[Editor’s note: This is the third part of a three-part interview conducted by Miriam Ruff; the first two discussions were with Dr. Kim Hastings, a nationally certified school psychologist, and this third one is with Kristi Kargl, an educational services coordinator who serves the gifted and talented population. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity. To read part 1, click here. To read part 2, click here.]
MR: For gifted learners, what do you see, overall, as their most dominant needs? Does it vary according to age and/or grade?
KK: The dominant need of a gifted student is really to be challenged in their learning and to have the freedom to dig deep into the content that they choose. They need to be supported so they understand that they likely will not be gifted thinkers in all areas and that is OK. I think it does change some as the student ages and moves through school simply because they learn more about themselves and how they learn best/where their strengths lie. Social-emotional learning is a big need for gifted students as well, as they often feel different than their non-gifted peers.
MR: How do you begin to address the needs, both academic and social/emotional? Do gifted students also require an IEP? If so, what’s your role in that process? Which other educators are involved?
KK: We begin identifying gifted students in the 1st grade. Once the student is identified, the gifted teacher (GATE) at their site begins working with the student as well as the regular classroom teacher. The students are pulled from their regular classroom one day a week for 1.5-2 hours to work with the GATE teacher and their peers. Lessons and activities in the GATE classroom are tied to state standards but go more in-depth in content. The GATE teacher provides resources to the regular classroom teacher so that the student is supported in all areas of their school day. We also provide resources to the parents so they can support their gifted child outside the classroom. Oklahoma does not require an IEP for gifted education.
MR: What do you view as the most important thing you can do to challenge gifted students enough to not get too bored, stay in school, and graduate? Do you think schools, at present, can do enough for this population?
KK: I don’t think we can ever do enough. I feel like we do a great job of supporting the gifted population in elementary and middle school, but not so well in high school. Students choose their own path or focus in high school, and sometimes we think they are smart so they will figure it out. I would like to put more resources in place for the students and families so they can see more purpose in high school as their preparation for college and career. In these resources, we will highlight that a career after high school is just as admirable as going off to college, if that is what you choose. Post-pandemic, I am hoping some of these ideas and resources will come to fruition.
MR: Thinking about COVID, do you think the period of remote learning negatively impacted gifted students? If so, how? Or was the challenge of distance learning enough to keep them interested?
KK: I don’t feel like the gifted students were challenged enough during the remote learning. I don’t feel like it negatively impacted them, just didn’t boost them up any. In some instances, like elementary, we provided choice boards for lessons where the general theme or content area was the same, but how they went about the research, learning, and finished product were different. This met the needs of many as long as an adult was present to encourage them to finish the work, but certainly not everyone had that.
MR: What would your “wish list” be for gifted students if you had any and all resources at your disposal? What could a school psychologist do better to help this population?
KK: I would love to have a gifted teacher/specialist dedicated to each site. This person would work with the gifted population, be a resource for teachers as well as parents, and ensure that every need is met for our students.
Kristi Kargl has spent 27 years in education and seven with Edmond Public Schools in Oklahoma. She has been a teacher, content specialist, and assistant principal prior to this role. Currently, she’s an educational services coordinator with Edmond Public Schools, overseeing Gifted Education and all testing.