Education of Gifted Children
Started in the 1970's, America's Gifted & Talented programs
are used to enhance the curriculum of students included in either
category in order to challenge and strengthen their unique abilities.
These students are usually provided a separate class with specialized
lessons in all areas and a teacher with a special degree in gifted
education. I feel that it is important that the teacher was a gifted
student who would know what the students must face as "above average"
members of their school. The job market for gifted education offers a
wide range of opportunity and gifted teachers are needed all over the
One of the earliest programs for gifted and talented students
was set up in 1974, at The Old Donation Center, in Virginia Beach.
Students scoring within the top 3% of students on an assessment test
are referred here to be further challenged. These students are
considered gifted and have special teachers and classes to promote
development of their talents and minds. Programs like this began to
pop up around the nation in the 70's; however, gifted students were
looked down upon by teachers, parents, and peers. Many people
considered them to be "freaks" because they were different. They
didn't understand the implications of the terms "gifted" and
"talented". Most people simply expected gifted students to act more
mature or to be geniuses, even though gifted students are the same as
other children in their needs as human beings. Some gifted students
were forced to grow up too fast and some simply ignored the fact that
they were smarter than others, thus, they were lost in the shuffle.
The irony of it all is that gifted-ness seems to run in families and
the children of these repressed gifted students are, themselves,
But what exactly is a "gifted" student? Students (elementary
& secondary) are given a repertoire of tests. These tests check IQ,
psychomotor ability, specific academic aptitude/talent, creative and
productive thinking, leadership ability, and skills in the visual and
performing arts. The main requirement, the IQ, is tested by a
standardized IQ test (remember, however, that IQ tests are not always
perfectly accurate). Ratings are given to each bracket of IQ scores:
85-99 Lower normal
100-114 Upper normal
145-159 Highly gifted
160+ Above profoundly gifted
If a student receives a rating of "gifted" or higher (130+), he/she is
considered to be a gifted student and is introduced into the
designated programs. These students are given the opportunity to
choose classes that are meant to teach them how to use their minds for
critical thinking, reasoning, and artistic pursuits. Students in
these classes are also exposed to culture, literature, and other
subject areas that are not usually covered in what they term "normal
classes". The gifted classes are mainly in an open format allowing
the student to create the parameters of his/her work and allowing them
to be creative in their learning experience. Each class is
presided-over by a teacher that has specialized degrees in gifted
education. Almost every school in the United States has a need for a
gifted class, making job opportunities endless; there are never
Gifted teachers must have both a degree in education
(secondary or elementary) and a degree in special education (gifted).
These teachers are individuals that must have stamina, people skills,
and open minds. It is also important (to the students) that the
teacher himself/herself was also classified as gifted. It sets a
common bond, shows them that the teacher understands the problems they
face as so-called "smart kids". These students are often ridiculed by
their peers and looked-down upon by their teachers. They are often
separated from others their age by a barrier that can only be
described as their "intelligence". This is why, often, gifted
teachers have degrees in administration, counseling, or psychology.
All teachers that I interviewed told me that a continually upgraded
education is a must (as are additional degrees). In order to keep up
with the students one must attend seminars, workshops, special
classes, etc. There is no end to the amount of education that could
help you to understand gifted students and the role of their
"teacher". Also, if a teacher has extra educational qualifications,
he/she could be asked to step up to the position of administrator or,
more often, counselor. This means pay raises.
Though the average salary for teachers is approximately
$27,500 per year, it is "a worthwhile undertaking" according to Jane
Mansueto, "It is incredible to work with gifted students. They are
incredible!" She went on to remark that it is fascinating to imagine
that they are of the same level of intelligence as the teacher and
what they must be feeling inside. She feels that the students are not
bothered by what their peers think, but actually tend to understand
that other's opinions mean little compared to their own. Mrs.
Mansueto taught at Elm Grove Middle School for 5 years. She commented
on her role as a gifted teacher to consist of "one part mentorship,
one part hardship, and one part friendship". When asked what kind of
hours she keeps, she laughed and asked if she was supposed to have
time off. According to Mrs. Mansueto, unlike a "normal" teacher, a
gifted teacher has no books to go by or preset material to teach, or,
for that matter, a preset subject to teach. They are given a blank
page and, using input from students, must draw up lessons from every
subject area and constantly challenge the inquisitive minds of the
gifted. Jane Mansueto attended Trinity College where she majored in
both elementary education and gifted education. Her favorite part of
being a gifted teacher is being with the students, working hand in
hand with them to plan and carry out projects and trips. Though the
pay is average, and there is not much room to be promoted if you wish
to remain in the classroom, gifted teaching has its personal rewards.
Jeff Simpleton, a gifted teacher as well as a former gifted
student, states, "I really think that by being gifted, I am in touch
with what they have to go through. They know that I can understand."
Mr. Simpleton's class consists of 6 high school students, who have
many problems due to the intelligence barrier and a kind of isolation
that has built up over the years between themselves and their
classmates. They seem to feel that they have a reputation that they
must live up to. The students try to please everyone.they push
themselves with sheer motivation and determination and drive. Mr.
Simpleton feels that this is "what makes them so great". He feels
that anyone with a sense of adventure and a need for something new day
after day would find teaching a gifted class to be the perfect job for
Gifted teachers are important to the development of their
students minds. They are understanding individuals who must work hard
to make the curriculum interesting and challenging. With the
proper education it is possible to go far as a teacher of the gifted.
Various Internet sites. No info available for documentation.
Meckstroth, Elizabeth A., Stephanie S. Tolan, James T. Webb. Guiding
Gifted Psychology Pr, March 1989.
Montgomery, Diane. Educating the Able (Special Needs in Ordinary
Schools). Cassell Academic, April 1996.