When looking at students in the gifted community, there is a natural inclination that these students – these children – have the academic world made. It is sometimes assumed that their inherent intellect and capacity for critical thinking will somehow help them advance through the challenges of school with more ease and efficiency than their colleagues.
However, Kim Cabotaje, gifted resource teacher at Landstown Elementary School, can tell you firsthand that gifted students – simply by their nature – have their own obstacles.
She would know.
This is Cabotaje’s 18th year teaching, and 18th year working with gifted students.
“They have their own set of characteristics, quirks,” Cabotaje said. “They have challenges just as every other group.” For example, she pointed out, gifted students can be more sensitive to failures or be more intensely focused on always having to be right.
“We think gifted kids are going to be okay because they are bright,” Cabotaje said. “If we don’t help these kids understand those characteristics, that will affect their ability to learn well.”
So, Cabotaje sees her role in schools to be equal parts instructor and counselor – helping students develop a successful mindset in approaching their work, their classes and their giftedness.
What does that look like? Cabotaje works hard to ensure students see growth in their work, regardless if a child knows the “right” answer.
“I try to create an environment where everyone’s perspective has something to offer,” she said. “Learning is often messy. There can be multiple avenues to an answer/understanding…Being gifted doesn’t always mean finishing first. Successful people often make mistakes. Failure often teaches them.”
Cabotaje points out that schools work hard to address the cognitive needs of the child, but there are also are social/emotional needs. That is why she reaches out to families, and works with them directly to have a better understanding of where their children are coming from.
“It’s starting conversations between family members,” she said. “It’s getting them knowledgeable to talk about it.”
In addition, Cabotaje works collaboratively with teachers in the building – in clusters and in planning – to work with students directly in their classes.
“It’s a co-creative process,” she said. “That’s the exciting part to me.”
Even students in kindergarten and first grade work with Cabotaje on expanding their critical thinking, creative thinking and problem-solving skills.
“I tell them I’m the ‘thinking teacher,’” Cabotaje said with a smile. “(I say) ‘I know you’re thinking all the time, but I am always thinking of new ways for you to think.’”
Whether that means continuing her blog, “The Landstown Mind Vine,” which links students and parents to resources and real-life activities going on at Landstown, or creating the school’s first bridge club in order to strengthen students’ math skills, Cabotaje is dedicated to finding new ways to create the best environments for students to learn.
And those new ways of thinking have certainly paid off for Cabotaje. She was named the Virginia Association of the Gifted (VAG) Region 2 Outstanding Teacher of the Gifted this year.
“As the GRT at Landstown Elementary School, Kim Cabotaje is the quintessential gifted professional,” said Dr. Veleka Gatling, executive director of the Office of Differentiated Programs. “Not only does Kim provide high-quality differentiated instruction using various instructional strategies for the cognitive part of the gifted student, she also seeks to understand the affective domain of the gifted student as well.”
For her part, Cabotaje credits the award back to the work she shares with her colleagues and administrators at Landstown.
“I wouldn’t have received this award if I didn’t have fabulous people I’m working with,” Cabotaje said. “They are willing to take chances. They are willing to do things that they didn’t know what the outcome would be.”
In other words, her success has come from modeling her biggest lesson: In order to learn, you have to take risks.
4 thoughts on “Compass Keepers Club: Kim Cabotaje”
YOU ARE AWESOME !
Well I’m so proud of my sister Kim, these kids lives will surely be enhanced by the special attention from Her, and just so you all know she was always the smarter one in the family, at least smarter than 3 of her brothers and we know who we are! I was a grade behind her and to say her teachers who had me the year after teaching her were disappointed would be putting it mildly! She really lived up to her potential and the whole family is really proud of her! Helping kids to make their lived better, Is there anything better than that? Ok A rich rock star but nothing else!!! Love you Kim
Kim has always been an inspiration to me. Always a smile, always a kind word, always a helping hand. Students need this. Teachers need this. I am grateful to have a co-worker such as Kim.
As the middle school Gifted Resource teacher at Landstown Middle School where Kim’s students feed into, I see first-hand the benefits of the wonderful work that Kim does with her gifted students. Thanks Kim for all of your efforts with our gifted students!