29 October 2008 - A new national association, 'giftEDnz', has been set up to support professionals working with gifted and talented students.
A first for New Zealand, the Professional Association for Gifted Education (giftEDnz) also aims to raise awareness and advocate for gifted and talented students.
Steering committee member Louise Tapper, a teacher and doctoral student at the University of Canterbury, says the term 'gifted and talented' is used to describe students who have exceptional abilities in a wide range of fields, for example, in science or technology, art, writing, drama, music, sport or social leadership.
"It's so important to recognise and nurture gifted and talented students," she says. "There are children like this in all schools and early childhood services in New Zealand. They are young people who may go on to change the world - perhaps find a cure for cancer, break all previous sporting records, or bring us art and music that enriches all of society."
However, some gifted and talented students may get into conflict at school because of their tendency to challenge the rules. In some cases, they may also be at risk of underachievement, due to boredom or frustration with the slow pace of their learning.
Massey University Associate Professor Tracy Riley, also a member of the giftEDnz steering committee, says schools are recognising more and more that they need quality programmes for gifted and talented students.
"But there is still a fair way to go to ensure all students with exceptional talents receive the help they need to reach their potential - and for teachers and other professionals to develop the skills that are necessary to support this group of learners," Dr Riley says.
The impetus for a national organisation specifically for professionals came from the 2006 'Rising Tides: Nurturing our Gifted Culture' national conference, held in Wellington, which brought together more than 700 educators and other professionals with an interest in gifted and talented education.
Mrs Tapper says the association aims to assist gifted education professionals to network, advocate for the diverse needs of gifted and talented children, make links with international and national organisations, and offer a shared voice to government and other groups.
Goals include raising awareness and understanding about gifted and talented students, and advocating for equitable educational opportunities.
The association is expected to be particularly valuable for teachers, principals, counsellors, RTLBs (Resource Teachers for Learning and Behaviour), educational psychologists, teacher educators, professional development providers, researchers, postgraduate students and others with a professional interest in gifted and talented education.
"It's all about working together to nurture talented young people to help them grow strong and achieve fulfilling and amazing lives," Mrs Tapper says.
giftEDnz, The Professional Association for Gifted Education Poipoia a tatou tamariki ihumanea, will hold its inaugural Annual General Meeting in March at the 'Reaching Forward' gifted and talented conference in Rotorua.
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