Each year the Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented (CAGT) asks the Colorado GT community to share how parents, educators, administrators and others have made a difference in the lives of gifted children by making nominations to the CAGT Leadership Awards program. At the annual conference, CAGT then recognizes individuals who have exemplified leadership in a number of roles. It was an inspiration to hear about the wonderful things that the award winners have done to raise awareness about GT concerns and to support gifted children. In case you missed seeing these awards presented at the conference, here is a little more about these Colorado GT leaders. Their efforts are positive examples for us all!
CAGT is pleased to recognize the following individuals for their achievements on behalf of gifted children:
Lifetime Achievement Award: Cheryl Franklin-Rohr
After spending numerous years in Jefferson County working with gifted learners, Cheryl Franklin-Rohr came to Adams 14 School District in Commerce City to build a gifted and talented program from scratch. The majority of the district's students qualified for free/reduced lunch and were second language learners. Through collaboration with district and building personal, she established a network of gifted liaisons, introduced equitable grade-level screeners at first and fourth grade, and disseminated knowledge and research highlighting and supporting the needs of gifted learners. Identification in the district has dramatically increased and many schools are clustering and working towards differentiation for their gifted students. Collaborating with parents and the community, Cheryl developed leaders who could advocate for gifted and talented services and facilitated the formation for an Adams 14 Parent Advisory Committee. She provided highly attended expert presentations to further help families and students learn how to advocate for the needs of gifted learners. She also introduced a highly successful summer enrichment camp. Cheryl is a CAGT past president, a part-time employee of the Colorado Department of Education working on the Twice Exceptional Project, and has testified before the legislature for policy changes.
Educator of the Year Award: Michelle DuBois
Michelle Dubois was hired in the fall of 2006, as a .5 TAG (Talented and Gifted) teacher at Columbine Elementary School in the Boulder Valley School District, a school with 83% of students on free and reduced lunch, 77% English Language Learners and a mere 1.7 % identified as gifted and talented. Today, Columbine has 40 identified TAG students who mirror the school’s demographics. Michelle’s leadership has been essential in identifying and serving gifted students from diverse populations, especially those who are Hispanic, low-income and who are learning English. Michelle conducts professional development on twice exceptional students, inclusive identification and assessment practices, and Thinking Maps, helping teachers to better understanding In addition, Michelle’s work with parents and other professionals in the field at the district, state and national level is exemplary. She looks to find hidden talent and develop that to its full potential.
Administrator of the Year Award: Brett Johnson
In addition to his other duties as an Assistant Principal of a 5-A high school, Brett Johnson took on the formidable task of creating the first-ever Fountain-Fort Carson High School Gifted Program. The high school represents a diverse population with high poverty students from rural farms. Seventy percent of the students come from military homes, where it was not uncommon to have parent soldiers die in combat and for families to be highly mobile due to redeployments. He established a variety of protocols and programming options to meet the academic needs of GT students, including Advanced Placement classes with school-wide AP trainings for high school teachers. He also served students’ affective needs by forming GT lunch groups and field trips and college visits for GT students, as well as developed a GT mentoring program and instituting monthly ALP checks for students. Brett held evening dinners for parents to review the programming and services students were receiving and educate parents on the college planning process. Brett Johnson has developed a gifted program at Fountain-Fort Carson that is representative of his strong advocacy of gifted students, his belief in providing research-based programming practices and a value for supporting both parents and teachers in learning more about the unique needs of this exceptional population.
Special Advocate of the Year Award: Vera Turner
Vera works tirelessly to ensure that the gifted learners in the Moffat School District receive support and opportunities that allow them to stretch themselves and follow their passions. Vera attends the Northwest BOCES monthly meetings to contribute her expertise and to pose questions that allow the team to refine their processes and suggestions to benefit all students. She is also a member of the State Gifted Forum Group, representing the Northwest Region of the state and gathering input from all constituents, representing 19 school districts, in order to ensure that all voices are heard. Vera continually challenges herself to learn, to ask the tough questions, and to contribute her knowledge of small districts to the state picture. She is a knowledgeable, approachable educator with a fantastic sense of humor and a clear vision of what gifted education could and should become.
Parent of the Year Award: Brad Pierce
Brad is the parent of a gifted student in Adams 14 School District in Commerce City. Brad attended and helped plan GT parent meetings at his daughter’s school and then helped organize the GT Parent Advisory Board for Adams 14. The nomination notes, "we could always depend on Brad to follow up on whatever task was set before him." Brad has been very careful to advocate in a positive manner for the needs of not only his own daughter, but for all the gifted students at Adams 14. He approached all conversations in a thoughtful, problem-solving manner that always remained positive. Brad is an exemplary GT parent as the cornerstone of the GT Parent Advisory Group for Adams 14, donating countless hours of his time to plan GT meetings and to make sure that everything that needed to be done was completed on time and accurately.
Legislator of the Year Award: Senator Andy Kerr
Colorado state Senator Andy Kerr was a teacher and a curriculum specialist in Jeffco and he has borught that experience to his role as Chair of the Senate Education Committee. He has worked across the aisle and with other stakeholders, to keep his commitment to improving quality education for all kids, including our gifted children. Senator Kerr fought to keep HB14-1102 alive, even as it came down to the final days of the session. As a result there is now $1.9 million available to administrative units that understand the importance of having a knowledgeable “qualified” person in charge of gifted programs and monies for universal screening so that underrepresented or unlikely children might also be identified. Further, as a result of this legislation, a child who is identified in one district can still be eligible for gifted services when they move to another district without waiting for a new identification cycle.
Special Recognition - Foundation Award: Representative Cherylin Peniston
Representative Cherylin Peniston has served in the Colorado state house for the past six years. She was the lead sponsor for several pieces of legislation important to gifted students in Colorado. She introduced legislation that mandated gifted programming across the state, provided the amendment to include 9th and 10th graders and other gifted high school students in the Concurrent Enrollment Act, provided the ability for Administrative Units to allow early access to Highly Advanced gifted children under the age of 6 and receive state funding for them, and separated the gifted language from special education language in the ECEA law. This last session she sponsored legislation that provided monies for Qualified Personnel directing programs through an Administrative Units, provided monies for universal screening before the end of 2nd grade, provided reciprocity for GT identification across districts and codified the State Advisory Committee for GT. Further, Representative Peniston worked very hard so that this legislation could get passed into law.
The Foundation for Colorado Gifted and Talented offers a scholarship intended to provide financial support to an Administrative Unit’s Gifted Director who wants to become qualified in gifted education. This scholarship has been named the Cherylin Peniston Scholarship in recognition of her years of service at the capitol and as the Champion of Colorado’s gifted children.
Congratulations and thank you to all of the 2014 CAGT Leadership Award recipients!
Photos courtesy of Karen Larsen Photography. Article by Kathee Jones.