The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), the nation’s leading organization focused on the needs of gifted and talented children, awarded the Jodie Mahony Center employees with the 2023 Professional Learning Network Award. The award recognizes an individual, institution, or organization for planning and implementing sustained professional development on gifted education given to educators and service providers in PreK-12 or higher education.
The award recipients include Dr. Ann Robinson, director; Dr. Christine Deitz, associate director; Dr. Monica Meadows, research associate and technical assistance director; Dr. Jill Adelson, Adelson Research and Consulting; and Kristy Kidd, technical assistance associate.
The Jodie Mahony Center team received the award for professional development delivered to gifted education professionals and second- and third-grade teachers participating in the STEM+C2 program.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the STEM+C2 program is an evidence-based school intervention project designed to identify promising students through universal screening and provide services to gifted and talented second and third grade students, including students from underrepresented populations.
“The project really got underway in 2019,” Robinson said. “The project is in about 20 schools, and it serves well over 1,000 children every year. This is focused on Arkansas kids, Arkansas teachers, and Arkansas schools. It engages kids and teachers, and it produces achievement and engagement outcomes for STEM learning.”
Through professional development, STEM+C2 prepares second- and third-grade teachers in gifted, creative, and talented education with summer institutes and academic year support. The professional development equips teachers with content related to STEM disciplines, strategies to identify promising students from underrepresented groups, and a STEM+C2 toolkit with engineering design challenges and computer science explorations.
The program also prepares teachers to implement “Blueprints for Biography: Computer Science Series” in their classrooms. Developed by researchers at the Jodie Mahony Center, the series features STEM innovators Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace, and Raye Montague, the 2019 recipient of the Fribourgh Award at UA Little Rock.
April Blackburn, gifted and talented coordinator and teacher for Bigelow School District, spoke about the advantages regarding implementing STEM+C2 professional development in her school district.
“It was an all-around great experience for myself, my teachers, and my students,” Blackburn said. “I felt like we got a lot more out of how to find those STEM ideas for our students and how to make them into STEM thinkers. I thought it was a brilliant program all around. I would love us to keep it going and get it to where it goes to all schools. This can be a movement in our state.”