How to Become a Gifted and Talented Teacher
There are approximately three million gifted and talented children in the nation’s classrooms. Qualified teachers who specialize in educating a gifted and talented student population are vital to helping these children reach their full potential.
As an educator in this area, it is critical to grasp the complex differentiations gifted students experience in learning, growth, and development, as well as their unique challenges. A specialty degree in teaching gifted children is designed to educate you about how to accommodate the talented student, identify their exceptional academic expertise, and assist them with the social, developmental, and psychological stressors that may affect them.
Gifted and Talented Teacher Job Description
The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) defines gifted and talented as those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude or competence (top 10% or rarer) in one or more areas (such as math, music, or language arts). NAGC identified six domains that gifted students fall into:
- General Intellectual Ability
- Specific Academic Aptitude
- Creative and Productive Thinking
- Leadership Ability
- Visual and Performing Arts
- Psychomotor Ability
As a gifted and talented education (GATE) teacher, you will need to be able to work with students in all of these domains. To do this effectively, you must be well-versed in theory, research, strategies, and best practices of gifted education.
Specific tasks you might perform include:
Schools employ gifted and talented teachers at both the elementary and secondary levels. These teachers work within a wide variety of service models. Some work in special schools for the gifted and talented, while others teach students in a self-contained classroom in a traditional school setting. Still others work with gifted and talented students in a pull-out program setting. Gifted and talented teachers often serve as consultants to regular classroom teachers in areas such as identifying and coordinating enrichment opportunities for gifted students.
One of the hottest topics in gifted education is the under-representation of minority, low-income, and limited English students in gifted education programs. The NAGC reports that there can be obstacles to identifying such students as gifted and talented. To address this issue, researchers have developed a variety of strategies to improve identification and assessment practices to ensure equitable participation.
Gifted and Talented Teacher Salary and Career Outlook
A study released by the American Association for Employment in Education reports that there is a shortage of GATE teachers in the United States. This shortage is likely to result in job growth for GATE teachers. The expected growth of teachers as a whole is 5% to 9% between 2016 and 2026, although in some states this figure is much higher. For example, in Washington growth is predicted to be over 18%, and in Texas the figure is over 20%.
Salaries for gifted and talented teachers will vary by location. However, according to Payscale.com and Neuvoo, the median annual salary ranges from about $46,000 to $51,000. The top 10% can earn between $69,000 and $81,000.
How to Become a Gifted and Talented Teacher
Like all other teachers, gifted and talented teachers must be licensed by the state in which they work. State licensing requirements vary but typically include a bachelor’s degree from an approved teacher education program, student teaching, and a passing score on a competency test.
Teacher preparation programs frequently group gifted and talented education in the special education category, so a prospective teacher might earn a bachelor’s degree in special education with a gifted and talented endorsement. Such a program will include extensive coursework that addresses the knowledge and skills needed to serve gifted and talented students. It will also include a mentored teaching experience.
Another route is to earn a bachelor’s in education and then complete a graduate certificate or master’s degree program that specializes in special education. These programs will often be more specialized than a bachelor’s degree program. Graduate certificate programs usually take a few months to a year to complete. Master’s programs can typically be completed in two years.
As a GATE teacher you will need to understand the methodology for teaching gifted students, ways to evaluate and assess them, and how to design a curriculum that will foster their talents. You will also need to understand the students themselves—their characteristics and needs.
To prepare, you might take sample courses such as:
At the master’s degree level, courses are often more specialized and sometimes geared to leadership positions. Examples include:
In addition to a practicum, master’s programs often include either a seminar or project.
Gifted and Talented Education Online
Most online programs are master’s-level programs. Some schools will require you to have teaching experience before you can apply.
Online gifted and talented education programs are much like traditional programs except most or all of the coursework is done via the web. Classes are available online for you to access at any time of the day or night. Live chats, email, and virtual classroom tools supplement your online learning.
The time it takes to complete an online master’s degree in gifted and talented education ranges from as little as 18 months to 2 years. Most graduates are then eligible to apply for gifted and talented education certification in the state where the program provider is located.
When judging the quality of an online gifted and talented education program, check to see if it is accredited by the Council for Exceptional Children or the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Also, look for programs that include real-world teaching experiences such as a student teaching internship or classroom observation.
Below, EducationDegree.com speaks with Darlene Boyd, the Director of the University of California Irvine’s Gifted Students Network. In the interview she discusses what gifted and talented education is and how to get started in the field.
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