Blue Valley Gifted Program

Becca Niederhauser, Fall 2014 J1 student

The Gifted Education Program in Blue Valley focuses on intellectual, academic, social and emotional needs of students who are gifted.

“Students who are identified as gifted typically learn at an extremely fast rate,” gifted teacher Jennifer Johnson said. “They often know content in school before it is taught.”

If a student wishes to become part of the Gifted Program, they must undergo a specific eligibility screening that is the same in all school districts.

“[The process] focuses on determining if a student has an exceptionality and if he or she needs something other than general education because of that exceptionality,” Johnson said.

Johnson said that the gifted classroom is diverse, in the fact that it is not run like your typical classroom.

“In the Gifted Education class, each student is focused on individualized work,” Johnson said.” The Individual Education Program determines the use of the students time and we facilitate various activities at the same time based on the students needs.”

Sophomore Aleiya Holyoak said that there are many different programs within the the gifted program itself, so the students are allowed to do whatever is in the program that is assigned to them.

“I’m doing outside of the box thinking, so I do creative stuff, that gets my creativity going,” Holyoak said. “For example, right now I am building a scale house out of legos that I completely designed myself.”

Senior Luke Connors said that the gifted class is almost like a supervised study hall with different resources available to each student.

“It’s my favorite class because I’m around people that are more like me,” said Holyoak. “I just really like the environment.”

Connors said he agrees with Holyoak in the fact that the gifted class is one of his favorites.

“[I like that] I’m able to collaborate and chat with other gifted students who are in the same classes as me and get some help with homework,” said Connors. “Also the teachers are great resources if I have questions about college applications or high stakes tests.”

Connors said that through the gifted class he has been able to learn many techniques that will help him in college and throughout his life.

“Like all the teachers in this building, I want my students to learn the necessary skills for a successful transition into adulthood,” Johnson said. “I also want my students to know I care about them.”

Johnson said that as a result of students learning quickly, many of them have chosen to skip at least one grade.

“I didn’t actually skip any grades,” said Holyoak. “I just went through all three years of middle school in one year.”

Holyoak said her parents knew she was ready to take the big jump because she was mature for her age and had been exceeding in her education since she was in kindergarten. She had been in the gifted education program since she was in third grade.

Connors on the other hand said that there was no special process for him in skipping both seventh and eighth grade.

“[My family] briefly talked to the school counselors but we mostly just make the jump.”

Holyoak said the fast-track through middle school gave her the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends in a different grade. It also gave her the chance to finally be challenged in the classes she is taking, she said.

Connors agrees that one of the pros of skipping grades is the fact that the current classes he is taking are actually challenging for him.

“Its good that I’m actually learning in my classes, as opposed to freshman and sophomore introductory classes that were a breeze for me,” said Connors.

This experience of skipping grades wasn’t happy for everyone. Holyoak’s older sister, Zoe, said she had to adjust to her sister’s situation.

“Having a little sister skip grades was actually really hard for me to deal with for a very long time,” said Zoe. “I always compared myself and had a bad mindset about it until recently. Because we were going to a small school previously, it was a lot harder to not feel compared to my little sister.”

Zoe says that although she once felt like she was unimportant, she no longer has any of those feelings.

“As soon as we moved here and people started to accept [Aleiya] for who she is, it really changed my perspective on the whole thing,” said Zoe

Connors’ sister, Maggie said that she never had any trouble with her brother skipping grades.

“It was a little weird at first just because we didn’t know what was going to happen, but eventually it got easier” said Maggie.

Maggie said that it never occurred to her to ever be jealous of her brother and she is actually glad it happened because of all the friends she has made through it.

“I don’t think we would have the same friends and then it would have been weird because [me and Luke] wouldn’t have to opportunity to hang out as much,” said Maggie.

Despite any previous difficulties, both pairs of siblings said that they are happy that this opportunity has come up in their lives.

“I’m not regretting it at all,” said Luke.”Im really glad I did it — its one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”