A University of Arkansas at Little Rock alumnae with nearly 25 years experience in education was recently named the director of gifted programs for Little Rock School District.
Romona Cheneval, a 1996 graduate of UA Little Rock with a Master of Education degree, started overseeing all gifted education program services in June.
More than 5,200 students participate in gifted and talented education programming and Advanced Placement classes in the Little Rock School District.
“I count several accomplishments as hallmarks of my career, including serving as president of AGATE (Arkansans for Gifted and Talented Education), becoming an administrator, and now serving as the gifted programs director for the largest school district in the state,” she said.
Her first task will be to help with SPARK, Little Rock School District’s summer academy for gifted and talented students in second through fifth grade. For three weeks in June and July, more than 150 students will participate in an engaging learning experience designed to meet the unique interests and skills of gifted learners.
After spending the past two years as principal of Carver Magnet Elementary School in Little Rock, Cheneval is glad to get back to her roots in gifted and talented education.
“By serving as an elementary principal and curriculum coordinator, I have gained an appreciation and insight into the demands of meeting the many, varied needs of all students,” she said. “This has also given me a different perspective of how gifted education fits into the overall tapestry of education. I am looking forward to providing support to students, teachers, and fellow administrators in my new role to assure that the services provided truly support the unique needs of gifted students.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Southern Arkansas University, Cheneval spent 21 years working as the gifted and talented/advanced placement coordinator for the Crossett School District, a small school district in the southeastern part of the state with about 1,900 students.
In 1993, she enrolled as a part-time graduate student at UA Little Rock, driving nearly three hours back and forth on weekends and during summers to earn her master’s degree.
Her parents instilled a strong work ethic and always encouraged her to continue her education
“I am the first person in my family to graduate from college,” she said. “My parents were strong supporters of getting an education, and using that education to help others.”
Dr. Ann Robinson, director of the UA Little Rock Jodie Mahony Center for Gifted Education, remembers Cheneval as an enthusiastic young teacher who would stay at her house while taking classes at UA Little Rock.
“I first met Romona as a young teacher who wanted to be licensed in gifted, talented, and creative education,” Robinson said. “She was an excellent graduate student with curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, an adviser’s dream really. Over the years, I’ve watched Romona grow into a leader in gifted education in the state, and now she will lead the largest set of programs and services for talented kids in Arkansas. She’s knowledgeable, gracious, and an inspiration to others, including me.”
She has been an active member of Arkansas for Gifted and Talented Education, serving as organization president, district director, and conference chair. She still serves on the organization’s legislative committee and helped hire the legislative advocate.
“It’s important to advocate on behalf of gifted students,” Cheneval said. “Often, their needs may be overlooked. The state is looking toward assuring that all students are growing to fulfill their potential. We want to make sure there are always opportunities for gifted students to excel.”