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2007 Gifted Teacher and Administrator of the Year Contest...
Meet the Winners!

Our congratulations, and a large package of books and products for gifted education, go to our 2nd annual winners of the Hoagies' Gifted Education Page Gifted Teacher and Administrator of the Year Contest...

Teacher of the Year: Abbi Hayes  and  Teacher of the Year: Andrea Perez
and  Administrator of the Year: Dr. Rosemary Daniels

Ms. Abbi Hayes, Ms. Andrea Perez and Dr. Rosemary Daniels are wonderful examples of the many terrific teachers and administrators working with our gifted children.  Through appropriate education, enrichment, acceleration, and just plain caring, these wonderful people lift our gifted kids up to higher levels, encourage them to follow their dreams, and give their all to learning, and to life.  We need more folks like Mrs. Perez and Ms. LeDonne in education!

Thanks to my co-judges Kathi Kearney, teacher and affiliate with the Gifted Development Center, and Joni Lawver, parent and past president of Nebraska Association for the Gifted, for their help in this difficult selection.  There were many great teachers and administrators to pick from this year, and we were all happy to have such a difficult decision!  Ms. Abbi Hayes, Ms. Andrea Perez and Dr. Rosemary Daniels have been shipped a wonderful package of books and tools, from the following contest sponsors.  Thanks for their support to...

bulletPrufrock Press bulletMindWare
bullet2e Twice-Exceptional Newsletter bulletZome Systems
bulletZanca bulletOut of the Box Publishing
bulletGreat Potential Press bulletNathan Levy Associates
bulletUniversity of Utah, Division of Family and Consumer Studies

Each teacher and administrator nominated also received a "Recognition of Outstanding Service" certificate, thanking them for their contribution to gifted education.

If your organization would like to sponsor our next Gifted Teacher and Administrator of the Year Contest, by supplying books or products for the winning teacher and administrator, please contact  Carolyn K. or use the Feedback Form.  Thank you.

Dr. Rosemary Daniels, Head of School, The Weiss School
In honor of her tenth anniversary as Head of School for The Weiss School, I am nominating Dr. Rosemary Daniels as administrator of the year. The Weiss School is a school for gifted children located in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. When Dr. Daniels began her tenure at The Weiss School, the school had less than 50 students in grades K-8 and was housed in a few hallways of a business office complex. Today, the Weiss School educates almost 300 children in grades pre-K3 - 8 on a beautiful 8 acre campus. Dr. Daniels oversaw the renovation of the over 59,000 square foot main physical facility, both inside and out. Each classroom was carefully designed not only to provide space for traditional teaching, but also to accommodate comfortable reading and project areas. Dr. Daniels saw to it that every classroom was equipped with state of the art “smart boards” and, importantly, made sure every staff member was trained in how to use the technology to enhance classroom learning. Other technological renovations included a full-service computer lab, a portable classroom set of computers and, starting this year, personal laptop computers for middle school students. Among the special touches ensured by Dr. Daniels, the school now boasts an inviting, well-stocked library with a special Early Reader Room complete with full-size stuffed animal pillows to help foster an early love of reading. Dr. Daniels also facilitated the building of not one but two playgrounds, tennis courts, basketball courts, and a competitive size track and field. This year marked the opening of The Weiss School television facility which joins the professional quality stage in giving students opportunities to gain experience in public speaking and performance.

But enough about the outside. Most importantly, Dr. Daniels has built an exceptional team of educators who work together to nurture each child’s unique potential while rejoicing in them as children. The curriculum has been thoughtfully planned to both challenge and inspire. Dr. Daniels and the faculty remain committed to teaching the whole child, with an emphasis on skills that these gifted children will need to be leaders in our society. In addition to outstanding programs in math, language arts, social studies, and science, the spectacular staff provides top-notch arts, music, theater, foreign language and dance programs. Each week students not only engage in sports and physical education, but in academic Tae Kwon Do classes as well. Significantly, Dr. Daniels has been instrumental in focusing attention on information filtering and analysis, so necessary in this day and age, rather than simple information retention. Dr. Daniels also personally oversees the individualization of programs for children as needed, including grade-skipping, subject skipping, virtual school, off-campus higher schooling, and accommodations for twice exceptional students.

If you think that these accomplishments alone are what qualify Dr. Daniels for this award, however, you would be wrong. What most qualifies Dr. Daniels as administrator of the year are the values her actions impart to the student body. When two children are not getting along, Dr. Daniels doesn’t lecture about bullying or friendship – she finds a project and assigns them to work on it together. When the school gets involved in charitable works, as it does regularly, Dr. Daniels is front and center volunteering her time, money and, for the good of the cause, whatever silliness it takes to remind the children of the importance of giving. When a parent asked Dr. Daniels what to donate to the school to honor her, Dr. Daniels suggested a scholarship program that now bears her name and ensures that The Weiss School is not just for those who can independently afford it.

Among the renovations overseen by Dr. Daniels was a change in the motto of The Weiss School which now reads, “The Premier School for Gifted Education.” Dr. Daniels has made these words not just aspirational, but a reality. Every day, my children, along with virtually all of the students at The Weiss School, bound into the school excited and happy to be there. For this, on behalf of my children, I thank her from the bottom of my soul. I can think of no one who better personifies the gifted Administrator not just of the year, but of the decade.

Abbi Hayes, Teacher, Oxford Park Academy
Imagine a teacher coming in the middle of the year, fresh out of college, to teach your highly gifted child... and she COMPLETELY ROCKS DA HOUSE! This would describe our experience with our nominee, Ms. Abby Hayes of Oxford Park Academy.

Ms. Hayes assumed the helm of the kindergarten class in December of 2006 - midway through the year. This is her first teaching position since her certification as an elementary school teacher. As parents of a highly gifted boy, we were filled with trepidation. Would she be responsive to our son's needs? Would she be able to handle it? Would she 'get it'?

We need not have worried. One casual mention that our son already knew how to skip count by twos (and fives, and tens, and threes, and elevens...) and Ms. Hayes was on the case. She began out of level testing for our son immediately in math and discovered he was a full two years ahead of the current curriculum. Within two weeks, he was doing appropriately challenging work. Before we had a chance to inquire, she then asked us if we'd mind her doing out of level testing in reading as well.

Ms. Hayes has demonstrated the openness and willing to learn that is so critical for success with gifted children. At our recent parent-teacher conference, she eagerly discussed 4 or 5 research articles she had found discussing gifted abilities, myths and teaching methods. And what's more, she said [of differentiation in the classroom] "This article really clarified for me what differentiation really is, and I think I could be doing it better. Here's what I did this week..." My jaw nearly dropped and I was thankful beyond words that she had come into my child's life. So many of us parents of highly gifted children have to fight so hard and so long to get even the smallest changes made for our kids. Yet here was Ms. Hayes, not only following up but adapting and initiating more things to meet my son's learning needs.

In summary, Ms. Hayes displays the initiative, the open mind and flexibility that make a truly outstanding gifted teacher. That she came into a classroom in the middle of the year, fresh out of college, and is already making such an impact, is amazing. We fully believe that she deserves to be the Hoagies' Gifted Teacher of the Year 2007! -- Debra Rantilla

Maureen Glassberg, Elementary Teacher, Eagle Elementary
Mrs. Glassberg was my son’s fourth grade teacher. My son is twice-exceptional, and school had been a very poor fit for him. When he arrived in Mrs. Glassberg’s classroom, he had spent years being bored, angry and depressed about school, and acted accordingly.

Because Mrs. Glassberg had an Academically Talented class and usually saw only the highest achievers, this complicated boy was a challenge for her. Nothing daunted, she did something no teacher had ever done: she gave priority to his giftedness rather than his learning disabilities. She moved him into AT academics with resource help as necessary. She made sure he stayed engaged in class discussions and hands-on activities, because he does best with active learning. Many of his strengths lie outside the elementary curriculum, so she stretched to incorporate those types of activities into her classroom.

Being treated like a smart, successful student was a seismic shift for my son, and initially he gave Mrs. Glassberg a hard time. Nonetheless she persisted, and over the course of the year he let go of his anger about school and started trying. Mrs. Glassberg provided positive academic experiences that allowed my son to translate his knowledge and efforts into academic achievement. A year later he likes school and is making good grades for the first time. He would not have turned that corner without Mrs. Glassberg, and my son says that she is by far the best teacher he has ever had.

My son is not the only student in whom Mrs. Glassberg has effected such a profound change. She puts tremendous effort into identifying and developing each student’s abilities, and teaches creatively and effectively. She has high expectations, and helps her students to meet them and succeed. Mrs. Glassberg works the same wonders with challenging and difficult children as she does with more straightforward AT students, because she looks at each student in terms of his or her strengths. -- Kate Lin

This year's first runner up, whom we wish very well in her retirement...

Sharon Daily, Gifted Teacher Teacher, Russellville City Schools
It is impossible to know where to begin to tell you why Mrs. Daily deserves to be the teacher of the year. Her dedication to the program of our school system is beyond compare. I am able to recommend her highly as I am one of her former students, I am one of her co-workers, and I have a child who is now in the wonderful program which she began.

As a first grade student, in 1978, I was Mrs. Daily's very first gifted student. My peers and I discovered quickly that her class was going to be something special. The activities she did with us not only enhanced our current education but helped us become better students as well. I can't speak for the others in my class, but I know that I still remember some of the things she taught us then. Because gifted was so small at that time, I was actually one of her students from 1st-8th grade. I feel that I KNOW she is the one most deserving of this award. Not only did she teach us, but she also loved us and cared for us. Out of the literal hundreds of memories I have in her class. There is one that stands out to me most....I couldn't write very neatly. My cursive was horrible at best. It was sloppy, illegible....etc. On her own time, outside of my regular gifted class time, she pulled me out and worked with me to help me get better. That had nothing to do with my "giftedness" but everything to do with how much she genuinely cared about me and how I did in the regular classroom. I could really go on and on about her as my teacher, but I have even more to say about her as my co-worker.

She works harder than any other teacher I know and puts in more hours than any of us. Because she LOVES her students so much, she couldn't stand it when her wonderful 8th graders were moving up to the high school without someone to continue their scholar's bowl program. It didn't matter to her that she was already dealing with 2nd-8th grade; she just stayed with them working on scholar's bowl and added them to her already hectic and busy schedule. Our system has now hired someone to teach the 3rd-5th graders for her, but she is still the one testing them for acceptance into the program. So, just last year, she tested my own child, and he is now in the 3rd grade GE program.

This is Mrs. Daily's last year to teach. She plans on retiring at the end of this year. I can think of no greater way to reward her for all her many years of hard work and dedication than to allow her to receive this prestigious award. There are sooooo many more things I could say about her. There just isn't the space available to continue to describe what all she has done and continues to do. Many others in her position would have reached "burnout" by now, but she has given 100% from first to last. Please consider her for your award. -- Susan DeArman

These are the great teachers and administrators that are nominated for the Hoagies' Gifted Education Page 2007 Gifted Teacher and Administrator of the Year Contest.  Learn what they've done for their students, classes, schools and districts!  Be sure to read about the first four nominees, accidentally omitted from the 2006 contest.  And be sure to Meet the 2006 Winners!

Laurie Scherf, 3rd Grade Teacher, Northview Elementary
Laurie Scherf goes above and beyond every single day in her 3rd grade classroom. Her strong point us preparedness with parent volunteers, differentiation activities, and take-home games. This year she led a team of 3rd grade teachers in creating math enrichment games for students to take home and play with their families. She makes every minute count from her early arrival to the extensions she makes happens for capable kids. This outstanding teacher deserves recognition for her persistent and consistency in meeting needs of kids who are ready to soar! -- Becky Hanson

Jack Rosine, 6th grade Special Education, Warrensburg Middle School
Mr. Rosine is always there for my son and I. My son has Asperger's and problems with handwriting. Mr. Rosine helps my son solve problems in social situations. He works with the classroom teachers to make sure IEP accommodations are being followed. He helps him work through any problems that he is having in class. He is a big gentle giant who is full of compassion, energy, and fun. -- Sherry Swope

Sheree Grelle, Autism Coordinator, Warrensburg Middle School
Mrs. Grelle works with my son who has Asperger's. She understands why my son is different and she still likes him. She helps him to learn why others around him react to the things that he does and how to better handle situations. She works with the teachers to help them understand autism and understand my son. He feels free to go to her at anytime to talk about any situation and not be judged. She works to help him with any accommodations that he may need in the classroom. She looks out for my son and all her students, and that is why we love her. -- Sherry Swope

Lucinda Wood, REM (Gifted) Teacher, Warrensburg Middle School
Mrs. Wood is my son's gifted teacher. My son has Asperger's along with his gifted talents. Mrs. Wood is also a parent of a child with a disability. She assists my son within his classroom to help him understand social situations and to work with others. She has them work outside the box to think and challenge these kids. She has a lot of variety of assignments in her classroom so that if the student is not good at one thing, they might be at another. She has compassion and loves her job. -- Sherry Swope

Dana Brandt, Social Studies Teacher, Warrensburg Middle School
Mrs. Brandt is the teacher that every child should have. She is soft spoken, has a beautiful smile, gentle, and truly cares about her children. My son has Asperger's and has trouble with his writing. He has trouble initiating tasks. Mrs. Brandt lies in bed at night thinking of ways that she can help my son succeed in school and help him maintain his dignity. She always take a positive attitude and works with her students to encourage them. My son just excels in her classroom and loves her. I do too. -- Sherry Swope

Diane Cotner, 2nd Grade Teacher, Wamsley Elementary
When my son and myself moved to Colorado last school year he already skipped kindergarten and was entering second grade but not classified as a gifted student. He did not qualify here due to testing him with the wrong level test. Diane has done marvelous job advocating for him to be in gifted program. Without her help my son would of not gotten the help he needed. She goes beyond her regular duties to help my son learn all that he can even to the point of finding different and more challenging work for him so he felt challenged and learned. She has spent countless hours learning more about the gifted children and tries her hardest to apply what she knows about teaching these kids in her classroom. My son benefitted from her help in many ways. Without her I would not know what I know now about my son. Her advice even to this day is greatly appreciated and I am sure I speak for many parents especially those whose gifted kids benefitted from having her as a teacher. She is a great advocate and has great deal of knowledge though she would never admit it. What really tops everything is my son saying she was the only one he has ever learned from. -- Catherine Zomberg

Linda Stokes, Teacher, Collister Elementary
Mrs. Stokes is creative in her planning and understands higher level thinking for elementary children. She does amazing work with kids. She understands gifted children in every way. She is professional in the way she deals with children and adults. She is a teacher of teachers of the gifted as well. She collaborates and shares her ideas. She has been the president of Idaho Talented and Gifted/SAGE this past year. She is an ideal candidate for this nomination. -- Betty Turner

Renee Cuvelier, 1st Grade Teacher, Crestwood Elementary
Renee was my son's 1st grade teacher, and even before we had a diagnosis, she knew that he was special. She gave him the extra encouragement and tenderness that he needed without ever telling us how difficult he was. She invests so much of her self into helping her class, and you can tell how proud she is at each little accomplishment. She is truly a wonderful teacher! -- Carrie Martin

Holly Lopiccolo, GEM Teacher, Ironwood Elementary
This teacher is Amazing! I have a son that has been receiving resources for reading and math since 1st grade. This "2e" student has been conflicted.....He has a tender heart and a great soul, but struggles with his self esteem while attending these classes. He has always been gifted in language arts and vocabulary. This year, he entered the 5th grade at Ironwood.  Mrs. Lopiccolo has recognized his strengths and accepted him in to the GEM program. Since that moment, my son has blossomed into an even more amazing kid. He has new-found self confidence and drive.  Mrs. Lopiccolo makes a difference for every student she comes in contact with. She has the innate ability to relate to the students at any level, provide a nurturing and non-judgmental environment for her students, and it is evident that she truly cares and loves what she does. She takes on just about anything, including the leadership program, newsletter and of course her GEM class projects that go above and beyond the call of duty. Her communication style is unique and refreshing, as she relates to the students on their level and celebrates their differences.
She cannot go unnoticed. She is the epitome of what every student should have as a teacher!!!!  Thank you Mrs. Lopiccolo! -- Meghan McCormick

Craig Carter, Gifted & Talented Teacher, Lone Oak Elementary
It would be very hard to find one word to describe Mr. Craig Carter our Gifted & Talented teacher at Lone Oak Elementary in McCracken County, Kentucky. However, all of his GT students and parents would say that he is "AMAZING!" He goes above and beyond and out of his way to challenge us and make sure that all gifted students in our school learn to our fullest potential. For example, just this year all GT Science students not only dissecting real frogs, but he had gummy frogs as well for us to dissect and learn about its anatomy.

He is also very educated. He teaches us that we can be anything in life that we want to be. He is a wonderful example of a life long learner. He has lots of degrees and has won several awards including Kentucky Science Teacher of the Year and Kentucky Teacher of the Year Award Winner in Kentucky.

I enjoy coming to his class because he makes learning fun. We are always active and working on different projects. For example, throughout the year GT Language Arts students and General intellectual students work on our school's newspaper titled "The Flash Gazzette" and we also stay busy with the Student council. The student council is made up of GT Leadership students. He is our sponsor and helps teach us about the importance of community service. This year we have collected over $320.00 to donate to the Easter Seals Telethon that helps handicapped children.

Mr. Carter allows us to take part in hands on activities and research things that we are the most interested in. I can't wait to come to school everyday to see what fun things he has in store for us to do. It may be creating something for GT creativity students or planning the next big, wild & wacky, and crazy science experiments for science gt students.

He also has a website that features all of us in action. It even has my picture on it and other gt students. This makes me feel really useful and proud to be a gifted student. His website also helps my mom keep in touch with what is going on in class and how to help me as a parent.

I would like to nominate Mr. Craig Carter for the Gifted and Talented Outstanding Teacher Award. After all, he is AMAZING! -- Sam C.

Catherine Manfra, English Teacher, Hialeah Miami Lakes Senior High
She is a very good teacher. She has the patience needed to work with gifted children, and all the work done in her class is very fun. -- Michelle C.

Carol Hunter, Gifted Coordinator, Orange County Public Schools
Mrs. Hunter has been an educator for many years. Last year she became our school district's Gifted Coordinator. She has an energy that the children draw from and they always come away learning something new. She has a love for learning and the children. My daughters were both fortunate enough to work with Mrs. Hunter. Now the whole school district gets the benefit of her knowledge and love for learning.  -- Jennifer Shelton

Dana Clark, Pre-Laureate Teacher, Science and Arts Academy
Ms. Clark has excelled at recognizing and addressing the unique needs of both the individuals in her class and the group-as-an-entity for a number of years now. She continually searches for answers and strategies to help her best address the talents and challenges she so well recognizes in each student, even as tweaks her existing gifted curriculum and creates new lessons to address learning styles and content goals. And, going beyond the teacher-ey gobbledygook, Ms. Clark attends to the boo-boos, helps students with the psychic traumas, and develops all the organizational strategies that one would expect to have to help with when dealing with 5-year olds. In a nutshell, Ms. Clark is a gifted teacher of gifted children with a clear knack for creating a caring, safe, and inspiring classroom. -- Shelley Ferguson

Colleen Cunningham, Spanish Teacher, West Allegheny High School
I believe Ms. Cunningham should be honored as an outstanding teacher, because she has changed my life, and has given me a greater outlook on Spain, and the Spanish Culture, and Language. 2nd Period Class begins at 8:30a.m, and it is still extremely early, and all the students are still exhausted from the day before. However they are wide awake once they step into Ms. Cunningham's Classroom. With an instant smile on everyone’s face she brightens up each person’s day. She is always in class, and hardly ever calls off sick, she is a great inspiration of why Spanish is an amazing language. Her class is difficult at times, and she does give tons of class work, and homework, but everyone still keeps a huge smile on there face.

In my personal words describing Ms. Cunningham, I could easily write a 500 paged book. I look up to her, and she never lets me down, or disappoints me. I consider her my idol, and role model. I can go to her for anything, if it is to talk about boys, problems at home, or just to talk about a movie I watched she is always open, and listens to every word I say. Ms. Cunningham always gives me her personal opinions, and never judges the things I do. If it is a boy problem, she will always give the best advice she can, and support me in everything I may decide to do. She is a younger teacher, so she knows what I am going through with boys, and my life changing. Ms. Cunningham deserves to be honored, and appreciated, because of the remarkable teacher that she is. If it was my decision, I would go to Ms. Cunningham’s class every period of the day, and everyday including weekends. -- Megan S.

Diana Barnett, 3rd Grade Teacher, Austin Elementary
Diana Barnett is the only Teacher that my Daughter ever had that truly saw and believed in not only my Daughter but in me. Even now with my Daughter in her freshman year of college as a 14 year old, the conversations I had with Diana energize and focus me on my child as a whole person, as a unique person, as a person deserving the best opportunities. In one moment, in one look and few words Diana Barnett gave me faith in myself as a capable Mother. I can honestly say that with every conflict that we all encounter with Gifted Children I felt this woman's presence, urging me to remember the best interests of my Daughter. When I trembled with fear to homeschool, I remembered her faith. When I confronted failing school systems, I remembered her faith. When we decided to allow our daughter to accelerate, my memories of Diana gave me strength to stay the course. I know that she is an amazing person and Teacher to have made such a positive and powerful impact on my entire families life. She will always have a very special place in our hearts and minds. -- Diane Nueman

Mrs. Stamm, 6th Grade Gifted English Teacher, Kemps Landing Magnet School
Mrs. Stamm is an outstanding educator of the gifted 6th grade students. On a personal level she taught our daughter last year and took her from writing short to the point paragraphs to the level of an adult. Mrs. Stamm's ability to reach gifted students at a special level and encourage their creativity and teach them how to express themselves on paper has made a profound difference for our daughter. She entered the 6th grade disliking writing and left ready to write novels. Mrs. Stamm sparks something in these children that they are unable to receive elsewhere or from another teacher.

The work and dedication required to teach gifted children is enormous; above that required to teach children within the normal range. Mrs. Stamm rises to the challenge every year and assists her students to creatively come alive.

Mrs. Stamm possess the rare ability to truly see the world from the perspective of her students and she offers them the opportunity to change their world.. -- Debra Quitter

Dan Martin, Teacher, Spearfish Middle School
Mary Mr. Martin is a very nice, and caring teacher. That's why I think he should be nominated for this award.
Every time I have a question or need help he is always happy to help out. And he never has a frown on his face. He tells us lots of jokes and he is a really awesome and fun teacher to have. He tries to look mad but he only looks sad, tired, and other things. He deserves this award. -- Mackenzee C.

Mary Reeve, Director of Services for Exceptional Students, Education Development Center, Gallup McKinley County Schools
Mary Reeve is the director of Services for Exceptional Students in Gallup McKinley County Schools. She is a tireless advocate for services for gifted children. Gifted services, though mandated under New Mexico law, were not happening at most of Gallup McKinley's 36 schools when she was hired three years ago. During her short tenure, Mary has facilitated the overhaul of the systems for identification and service delivery.

Mary has overseen the development of alternate portfolio systems to identify socioeconomically disadvantaged and culturally and linguistically diverse students. The identification system has used best practices and theory from Frasier, Sternberg, and Lohman to more than double the number of identified students and dramatically increase representation of Gallup's majority Navajo population in services.

The newly identified students in Gallup McKinley County are being served by newly hired and trained teachers. Mary has supported the increase of the gifted education faculty from 2 to 15 teachers, enough to give direct services to gifted students in all 36 schools. The new teachers have been trained in part through Javits grant money and in part with district funds that Mary secured.

The result of her efforts? At each of Gallup McKinley's schools, there are gifted education classes that look very much like the greater population of their schools. Every class deploys research based curriculum, including William and Mary units. Elementary school students are served for a full day per week. Middle school students are now grouped for core classes, and have a gifted education teacher teaching enriched, accelerated core content 8 hours per week. High school students can enroll in self-paced classes and high-end electives.

Gifted students in Gallup McKinley County are increasingly satisfied with their services and making demonstrable progress toward excellence in core subjects and thinking skills. Thank you Mary. -- Geoffrey Moon

Brandi Muha, 4th/5th gifted and talented teacher, Three Creeks Elementary
I nominate this teacher for the wonderful class she has created for me! She is the best teacher ever, she makes me want to learn everyday! She is my idol! She took on this class with enthusiasm and pride. This teacher is the kind of teacher that makes you want to come to school.
She makes me feel like I can do anything! She is never boring, always fun and makes me laugh when i am down. She gives us responsibility that is fun and makes me feel good. She trust us. She has a great sense of humor. She understands me and what it is like to be a kid. When she teaches i don't even realize how much i am learning until someone asks me a question. I want her to win every award there is! She deserves to be happy like me!
Please Make her win this award, she will smile alot!
Thanks.  -- Dakota N.

Jennifer Runck, Advanced Kindergarten Teacher, Toledo Blade Elementary School
Mrs. Runck is an exceptional teacher known for going the extra mile for each and every student. My daughter is being sent out to take the Lexile Reading Test (given in second grade) along with two other students. I was so apprehensive about sending my daughter to public school or any school to be honest. My daughter has been speaking full sentence, conversations since 18 months, read before the age of 3, she is advanced in reading, writing and math. She knows most of the presidents and in order, she is a little sponge always chasing more knowledge. She LOVES music and art, and tries demonstrate her thoughts in her art. I was petrified my daughter would be twittling her thumbs in class, and though things seem easy to her right now, emotionally she is only 5, and very sensitive, always wants everything to be fair and understand why things aren't ... so many questions :) My daughter scared me when she told me that she knew she was different from the other kids and that they didn't understand things like her ... inflated ego ... no it was too innocent. Jennifer Runck is a God send, she is able to see the emotions of a five year old child and yet still be daring enough to rise to the challenge and all that comes with what I not offensively call my lil perfectionist:) In regular public schools, especially in Kindergarten, children like my daughter are passed over ... and often they shrink inside themselves only to fit in, they dummie up to make themselves equal to their classmates, Jennifer Runck is constantly trying to pull the best out of each child, and I can honestly say I feel blessed my daughter has gotten her for a teacher this year.... other option was homeschool. I was willing to try for the socialization and separation but was ready to pull her if no one took her seriously. Thank you Mrs. Runck for my daughter and all the children before her, with her and after her. -- LisaMarie Emerle

Nancy White, English/Homemaking Teacher, Bartlett High School
I'm nominating Mrs. White my teacher for teacher of the year contest because I think she really deserves it.  She's real hard working she cares about her students.  When ever we need help she is always there even if it isn't on school work if you need some to talk to about a problem you are having at home or at school she is there to help u through she never lets you down.  She treats all her students the same she don't care what race you are she treats you like she treats everyone else.  She's a sweet, caring, and loving person.  She wants all of her students to exceed in life.  She always tells us do the right ting don't make the wrong choice.  She always said if you need me of anything I'm here for yall whether u need some to talk to or just cry on I'm here.  Mrs. White's not just a teacher she a friend too.  This why I would like to nominate her. -- Phylicia F.

Carol Ann Foley, Gifted and Talented Coordinator, Ellis School
Carol has been a presence for the Gifted and Talented population in all of the school districts in which she has been employed since 1989, when she was an active member of the Blending Gifted Education Committee in her school district. She has woven the philosophy of teaching gifted throughout her tenure in regular education to benefit all students. Carol worked for 6 years as a G & T School Coordinator and Teacher prior to coming to start a program for the gifted population in a K-8 rural school. Her hard work and dedication to gifted shows in everything she does. -- Catherine Shea

Rocky Wilson, Principal, Midland Academy
Rocky believes in an appropriate education of gifted learners. He has sent the majority of the teachers in our school through classes to earn gifted endorsements. Through this endorsement teachers can better serve the gifted population. Rocky also took the time to learn about gifted learners as well. Through his studies he learned about cluster grouping of gifted learners. He felt by cluster grouping gifted learners in classrooms with endorsed teachers, the gifted population of our school would be served appropriately. We are in our third year of cluster grouping our gifted learners. Parents are in support of this model and look for it in other schools if they happen to have to leave us due to relocating. Thanks to Rocky's leadership we are on track to serve a population of students that is often overlooked. -- Stephanie Wright

Ronica Kotran, Teacher, Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics
I first met Mrs. Kotran when I was in 6th grade, and also had her for 7th grade. My writing skills weren’t the best then, nor had I known how meaningful it could be.

Mrs. Kotran opened my eyes to reading she made me want to write, so I didn’t only write for homework assignments but I wrote to her personally. I told her how great she was and how she meant the world to me. The next year I re-entered the quest program because I heard that was the class she would be teaching. But 7th grade got even better when I got her for two classes, reading and language arts. That year was by far the best year in my life because I always knew when I got to 4th period that I could walk in her classroom with no stress and I could just write to my hearts content.

She brightened my world, but also my education. When you walk in her classroom you could feel how happy she was, how much she truly loved teaching. Mrs. Kotran used to be a high school Spanish 4 teacher and could easily get a job translating Spanish documents for a much higher salary but she loved teaching so much that she didn’t care how little the salary was.

Mrs. Kotran did more for the school than just teach. She was the leader of the whole reading department and led it well. She participated in all students vs. faculty sport games and even though she wasn’t the best at all the sports she still tried. She is a team player and even at times when she would fall on her face she still got back up and continued to play.

Now I am going into 8th grade and I will miss her terribly. My new reading and language arts teacher has some big shoes to fill. But no matter what, I will never forget you- Mrs. Kotran. --Allyson S.

Paul Gonzenbach, 4th grade teacher, Seabury School
Paul has been our daughter's teacher for the last year, in her 3rd/4th Grade classroom. We had grade-skipped her past the 2nd Grade, so we were a bit nervous about this transition. We have always had a difficult time keeping her challenged and interested in working at her ability level, even though she attends a school exclusively for gifted children. She always tried very hard to "fit in" and would only do the work she saw her classmates doing. After only two days in Paul's class, our daughter went from not wanting to talk about her day at school, to telling us every detail about all of the exciting things she'd learned. I had several opportunities to observe the classroom and Paul's teaching style. He is always prepared with a challenging and interesting curriculum, but is not afraid to alter the plan to follow the students' interests. In spite of schoolwide funding difficulties for special opportunities, Paul has found amazing ways to keep the minds of all of the children, including my daughter's stretching beyond their comfort zones. He emphasized thinking for themselves, especially developing their own ideas and theories. He NEVER knocked down an idea or theory, and always encouraged and assisted the children in following their ideas and research them further. He even made it a a point to ask advice from the children on topics they knew about (ie: he asked my daughter for advice on playing the cello, since she plays violin). He was never condescending (these kids see right past that), but treated them as equal and important. He always knew how to calmly deal with discipline issues and encouraged the children to be the best citizens they could be. My daughter no longer cared if she was working at an "acceptable" level, but realized she is a unique individual with talents and abilities. Needless to say, Paul is the sole reason we are having our daughter return to the same school for another year. I can't imagine a better possible teacher for my child! He has a true gift and talent for teaching gifted children!! -- Rose Johnson

Elena Ackerson, Gifted Intervention Specialist, Snowhill Elementary School
Mrs. Ackerson should be nominated for this because she really puts her heart into the Gifted education program! My brother is also gifted like me, but they won't give him official service for it yet. Even though he is 6, she is the only one trying to give him the education he needs. Also because when I was in first grade she let me come to the Resource Room Program every Tuesday and actually gave me something that truly challenged me and was something I enjoyed! She always pushed the administration to assist and help gifted students more. She is truly a passionate teacher! -- Isabelle Durrenberger

Tracey Hummer, Gifted Teacher, Central Elementary
Tracey Hummer has been instrumental in my sons life as a caring teacher, advocate, mentor, and a pivotal figure in developing his self and emotional confidences. My son was struggling at the Catholic Schools because he did not fit in with the norm group. His self-esteem was plummeting and he came home very unhappy on a regular basis. They did not believe that our son was gifted and did very little to challenge him. Tracey was so patient and positive with the gifted class that my son was in that he started to really blossom under her influence. My son had Ms. Hummer for two years and we moved him to Grandville Public Schools this year where he has grown in so many ways because of the quality of teachers that he has had. Tracey's knowledge of gifted students, her nurturing qualities, and her curriculum content and expectations have brought about the personal and academic growth that we now see in our son. He is rising to more academic challenges and setting much higher goals for himself. She has instilled the love of learning through research, technology, hands-on experimentation, oral speaking skills, presentation projects, and a multitude of experiences that my son would not have gotten without her leadership. Tracey is the embodiment of what all great teachers should be and we were very fortunate that she was a part of our sons academic life and a support to us. Teachers like Tracey are rare my son was fortunate this year to have two such rare teachers. Please consider her Gifted Teacher of the Year. -- Bridget Berensb

Carol Bell, Teacher, Pleasant Valley
She takes teaching to heart.
Mrs. Bell should get this award because she’s kind, is easy to understand.
She makes learning fun.
She got me in to science.
She take’s her job farther then she is asked. -- Lauren P.

Lisia Snell, Teacher, Auora Elementary School
i nominate my teacher because she is the only teacher that i can really understand because she talks to you individually and helps u understand things easier. -- Mikayla C.

Christina Sparacino, 3rd grade teacher, Watchung Elementary School
Christina Sparacino exemplifies the commitment to differentiation and student achievement that is critical to meeting the needs of all students, but most particularly to gifted youngsters. She continually develops and implements lessons that are tailored to compacting needs, learning contracts, independent exploration, and both vertical and horizontal enrichment opportunities. She utilizes a wide range of materials that augment the curriculum and allow for students to be challenged according to their identified needs and interests. She draws on traditional and technological resources (ie. renzullilearning.com)to supplement and/or replace grade level materials.

Christina maintains high levels of expectations for these children and spends time instructing them and assessing them (they are not "off in a corner working on challenge folders" and/or "assigned to help struggling classmates")in meaningful and challenging ways.

Christina was one of four teachers in my building chosen to participate in a Discovery.com educational documentary on Best Practices in Differentiating Instruction, which served as a punctuation of her excellent teaching/learning practices.

Warm regards, Mrs. Gail Clarke, Principal, Watchung Elementary School

Frances Hansen, First grade teacher, M. W. Holt Elementary School
Frances Hansen is beyond a shadow of a doubt a teacher like no other. Throughout my years in school and since the birth of my first child nearly seven years ago never have I had the good fortune to meet a person whom is better suited for the education profession.

Ms. Hansen demonstrates compassion and thoughtfulness unlike any person I have ever encountered. She takes a personal interest in each of her students and has an obvious desire to see each child flourish in their lives. She shows patience, kindness and dedication to both the students and parents she interacts with.

Our son was absent from school for a couple of days due to an illness; during this time my husband and I received e-mails and or phone calls daily from Ms. Hansen voicing her concern for our son. She also provided a special toy for our son to use in class when he has an overly “emotional” moment and needs a bit of help in dealing with it. In today’s demanding world where it has become so easy to push a child aside or chalk them up as problematic, Ms. Hansen demonstrates infinite patience and benevolence; striving for a solution rather than focusing on a problem; Lane and I continue to be amazed at the level of personal attention Ms. Hansen demonstrates.

There are many wonderful educators in this world and they all deserve recognition for the outstanding jobs they do and the life-long commitment they have made. Their classroom is their life and their personal sacrifices are inspirational. Frances Hansen is a phenomenal teacher, a role-model and friend like no other. -- Jennifer Sides

Patricia Davis, Teacher, Blackmon Road Middle School
Mrs. Davis is one of the best teachers I have ever had. She is enthusiastic in her teaching, and she loves her students. She is not only a good teacher, but also a good friend and mentor to her students. She cares about her students in and outside the classroom. She willingly stays after school to direct, coach, and encourage her students to do well in Academic Bowl Competitions, and she develops good rapport with the students' family as well. She challenges her students to find their true potentials in learning and personal development. Lastly, Mrs. Davis personifies an examplary educator for other teachers to follow, and I am glad to be one of her lucky students. -- Kevin T.

Celina Fernandez, Preschool Teacher, Albany Park School
Miss Fernandez has been teaching for about 8-9 maybe 10 years. She has shown how much she loves her job. Celina really gets along with the children's parents and keeps them informed with what their children are learning and how they are improving. Believe it or not but as i have seen for myself these children enrolled speaking nothing but spanish and graduated preschool amazingly speaking nothing now but english and move on bilangual. Celina also gets things done when they need to get done and that's on time. she loves to read and teach alot to her students. I have seen her hard work and you know what Teacher Celina really deserves this nomination. I havent yet seen her being nominated and i really want to just see her happy knowing that we are recognizing her hard work. I guess coming out in the newspaper wasn't enough for me to see that people out there should see Celina as a roll model but i want them to see how hard she works for these children to move on with such a great education. I have seen students from her past class that come up to me asking for Teacher Celina and ask how she is and that they miss her so much and wish she could be their teacher again. I'm glad im doing this i really want Celina to be recognized. -- Valerie Zavela

Kelly Nichols, AG Teacher, Meadowlark Elementary School
Ms. Nichols.  She makes every lesson challenging at the perfect level. She also adds twists so a simple problem requires more thought. She has very high standards and makes the students want to please her. She remains playful with the class yet pushes them to do more and create better level of work. Each project requires thought, creativity and yet helps think about books in a new perspective. Ms. Nichols is a fabulous teacher! -- Linda Coy-Elmore

Jennifer Blaine, 3rd Grade Magnet Teacher, Welby Way Magnet Elementary
Jennifer Blaine is an extraordinary teacher. She is a third grade teacher in a gifted/high ability magnet school in Los Angeles. My son is in her class this year. He is a brilliant, highly creative, imaginative and special child. Whereas most teachers would struggle to find solutions for each individual challenge or learning style, Jennifer uses her experience effortlessly and has extremely creative and positive solutions for each child's process. My son is enjoying his class, and just loves his teacher because she treats his differences with great respect. As parents, we are just thrilled. Jennifer genuinely loves to teach and really understands that education is multi-dimensional. Instead of trying to get each student to conform to one thing, she takes great pride and joy in providing an environment for each child to succeed by allowing their individualism to shine and not suffocate. She is in my mind the perfect teacher in the true meaning of the word. Her brilliant methods combined with her joy of teaching allow each child to learn and grow with confidence and self esteem, which is what we all want. This is a remarkable accomplishment with the many different challenges of gifted children. She teaches to their "genius" and in her open-minded process reveals her own. -- Shelley Spiegel

Randi Riesbeck, Principal, Kemps Landing Magnet School
Mrs. Riesbeck is an outstanding principal. She knows gifted education and understand the needs of the students. When others tried to introduce minimum grade requirements for the "gifted" students she actively fought against the idea. She stated "If we can't teach the gifted children here; where will they learn?" She won and there are no minimum grade requirements to remain in the middle school gifted program. Her primary focus is the students of the school. All else is secondary. She safeguards gifted education and helps parents understand what is needed to make the program great. -- Debra Quitter

Erin Denny, Gifted/Talented Teacher K-4th, Godwin Elementary School
I am nominating Mrs. Denny for all the hard work she does to make G.T. an extremely enriching experience for my child as well as the others here at Godwin Elementary.  She gives them freedom to express their individuality while in her class. She does very exciting hands on units with them. She plans G.T. family trips both in the fall and again in the spring to connect the children as well as their families on a more personal level. Those have included camping and canoeing, weekends going to the zoo, museums, plays, and hands on exhibits. This spring she is planning a trip to the NASA space Center in Houston. She provides stimulating field trips each school year, the last being an archeological dig and several other things at the University of N. TX in Denton. She supports the parents of her students with a variety of information on raising and understanding their gifted children. Mrs. Denny is an exceptionally loving person.

It never shows that she is a single Mom struggling to raise 2 children on her own - she always has time for her G.T. kids and their parents. She welcomes calls night and day, she sincerely listens to our children's wants and needs and meets those needs on each of their individual levels.  Mrs. Denny also organizes our UIL events and she coaches some of our UIL participants.  Mrs. Denny also spends her summers traveling abroad with groups of children (through an Ambassador program) on International learning trips.

I honor Mrs. Denny as a teacher to my child as well as a coworker in our District. She touches everyone who meets her in such a positive motivating way. -- Alisha Cofield

Carol Hostetter, Enrichment Teacher, South Lebanon Elementary School
As a father, I have found the school to be very cooperative and open to ideas when it comes to my son's educational needs. Last year while in 1st grade, he participated in the Enrichment Program. He really looked forward to his time in Mrs. Hostetter's class. She was also very helpful in providing us with many on-line sources of information concerning gifted topics, such as the process leading up to setting up a Gifted Individualized Education Program for my son.

As a result, my son is attending a 4th grade math class while in 2nd grade this year, in addition to attending Enrichment classes again. Mrs. Hostetter was also prepared to assist us with grade skipping had we decided to go that route. My wife, my son and I all feel very fortunate to have Carol Hostetter on our side as we work on providing a great educational experience for our son! -- Erik Laucks

Marcie Libra, 3rd grade teacher, Collins Elementary School
Marcie works with the "cluster" group of Gifted and Talented kids together with a mixed classroom and is able to differentiate, giving each child the challenges they need. She has been an exceptional teacher also with my son, who is both gifted and learning disabled. I truly believe that she looks for the gifts in each child in order to nurture their individual growth and potential.

She has multi-sensory methods, great visual aids, and has the ability to reach out to those who struggle with auditory processing. I've seen her take kids by the hands and not let go until they can look at her and she knows that they are listening when she needs to tell them something important. She also gives up her free after-school time to run a program for kids considering joining Odyssey of the Mind and is just an all-around dedicated teacher. -- Sharon Spungen

These first four nominees were accidentally missed in the 2006 contest, so with our apologies Gail Gibson, Sharon Daily, Dawn Burbach and Anna Tackett will be our initial nominees for our 2007 contest.

Gail Gibson, Principal, Mapleton Elementary School
Ms. Gibson has exceeded my expectations lately by going “to bat” for my 11year old son. Her support has been very evident over the 8 years that my son has attended Mapleton Elementary School. Recently, however, she has gone the extra mile by advocating for him with District Administration (her superiors). She knows that Gifted Children are not always the children who do well in school and get good grades. She recognizes highly gifted children even when they don’t “perform” and recognize themselves. She realizes that is important for children to receive academic challenges that will require them to learn how to study, to cope with grades less then an A, and interact with intellectual peers before they go to college. She wants them to discover the correlation between effort and results. She has made the goal of having a child who is happy, loves to learn, and receives a good education a worthwhile journey. Ms. Gibson truly deserves this recognition. -- Torry B. Eaton

Dawn Burbach, Gifted and Talented Teacher, Bonham Elementary
Mrs. Burbach is not only the most amazing and dedicated teacher in the world, but she is also a much needed advocate for GT children and their parents. She will go to any length to make certain our children have a passion for learning, and the tools to accomplish that. Any time my child says something that amazes me and I ask him “where did you learn that?” the answer is always “Mrs. Burbach”. In their regular classroom, they are graded in accordance with the general population, which usually means they have the highest grades in the class. However, Mrs. Burbach grades them according to what their ability can be. They learn that it’s not always going to be easy for them, nor should it be. They learn how to push themselves. She truly “gets” the GT child and they all adore her. She has a way of making them feel special without making them think they are superior. They also learn how to cope and “fit in” in almost any situation.

Not only does she push her students, but she also pushes herself. She has been using The Jason Project curriculum for a few years. This past summer she applied to be one of the advocate teachers. She was one of three in the entire world to be chosen. She is also a sponsor for the PTA reflections program—which promotes arts in the school—this is open to all children. But wait, there’s more. She started a Glee Club at our school as well. One can always count on Mrs. Burbach to get the job done, and to get it done better than almost any one else. -- Sarah Horn

Anna Tackett, 6th Grade Teacher, Thomas Jefferson
I nominate Mrs. Tackett because she is always there for us when we need her and she doesn't get mad at us if we don't understand it right away, she beaks it down for us. Mrs. Tackett has had many knee surgeries and she still comes to school just to teach us and and we are so grateful for that. So if anyone deserves this award it is Mrs. Tackett!! -- Mariah G.

updated December 01, 2020

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