Awareness: 3 Strategies Teachers (and Parents) Can Leverage To Become a Fierce Ally to Gifted Learners

The greatest advice I can offer is to discover that one thing in life that you love, become really good at it, and find someone to pay you to do it.

My area of expertise is how to leverage free technology apps to differentiate the curriculum for gifted learners. Leading professional development workshops, I have come to learn that for many teachers understanding giftedness, knowing how to use technology tools, and differentiating the curriculum to meet the needs of every student are unfamiliar and unchartered territories leading to fear and trepidation.

When teachers join my professional development sessions, it is my responsibility to be the best steward of their time, talent, and resources by listening and empathizing with their needs, being aware of what is needed, persuading them to become lifelong learners, and fully committing to their growth.

The characteristics outlined above align with the servant leadership characteristics needed to become a fierce ally for those you teach. The purpose of this article is to help you build a high level of awareness in order to grow and develop the students you serve.

The beauty of this advice is parents can adapt these strategies and use them at home to improve relationships with their gifted children.

Below are three strategies teachers can leverage to become a fierce ally to gifted students.

Acknowledge personal areas of weakness: Acknowledging areas of weakness allows the teacher to be human and acknowledge their shortcomings. This level of awareness requires bravery to search and find those areas of your life you may not want to come face to face with. One needs to investigate all parts of themselves in order to be able to help others do the same. Facing each day with a lack of ego and focusing on what is best for the students is the greatest gift you can give yourself and others. This means that you must be willing to come alongside your students and learn from them. Students sometimes know more than their teacher and that is okay.

Know students enough to meet them where they are in the learning process- Knowing students enough to meet them where they are in the learning process is the ability to be keenly aware of each child in order to make educational decisions based on the needs of the learner at that moment. This requires you to build a relationship with the student. Students want relationships with teachers that care about them. Show you care by asking questions coupled with a deep desire to listen to what is being said, and in some cases, what is left unsaid.

Teach to a child’s strength- Teaching to a person’s strengths allows the student to build on skills they already possess and have a natural talent toward. Imagine if people were encouraged to work on those areas where they are already functioning in the top 75th percentile. These are the areas that are going to give people the greatest leverage in post-secondary aspirations. I will never compete as an Olympic level gymnast, no matter how much support I receive, but I can outperform others in delivering an engaging training session. Gifted students are exceptional in at least one area. Help them find a coach or mentor who can guide them in that area and the payoff in post-secondary opportunities that come from that focused time and attention will be tremendous.

Over the next three months, join me as we learn to leverage Servant Leadership characteristics to become a fierce ally to the gifted students. Cheers to a vibrant, interactive school year.

The Solar Eclipse Has Our Attention: How to Capture That Level of Attention From Gifted Students


Summer sporting her eclipse glasses–with the date written across the bridge of her nose.

A dear friend of mine, sporting her solar eclipse approved glasses, positioned herself in a Philadelphia city park on the afternoon of August 11th. With the upcoming solar eclipse all the rage right now, Summer Shelton wondered why she was the only person ready and waiting for the big event. She was embarrassingly early for the natural phenomena, but the message is clear. Summer was anticipating the arrival of the eclipse equipped with what she needed to experience it safely. She was looking forward to an event that doesn’t happen very often.

There is a countdown to the upcoming eclipse and everyone wants to be a part of it. That is the level of excitement every teacher wants to foster in the classroom with gifted students. This population is at risk because they wait for new material to be presented and that usually doesn’t happen until January, if at all. This leads to lack of motivation, behavior issues, and lack of academic growth. Most teachers have underserved gifted students in their classroom. Perhaps there isn’t gifted programming in the school and if there is, they are only gifted one day a week, at best.

Below are five words of wisdom to help create the best learning environment for gifted students within the regular classroom setting. The beauty of this advice is that strategies designed for gifted students will benefit every level of learner in the classroom.

Become a Fierce Ally- Come alongside students as an ally offering support and guidance along the journey. The teacher is one person who has the most firsthand, social experience with a child across the course of the day and throughout the school year, and that puts the teacher in a position to be a positive influence in the child’s life. A fierce ally serves the students through the following servant leadership attributes: listening to students; empathizing with their needs; healing their hearts; being aware of what is needed; persuading students to become lifelong learners; committing to their growth; and being a steward of their time, talent, and resources.

Adapt to the Environment– The adaptable teacher is a dynamic problem solver with a keen ability to adjust when things do not go as planned. A deep understanding of self enables the teacher to admit weaknesses, opening them up to learn from their students. The necessity of being able to adapt to a variety of situations requires that the teacher continuously observe, monitor, assess, and respond to situations. Therefore, the teacher must be highly aware of the environment and have a keen ability to adjust when things do not go as planned.

Architect an authentic learning experience- As a learning architect the teacher creates a well-defined learning environment providing authentic and worthwhile learning experiences that replicate real life and are appropriate to where the student is on the learning continuum. The perfect union of gifted pedagogy and technology integration forms a dynamic collaborative environment.

Aggregate the Best Human, Print, and Digital Resources- As an aggregator, the teacher provides unrestricted access to resources that will support the student’s learning. These resources must offer legitimate content, including that provided by experienced and passionate people found beyond the classroom walls.

Provide a High Level of Autonomy- Ultimately, the teacher should be able to use their best professional judgment and have the freedom to teach outside of the prescribed curriculum.  This leads to giving students ownership over their learning experience. A high level of freedom for both the teacher and the student promotes active participation, igniting curiosity and leading to autonomous, lifelong learning.

Cheers to a school year that is transformational for EVERY student in your classroom.