Highlights from the 2014 Colorado Gifted Conference

I’ve been the Conference Chair for the Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented annual CAGT Conference for the past two years. It’s been an amazing experience planning, organizing, and executing our state’s gifted conference – this year with 800 attendees, 5 keynotes and 80 breakout sessions. This year’s conference theme was The Many Faces of Gifted.

Dan Siegel-CAGT conference

There were so many highlights and take-aways to share. Here are just a few:

Dan Siegel-Terry Bradley-CAGTDr. Dan Siegel, in his keynote titled Brainstorm: Discovering the Hidden Power of the Adolescent Brain, talked about the ESSENCE of adolescence. We need to know that teens aren’t crazy, and we shouldn’t be impatient waiting for them to “just grow up” so they will be more like adults.  Changes during adolescence are not something to just get through; they are qualities we actually need to hold on to in order to live a full and meaningful life in adulthood.  We need to harness and model after their ESSENCE. Brain changes during the early teen years set up four qualities of our minds during adolescence: novelty seeking, social engagement, increased emotional intensity, and creative exploration.

Siegel’s views have made me regard my students differently. We can benefit from observing teens and the way they go about life. I want to live “more in the moment” as my students do.  What adolescents have going for them that is both a challenge and a gift is actually what adults need in order to maintain vitality in their lives.

“How we navigate the adolescent years has a direct impact on how we’ll live the rest of our lives.”

— Dan Siegel

Two keynotes were by teenagers. Kai Kloefper has created smart firearm technology that allows only the owner of a gun, and people the owner chooses, to fire the gun, thereby potentially saving lives. Xiuhtezcatl and Itzcuauhtli Roske-Martinez are on a mission to educate and unite youth and adults around environment and climate causes through Earth Guardians.

Kai Kloefper-CAGTKai came to the conference wearing a suit with a briefcase looking very “professional” and business-like. He’s into technology, engineering, invention, innovation.

Xiuhtezcatl and Itzcuauhtli have long, untamed hair and came to the conference wearing t-shirts and jeans. They performed hip hop and rapped to convey their message. They’re into environmental and social engagement, activism and music.

Earth Guardians-CAGTBoth keynotes were by gifted students who are very diverse in their passions. Both see needs – Kai with controlling gun violence and Xiuhtezcatl and Itzcuauhtli with environmental problems. Both are using their strengths to serve those needs. Neither sees their age as a barrier. Both had the greater good in common…helping the world to be better.

Lisa Van Gemert-CAGTLisa Van Gemert delivered a refreshing take on giftedness in her keynote The Five-Headed Dragon.  Gifted individuals aren’t just regular people with higher intelligence. They have their own sets of “dragons” that present their own unique challenges. Gifted youth face many threats to their well-being, both cognitively and emotionally, that prevent them from achieving their dreams. She faced five of these threats head-on: Stereotype Threat, Imposter Syndrome, Bullying the Bright, Underachievement, and Perfectionism. These threats distort gifted youths’ views of themselves, create hesitancy where boldness is needed, turn victors into victims, deny gifts, and prevent academic risk-taking. Giving educators and parents the tools they need to ward off the five-headed dragon will allow gifted learners to soar to new heights of personal and academic fulfillment.

Lisa told a lot of touching, poignant, personal stories offered suggestions about what we can do to support gifted children. You can explore more on Lisa’s blog Gifted Guru, “Tips and resources for people who like smart.”

Rosina Gallagher-Terry Bradley-CAGTRosina Gallagher’s keynote was The Prism of Giftedness.

The Prism of Giftedness at its base, reveals cognitive ability, from above average to the upper limits of intellectual precocity. The left facet reflects varied learning styles, from acquiring knowledge through tangible media, concrete examples and hands-on experiences, to manipulating complex ideas, predicting consequences and generating multiple solutions in problem solving. The right facet reflects those personality traits such as curiosity, drive, and perseverance that enable individuals to develop their talents, creativity and resilience for caring, satisfying lives, the apex. The rear, sustaining facet, reveals a rich, nurturing environment that varies according to home, school, community experiences and eventual, chosen lifestyle. When the light of lifelong learning is cast upon its angles, the prism radiates the rainbow of talents, cultures, backgrounds and lifestyles that have built our great nation. Through this prism, we can become aware of and nurture the groups that emerge periodically in our midst.

Rosina Gallagher CAGT

Photos by Karen Larsen Photography

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