What is a Gifted Education Mentor?

We talk to Sarah Elliott, the Gifted Education Mentor (GEM) at All Saints’ College, St Peter’s Campus, Maitland about her role and the implementation of gifted education at the college.

As part of the Catholic School’s Office’s strategy for Gifted education, each school included in the cluster program has a GEM who guides the school-based Gifted Education Committee and implements gifted education programs into the school with other teaching staff.

“As the school GEM, it has been my responsibility to strategically implement the CSO Gifted Education Policy at All Saints’ College, St Peter’s Campus,” explained Sarah.

“As a result, I have found myself analysing data, running professional development for staff, writing differentiated programs, trialling differentiated teaching practices in my classroom, implementing a clustered approach for Year 7 as our target group, meeting with parents, students and staff regarding the Virtual Academy and conducting individual mentoring sessions with gifted students.

“I have focussed first and foremost on educating the staff. Our big focus now is on what that looks like within the classroom and how our teaching practices need to grow through this process.

“All of this makes up my days, weeks and so far year of being in this role. It is a continual process that grows each and every day.”

The GEM role helps with the implementation and sustainability of gifted education within the school.

 “We work together to tailor professional learning to staff needs and also devise plans/ideas for differentiation in the classroom. We consider whole school projects, analyse data as a team and discuss factors that may limit our potential growth in areas.

“By having another teacher’s practical application of differentiation, we can understand potential difficulties – through our librarian we are well-resourced through research, literacy ideas and extension ideas and our Learning Support Coordinator supports in catering for various learning needs including, students who may show some strengths alongside a learning disability.”

Each school GEM completes a two-day gifted education course, has at least five years teaching experience and is acknowledged as a successful classroom teacher.

“GEMs were chosen by their schools through an expression of interest with the principal selecting someone who has the capacity, interest and passion to be involved,” explained Sally Brock, CSO Education Officer for Gifted Education.

Though the program is still in its early stages, there have already been significant changes.

“In Year 7 the level of engagement in the clustered gifted classes is high and of particular notice is the boys, who have become especially engaged English,” said Sarah.

“There has been success for individual students who recognise a change in their learning and relish in the challenges being presented to them.

“The result has been an integrated approach to cater for gifted students that encompasses a change in planning, programming and practice and renewed opportunities for our students both inside and outside of the classroom.”

Annie Duggan, principal at St John’s Primary School, Lambton, has also noticed the value the school’s GEM provides.

“The GEM has assisted staff to build a knowledge of gifted education and pedagogies, supported colleagues and students by differentiating teaching to meet the specific learning needs and monitored the tracking and analysis of student identification data,” said Annie.

“The GEM role has been invaluable to our school community.”

To find out more about the GEMs in the diocese, click here.

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