*This article was written by Gail Mackiewicz from Fox Point of View.
The 2002 federal legislation commonly referred to as No Child Left Behind defines gifted students as: “Students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services and activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities.” [Source: Public Law PL 103-382, Title XIV, p. 388]
For parents of a gifted child, they typically display innate signs compared to their peers: higher verbal ability and skills, or intense curiosity way beyond the usual ‘Why?’, or deep intellectual reasoning and extreme insights. The question then becomes what educational alternatives are available for your child. Enter the newly-opened, full-time Scholaris Gifted Academy, a unique, non-traditional school designed specifically for gifted learners in grades K3 through 8, located at the Dunwood Center in Fox Point. Scholaris is Latin for “scholar” or “belonging to a school” and was chosen during a brain-storming session by the inaugural student group. Latin will be part of their studies.
The academy offers a balanced, rigorous, individualized educational program for gifted children, ages 3 through 14, emphasizing a diverse, research-based curriculum developed by the College of William and Mary’s Center for Gifted Education (Williamsburg, VA) in a supportive learning environment. Learning experiences focus on: experimenting with various scientific methods, including problem-based learning, analytical thinking, questioning and discussing, and research; nurturing self-expression and creativity; and fostering an environment where students are free to take educational risks as self-directed and independent learners. Small class sizes with a low student-to teacher ratio will be the norm.
Parents of gifted learners unified their efforts to make Scholaris a reality. Head of School Constance (Connie) Gordon has over 20 years of experience working with gifted learners as an educator and administrator. She recognizes that gifted learners require an environment that supports their personal growth, where they can work with like-minded peers to develop social skills, leadership abilities and self-acceptance. “Gifted children need to be with like minded peers because they innately understand each other. They have an opportunity to work hard together and have real friends.”
Scholaris values families as partners in creating a uniquely nurturing academy environment. “Our hard working ten-member board of directors has been so helpful in getting Scholaris up and running. It is rewarding to work with families who are truly passionate and committed,” adds Connie.
According to administrator Sheila Bauers Jimenez, “We have a group of experienced and energetic teachers dedicated to the mission of guiding gifted learners in developing their full potential. Students are treated with respect as individuals. Curiosity and critical thinking are encouraged. Social and emotional development is nurtured. Students are encouraged to find their own voice and share their own ideas.”
Scholaris offers opportunities for gifted home-schooled students to enroll in select classes on a part-time basis, providing them access to the classroom experience, socialization, and exploration of advanced material with their peers. Serving southeastern Wisconsin, the academy is also determined to keep tuition low and manageable for students’ families, working with those who cannot afford the tuition so that no gifted learner is left behind.
Parents or anyone interested in gifted education are encouraged to attend one of the monthly parent gatherings. And students, whether Scholaris, home-schooled or attending another school, can participate is a wide variety of after-school and weekend activities, including chess lessons, science exploration, Lego leagues, bowling club, and golf clinics.
“We don’t want to be a best kept secret,” says Sheila. “We’re committed to this school’s viability.”
Connie continues, “Scholaris’ students will build strong relationships that allow for growth in their decision making skills, a respect for self and others, and many opportunities for honest self-evaluation, skills necessary to succeed in school and life. If you are simply curious and want to learn more about the critical mission of serving gifted learners, or if you know of any student struggling in a traditional learning environment, please refer them to us for assessment. They just may be a fit for Scholaris’ programs. Gifted education is often misunderstood, greatly under-served and grossly underfunded. It is my personal and professional mission to do everything possible to change this.”
Scholaris Gifted Academy is located at 217 W. Dunwood Rd, Room 113. To learn more about assessment, enrollment, events, fundraising, donations and support opportunities, visit www.scholarisgiftedacademy.com or call 414-351-3311.
“As a parent, it took some time for me to see that my daughter was in the wrong learning environment. It took even longer for me to do something about it. Once we did, it took very little time to know it was right. My advice to other parents is to trust your gut and never settle for something that’s not working. You’ll wish you did it sooner!” -- Steve Karakis (daughter age 13)
"Outstanding Gifted Learner Environment" -- Kirsten Hildebrand (sons 15 & 8, daughter 12)
"Best learning environment for the unique needs of my children" -- Kim Wintersberger (twins age 6)
"They are all so happy when they are here" -- Ashley McGhee (son age 6)
"Profound changes" -- Michelle Grainger (daughter age 6)
"A changed child overnight" -- Michelle Grainger (daughter age 6)
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