Dr. Mary Christopher, Hardin-Simmons University professor of education and associate dean of the Irvin School of Education was installed as president of the Texas Association of Gifted and Talented during TAGT’s annual conference this past December.
The Texas Association for the Gifted & Talented (TAGT) is an organization of educators and parents dedicated to meeting the unique needs of gifted and talented students. Recognizing the unique social, emotional, and intellectual needs of gifted and talented students, the organization provides educational services to meet these needs.
Chartered in 1978, TAGT is the nation’s largest state advocacy group of its kind, providing nearly 3,000 members and friends of gifted youth a forum for exchanging ideas and information about the education of gifted and talented students.
At HSU, Christopher serves as the program director of the Master of Education in Gifted Education and organizes the Gifted Institute, an annual teacher workshop related to gifted education. Christopher also champions HSU’s Threshold Program, a summer enrichment camp for gifted children that provides opportunities for GT children to explore topics not taught in the regular classroom curriculum.
“Imagine a student going into kindergarten reading, while other students are learning the alphabet,” says Christopher. “Gifted students’ learning needs are just as strong as the learning needs of special education students.”
Hardin-Simmons University began offering the enrichment program some 30 years ago. Threshold has been recognized throughout the state as exemplary in providing challenges for students whose abilities enable them to benefit from experiences beyond those provided by the regular school program.
As a professor of education, she teaches courses on the Abilene HSU campus as well as extension programs in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford area and the Mansfield area.
Christopher’s initial degree in elementary education at Texas Tech University led to a 15-year teaching career in public and private education in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kentucky. Her master’s degree in gifted education from the University of Louisville supported her passion for meeting the academic, social, and emotional needs of gifted children and resulted in her work, not only at HSU, but as a gifted education consultant for school districts and educational service centers throughout Texas.
During her doctoral program, she enhanced her study of gifted education and focused her dissertation on appropriate services for gifted students in the Honors Program at Texas Tech University.
Besides her leadership in the Texas Association for Gifted and Talented, her professional involvement includes the National Association for Gifted Children, the Center for Ministry Effectiveness and Educational Leadership, the TEMPO Advisory Board, and the Abilene Community Foundation.
Dr. Pam Williford, dean of the Irvin School of Education, says, “A presidency of a state academic organization is a high honor.”
Christopher also oversees HSU’s Doctor of Education degree in leadership, a new degree she helped to develop and later implemented in the 2012 spring semester and she serves as the HSU teacher education certification officer.