NAGC Conference 2014: Baltimore

Dr. Karen Megay-Nespoli, a teacher educator who has been teaching future teachers for over 12 years.
Dr. Karen Megay-Nespoli, a teacher educator who has been teaching future teachers for over 12 years.

I have always wanted to attend the NAGC conference, but in the fall there are a flurry of conferences and I am usually presenting at one of them. Since this year the conference was being held in Baltimore, MD, which for me is only a short train ride away, I decided to submit a proposal and see what happened. Once my proposal was accepted my adventure began. I spent the summer putting the presentation together and in the fall time was spent fine-tuning the presentation.

My adventure began with the online registration. I cannot say enough about the ease of registering, making hotel reservations and travel plans. The online links worked beautifully and included a great deal of information so I could make wise and informed choices. Downloading the app before leaving home and selecting my workshops in advance was a huge perk. I am happy to report that the conference app worked beautifully, no glitches or tech issues that I have experienced at other conferences.

I consider myself very fortunate to be a college professor, working in a field that is stimulating and challenging. Teaching allows me to promote a discipline to which I have devoted most of my life.

I arrived on Thursday afternoon and headed to the convention center. I was hoping to squeeze in two workshops before the keynote. The first was Making Inroads for Gifted Learners in Language Arts: Analyzing Informational Text With a Focus on Higher Level Skill Development. This presentation emphasized designing activities to teach gifted students how to connect to prior knowledge, make inferences and summarize information. After attending a second presentation about inquiry-focused and problem based instruction, I headed for the Opening Session: Engaging and Empowering America’s Students to Succeed in STEM. Later that evening there was a tribute to Abraham Tannenbaum who I had the pleasure of studying with at Teachers College. Friday night they paid tribute to James Gallagher, two recent losses for gifted education.

nagc-conferenceAs a college professor it was nice to see a rather large number of younger participants, many middle school and high school teachers. They were full of excitement, enthusiasm and eager to learn new strategies to take back to their schools and share. In fact, I was tweeting about one of the workshops, when I received a tweet from a teacher who requested I share more information about one of the sessions.  She had been delayed in her travels and missed the session. I was able to send her the link for the presentation for which she was very grateful. She was extremely excited to be able to share the presentation information with her colleagues when she returned to school.

After a good night’s sleep I was ready to learn how to use picture books and children’s literature to teach young gifted children about visual literacy and close reading; good strategies to share with my literacy graduate students. Differentiation with Literature Circles presenters shared their program for challenging gifted students with the improved scores to demonstrate its success.  Kids, Creativity and Code explored sparking creativity and empower motivation through coding. Brian Housand was an inspiring presenter and I found myself attending other sessions about coding. The Hour of Code is coming up Dec. 8th -14th. If you would like to learn more and have your classes participate please visit the link.

I was able to attend two of the panel discussions with some very notable experts in the field such as Joseph Renzulli, George Betts, Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, Rena Subotnik, Carolyn Callahan and David Dai. One session was about Competing Models and the other session focused on Implications for Future Research and Practice. Both sessions provided lively discussions and debates. I must add a special mention about the moderator, Jim Borland. He was my advisor while I was working toward my doctorate in gifted education. It was great to see him and catch up.

Everything Gifted Under the Sun, will be the theme of the next NAGC Conference held in Phoenix, Arizona, November 12-15, 2015.

Saturday began with a session led by Barbara Kerr about Smart Girls in the STEAM Laboratory, followed by a session on creating a Gifted Resource Site for Today’s Classrooms. Both of these sessions were excellent and thought provoking, I was particularly interested in the Gifted Resource Site which has developed into a digital learning community for sharing lessons, strategies, assessment tools, and much more. My session, Unwrapping the Young Gifted Child: How to Nurture Giftedness in Young Children was next. I had an exceptional group of teachers attend my presentation; they actively participated with questions and comments throughout the presentation. This was the first time I presented with my iPad at a conference. I was very pleased with the outcome and thank the technology team for their assistance.

Scott Barry Kaufman shared his passion for the need to create a more inclusive, dynamic gifted and talented education. He stressed the need to focus on a practical approach to individual needs that enables students to unlock their potential and reach their intellectual, creative, and personal goals both at school and in life. His message was clear, “when students are inspired, they display higher levels of intelligence and creativity.”

Future casting was the last presentation that I attended early Sunday morning. Future Casting supports students in creating a digital identity that is unique and Google-able. With future casting students examine their online identity to gain awareness about how what they produce in digital environments effects their reputation. If you would like to learn more about Future Casting you can visit their webpage.

I would highly recommend anyone interested in gifted students attend the next NAGC conference. It is a wonderful professional development opportunity that has inspired this educator. Everything Gifted Under the Sun, will be the theme of the next NAGC Conference held in Phoenix, Arizona, November 12-15, 2015. I hope to see you there!