More than 40 parents in room C9 at Landstown Middle School sat, stood and leaned for one of the first breakout sessions of the morning.
“How many of you have gifted students?” asked Dornswalo Wilkins-McCorey, instructional specialist in the school division’s Office of Gifted Education.
Most attendees raised their hands.
“We don’t know yet,” responded one parent, prompting smiles and laughter in the crowded room.
The parent’s response was one reason administrators in the Office of Gifted Education organized the free summer workshop for parents. Wilkins-McCorey’s session regarding the characteristics of gifted learners would provide insight and information as would the other workshop sessions featuring gifted identification, gifted services, growth mindset, socialization, advocacy for gifted education and the role of gifted cluster teachers and gifted resource teachers.
Workshop organizers added new parent sessions to the Aug. 10 event when they saw their registration numbers increase to 220 parents and 160 teachers.
According to Barbara Kennedy, coordinator in the Office of Gifted Education, it was a good problem to have.
“We’re very happy to see you here,” Kennedy told workshop attendees at the opening session. “We really value what you contribute.”
She also explained the premise of the free workshop for parents.
“We titled it ‘Gifted Students, Who They Are and What We Do’ because we wanted you to understand the foundations of the program and we want you to understand some of the things we do within the classroom,” said Kennedy.
Dr. Veleka Gatling, executive director of the Office of Programs for Exceptional Children, reinforced that sentiment in her welcoming remarks.
“That’s our intent today and tomorrow, to sharpen your saw,” said Gatling. “Today and tomorrow are about tools you can utilize to gain additional understanding about the gifted learner and about the programs and services in Virginia Beach City Public Schools.”
Seeking more ways to make connections for parents and providing access to resources are what prompted gifted education administrators to plan a parent workshop.
“It’s important to have parents involved to continue to build trust, to build their knowledge base and just be transparent,” said Gatling after the opening session. “I think for a lot of parents, they think that sometimes things are kind of a secret within schools. We just want to give them the resources and tools they need to help their children.”
“In VBCPS we have a referral process that is a portfolio approach,” added Gatling, “and often times a deterrent to some parents is filling it out and not knowing how to give examples of my student using vocabulary or my student thinking analytically. So, I’m hoping that if their student was not identified gifted and they’re thinking about having them go through the process, they will get some nuggets that can help them facilitate a good referral.”
Continuing to build relationships after the summer workshop is also important to Gatling.
She said, “I’m hoping another takeaway is that it will help them have conversations with gifted resources teachers and gifted cluster teachers about how their student is progressing.”
More information about the school division’s gifted services is available on vbschools.com.