Interview conducted on June 15, 2016, edited by David Lynn Gould
Dr. Sally Krisel is the President-elect for the National Association of Gifted Children, and a member of the Board of Directors. She is also the Director of Innovative and Advanced Programs for Hall County Schools in Gainesville, Georgia, and leads innovative programming initiatives designed to help teachers recognize and develop the creative and cognitive abilities of children from culturally and linguistically diverse groups. A former State Director of Gifted Education and part-time faculty at the University of Georgia, Dr. Krisel is dedicated to raising academic standards for all students, including those who are gifted and talented, by expanding rigorous curriculum offerings and integrating the know-how from programs for the gifted to develop students’ academic potential through engaging, joyful learning experiences. She has helped Hall County Schools develop 25 charter schools, magnet schools and innovative programs of choice, all with roots in gifted education.
In what ways have gifted education strategies influenced your breaking away from remediation models?
More than anything else, what characterizes gifted education is its focus on individual strengths. How can we build upon what a student is already good at? By comparison, traditional education all too often employs a deficit view. We look at what children don’t do well, and respond with a more prescriptive, didactic approach. In the United States, forty years of educational reform has largely been built on remediation models. I think we all have to ask ourselves the question: How’s this working out for us? I think we have to admit that, with the exception a few shining lights, the answer is, “Not very well.” How enthusiastically would you go to school if you were made to feel like a failure?
There is a growing body of research that shows that even when children need remedial instruction, it is most effective when it takes an interest-based, strengths-based form. We need to be more skillful as educators to tie the things students already love to the things we’ve been charged with teaching them.