City teachers expand capacity at MTSU/MCS Gifted Academy

Thirty-two teachers from Murfreesboro City Schools will meet the employment standard for serving gifted students in Tennessee after recently completing the MTSU/MCS Gifted Academy on the Middle Tennessee State University campus.

Thirty-two teachers from Murfreesboro City Schools attended the MTSU/MCS Gifted Academy June 1-5 on the MTSU campus. After completing the academy, the teachers will be qualified to teach gifted students in the district. (Photo courtesy of Murfreesboro City Schools)

Some of the 32 teachers from Murfreesboro City Schools brainstorm on a project while attending the MTSU/MCS Gifted Academy June 1-5 on the MTSU campus. After completing the academy, the teachers will be qualified to teach gifted students in the school district. (Photo courtesy of Murfreesboro City Schools)

Sponsored by The Jennings and Rebecca Jones Foundation, the Gifted Academy aims to expand Murfreesboro City Schools’ gifted education program by equipping teachers with tools to identify and engage gifted students.

“We expect the identification of the gifted learner to continue to increase at MCS as a result of the academy,” said Lea Bartch, coordinator of gifted services for Murfreesboro City Schools and an instructor for the academy.

“As a district, we are working to train at least one teacher at every grade level at each school. We want to meet the needs of all students at their level of learning.”

Dr. Lesley Craig-Unkefer, an academy instructor and an associate professor in the MTSU College of Education’s Department of Elementary and Special Education, said the collaboration stems from spring 2014 discussions that included MCS Director of Schools, Dr. Linda Gilbert, and Dr. Lana Seivers, dean of the MTSU College of Education.

Dr. Lesley Craig-Unkefer

Dr. Lesley Craig-Unkefer

“The training forms a bank of knowledge that will empower teachers to effectively work with the gifted population,” said Craig-Unkefer, the primary MTSU liaison for the academy.

“The training introduced specific research-based strategies to teachers and allows for ongoing learning and follow-up throughout the year.”

Murfreesboro City Schools comprises 12 schools serving a total of 8,056 students in kindergarten through sixth grades. The average number of gifted students in a school district nationwide is 3 to 5 percent, so at its current enrollment, MCS could serve 240 to 400 gifted students.Murf City Schools logo

“We want to continue to provide stimulating learning environments for our gifted students, allowing them to be challenged and to succeed. We are here to serve all students and expanding our gifted program will help us with that goal,” Bartch said.

The collaborating institutions had to seek state approval for the program to ensure that participants receive credit from the state. The program’s curriculum of 80.5 contact hours surpassed state requirements and, once completed, the Gifted Academy provides enough training to meet thestate Department of Education’s Tennessee Gifted Employment Standard.MTSU Wordmark

“During this training, teachers are presented with many tools in helping to plan higher-level thinking activities and detailed tasks for gifted learners,” said program participant and first grade teacher Mallory Rundell.

“We are making sure these students can be challenged and continue to grow as learners.”

MCS currently has more than 50 teachers who have received additional training for teaching gifted students before the MTSU/MCS Gifted Academy.

For more information on services for gifted students attending the Murfreesboro City Schools, call 615-893-2313 or visit the system’s website at www.cityschools.net/departments/special-education/gifted-program.