you need assistance, please reach out to your ALT.
  • Need a break from screen time? Learn coding from Ruby! Lots of unplugged coding resources. Even more from ThinkFun.

Any Age

  • Parenting for High Potential Holiday Gift Guide: Get ideas for games that gifted kids enjoy!
  • Michael Matera, a teacher, has a Youtube channel with lots of great resources for teachers and families. He has several videos with game suggestions and even live streaming game demonstrations in his Let's Play series with links to instructional videos and templates.
  • Create a family bingo card to intentionally set aside time to connect. Include activities such as looking at Christmas lights, playing a board game, watching a movie, or making cookies. Is your family competitive? Make some of the squares individual tasks that are service oriented to encourage holiday spirit. Bringing in the elderly neighbor's mail, helping a sibling with an art project, babysitting for free, or cleaning out his/her closet and donating outgrown clothes. It can be anything that makes sense to you and your family. HERE is a link to a free printable bingo card. I think they even work "virtually".
  • Invent Now has shared this booklet for parents to inspire creativity. Enjoy!

From the desk of ... Monica Simonds

Change is inevitable. Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes it's really, really hard. If there is anything 2020 has taught us it's those very facts.

I happen to be a person who usually likes change. I am energized by the possibilities and excited at opportunities. I recognize that not everyone feels the same way. Others are more comfortable with stability and would prefer change occur more slowly and over time. And that's ok. The main lesson here is to recognize and acknowledge your own tendencies so you can work with them.

Our teachers have become instructional technology pros. They have embraced so many new programs and platforms to ensure your students, whether they are virtual or in-person, received their services equitably. Not all districts were able to do that but here in RISD, it was simply the expectation of the teachers for your children. They would settle for nothing less.

Our students and teachers have learned how to pivot, adjust, innovate more quickly and with more poise than could have been imagined. A student gets quarantined? No problem. The teacher moves him to virtual and starts co-seating. A teacher gets quarantine? Again, no problem. She teaches virtually and arranges for in-person students to join in. I've observed so many classes in which the students are respectful and full of grace for each other and the teachers. #BlownAway

On a lighter note, let's be real. We are all washing our hands a lot more often and a lot more carefully.

What can you expect in 2021? More of the same "can do" spirit and opportunities for students to continue honing their learning skills.

We in Advanced Learning want to wish you all a safe, healthy holiday season. We look forward to spending 2021 with you and your children.

Exec. Director of Advanced Learning Services

Elizabeth Swaner, M. Ed.

Advanced Learning Specialist

Dr. Joseph Russell, Ph.D.

Advanced Learning Specialist

Jasmine Patel, M. Ed.