Innovative program extended

More than 20 new Gifted Education Mentors (GEMs) are shining brightly within the diocesan school system thanks to the Gifted Education Lead Schools (GELS) program. The Diocese has added nine more GELS, bringing the cohort to 46 schools, and welcomed 21 new GEMs.  

GEMs support school leadership teams and lead the gifted education focus. The latest GEMs come from secondary and primary schools at new and continuing GELS.  

Gifted education officer Sally Brock says the Catholic Schools Office recently hosted a professional learning day focusing on the system approach to gifted education, the role of the GEM, and identification procedures.  

“This day was an opportunity for the new GEMs to come together in a supportive and collaborative environment,” Ms Brock says.

“GEMs are recognised as effective, skilled classroom practitioners who work independently and collaboratively to improve their own practice and the practice of others.”

One of the three new schools on board is St Francis Xavier’s, Belmont, and school principal Sonya Boslem says gifted education is one of her passions.

“There is a need for it in our schools and it’s great to see the Diocese putting programs in place,” Mrs Boslem says. “It is essential to develop and grow and be nurtured in an appropriate manner. I hope to develop gifted education awareness among the staff and work collaboratively with them to increase the profile of gifted education in the region.

“Having gifted education as a priority in our Catholic schools caters to the needs of students. Our schools are full of diverse learners from a range of backgrounds turning up each day with various needs and abilities. We must ensure we cater to all those diverse needs across our school population.”

The program has been positively received by all the schools that have applied to be part of it since 2017. Mrs Boslem says as a school principal it is pleasing to see the great results achieved so far.

Two of the new GEMs are Summar Harrison and Shanell Tregidgo and both are looking forward to advancing the program.

“I’m passionate about catering to students of all abilities,” Ms Harrison says. “The gifted education mentor is a really valuable role because it ensures all students are challenged and extended and have the best opportunities.”

Ms Harrison says she hopes to create relationships with students where they feel they are supported in all educational challenges they take on. “I want to provide opportunities to allow students to work at their personal best,” she says. “In a typical classroom, teachers will come across students of varied abilities and interests.

“Schools have traditionally been excellent at catering for students who are struggling. Gifted students deserve an opportunity to be extended and it is important we have programs that cater for them.”

Ms Tregidgo concurs.

“We cater a lot for the lower end of the spectrum,” Ms Tregidgo says. “In the past, we may not have been proficient at identifying our gifted students. It’s fabulous to see once those gifted students are given the opportunity to push further or have a different way of thinking, the way they go about things. It is amazing.”

GEMs will help identify gifted students and provide support to them and teachers.

“As I say, we’re really good at moving the lower end of students along, but something we’re not the best at doing it with our gifted students,” Ms Tregidgo says. “It could be because of knowledge – teachers not understanding what they have to do for those students. Or it could be related to resources – just being given the opportunity for professional development around gifted education.

“It’s about pushing to the next benchmark.”    

Mrs Brock noted the enthusiasm in the room at the professional learning day when the budding new GEMs joined the 25 continuing GEMs.

“It was lovely to see the new and more experienced GEMs coming together to share ideas, challenges and strategies with each other,” Mrs Brock says.

“These new GEMs will be an asset to our team bringing new experiences, prior learning and ideas to the table to ensure our gifted learners receive an authentically challenging academic curriculum.”  

Learn more about our new GEMs here.

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Brittany Gonzalez Image
Brittany Gonzalez

Brittany Gonzalez is a Marketing and Communications Co-ordinator for Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.