A Conversation with Sally Krisel

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.

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The Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy is an early college entrance program at the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center. Since 1999, we have provided an opportunity for high school students who are academically gifted to skip their final years of high school and head straight to college. We offer an enriched academic and social community for young students as they transition to university life.  Get to know our students: https://academyatiowa.org/videos/

Rediscovering My Childhood Dream at the University of Iowa

By Maddy Pettit

When I was in high school, and going on college visits with my parents, I became fixed on two very different schools: the University of Iowa, a large research institution, and Loras College, a small private school. I remember telling my mom how I was leaning towards the smaller school because I wanted an intimate community feeling. My mom, however, had a different view. She kept pushing me to look closer at the University of Iowa. With a larger university, if I wanted to change my major once, twice… or even three times… it would be far easier to do so with so many majors to choose from. But no, I told her, I already know what I want to do for the rest of my life!

The funny thing about college, or life in general, is that you may think you know what you want to do, but new experiences will change your mind. That happened to me—and most people I know—several times.

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Early Entrance in Hindsight

By Nate Gudvangen

I recently graduated from the University of Iowa. A week later, I turned 20.

Not surprisingly, this major life change has led to retrospection and self-evaluation. Less than a month ago, I stopped being a teenager, and already I face post-graduation adulthood (which is very different from college adulthood). I think about the responsibilities I face and am grateful for the role early college entrance has had on me.

As is the case for many, middle school and high school was a tough time for me. From the 6th grade to the 11th grade, I battled depression on a daily basis. Of course, no single factor is the cause of depression; several aspects of life come together and the world seems bleak. For me, one contributor was an overwhelming feeling of boredom in my education.

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I Needed Gifted Education

By Maddy Pettit

I don’t remember the day that I was informed I was a gifted student, but I do remember distinctly walking into the gifted education classroom for the first time halfway through my sixth grade year. I was nervously anticipating what was to come. The gifted education teacher warmly greeted me with her bubbly Texan accent and paraded me around the room. She proudly showed off the different projects the students had been working on so far that school year, which included some weird mummified experiments. She went on to share that I could look forward to having the classroom turned into a “crime scene” and becoming an investigator, building a solar car to race in a competition, and making bottle rockets to shoot off in front of the school.

To some people, these things may sound more like extra work than fun. But to me, they were exhilarating and helped drive my education further. They also allowed me to have a period every day that I was able to spend with like-minded peers. Instead of sitting in a classroom full of students who were too cool for school, I got the chance to push myself academically with classmates who were equally enthused about learning.

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Nightingale Writers’ Group: How I Made My Mark on the University of Iowa

By Nate Gudvangen

I have loved to write since the 6th grade when my older cousin gave me a little journal with a dragon on it. I used it to write my first book. I didn’t finish that one, but I finished one in high school. The genre was fantasy, because the joy of life is having your head always in the clouds, at least a little bit.

So when I decided to go to the University of Iowa, it was a perfect fit. This school has the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a graduate school program specifically devoted to developing professional writers. This is a city where monuments to writers are laid in the sidewalks. Ruth Christoffer Carlsen. Thomas Carlyle. Aesop. When my high school English teacher heard I was going to Iowa City, she was so happy I would be in a town of writing and reading.

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“If you build it [they] will come,”

This legendary line from the movie Field of Dreams captures the essence of the Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math.

The Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy is all about dreams – yours and mine.  When I was your age, I could not have imagined that people my age would still be dreaming about the future. But, we do – all  the time.  It was this dream that led to a proposal to Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan, a very generous philanthropist, to fund the Martin and Melva Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy.

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