Photo: Dr. Sandra Kaplan talks with HSU Irvin School of Education profs, Dr. Pam Williford, dean; Dr. Mary Christopher, associate dean; Odessa ISD GT teachers: Yvette DeLeon, Heather Bland, Sylvia Garcia, Nohemi Suarez, Deborah Johnson
“With increased demand for higher levels of thinking required of students due to new accountability, all children will have to deal with more depth and complexity in the classroom,” says Dr. Mary Christopher, professor of educational studies at Hardin-Simmons University.
About 180 teachers from all over the state are attending the HSU Irvin School of Education’s Gifted Institute workshop that has been held each summer for almost two decades.
Guest speaker, Dr. Sandra Kaplan, a professor of clinical education at the University of Southern California, is an expert in gifted education and has developed some innovative practices for improving curriculum for gifted learners.
Kaplan is the creator of a technique, often used in GT curriculum, called depth and complexity, features a system of icons that help students break down larger ideas into helpful building blocks. Kaplan is helping teachers to increase rigor and engagement among their students by using the depth and complexity icons.
Christopher, an authority on gifted and talented education, says that while most of the teachers at the workshop are involved in GT programs, some of the teachers in attendance are in regular classrooms. “The technique will help teachers from all areas leave with practical tools that will increase subject mastery in all grade levels and content areas,” says Christopher, “especially now with increased accountability testing in Texas.”
One group of teachers from Odessa, Texas, arrived last night for the workshop. Sylvia Garcia, a 1st and 2nd grade teacher in OISD, says she was excited to hear Kaplan in person. Deborah Johnson, also a 1st and 2nd grade teacher concurs, adding that the GT program in the Odessa schools was modeled on the Kaplan approach.
The workshop is sponsored by the HSU Threshold program for gifted learners and by the Region 14 Education Service Center. Christopher, who has directed the Gifted Institute in the HSU Graduate Studies Program for the last 17 years, has served as the vice president for the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented. Christopher says the goal of the workshop is to enable teachers to have access to more in-depth information about meeting the needs of the gifted student. “Our goal is to enable educators to help all students, including gifted learners, continue to learn and make progress.”
As a side note: Sylvia Garcia, of Odessa (shown in photo) says her son, Roy Garcia III, followed in her footsteps as an educator. Roy is a Hardin-Simmons University graduate now serving as a head football coach in Socorro ISD in El Paso, Texas. Garcia earned a Bachelor of Behavioral Science in 2000.