Gifted education programs support high-ability students in K-12 schools who need curriculum modifications to challenge their learning. According to the NAGC, around six to ten percent (up to 5 million) of America’s student population qualifies as “gifted.” Yet 25 percent of gifted youth are underachievers because their classroom time is boringly wasted. Gifted education teachers are skilled teachers who are devoted to preventing students’ talent from being squandered. In public and private schools, gifted education teachers pull pupils who perform academically beyond their grade level from the mainstream classroom. These teachers personalize one-on-one or small group activities to stimulate the gifted mind. Gifted educators infuse advanced subjects, including college-level content, into lesson plans to keep learning rich and innovative.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, gifted education teachers fall into the broad special education category with a mean annual wage of $56,800. Gifted educators in kindergarten and elementary schools make $58,640 on average. Middle schools provide gifted education teachers a mean salary of $60,300. The highest-paid gifted education teachers work for high schools with an average yearly income of $62,180.
Newly hired gifted education teachers entering their first classroom typically land in the bottom 10th percentile with yearly salaries around $36,900. However, veteran teachers with 10+ years of experience can eventually bring home over $86,990 per year. Educators who progress into gifted education administration as program directors or coordinators earn $99,150 on average.
Gifted education teachers are responsible for designing and implementing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for youth who excel beyond their age intellectually. They construct challenging lessons for bright students to work at their ability level. Teachers push students to stay motivated by gathering engaging resources that bend the mind. Gifted education teachers often provide social skills training to help enriched students interact with other children their age. Maintaining progress reports is essential for teachers to track how IEP goals are being met. Gifted education teachers meet regularly with parents, general classroom teachers, and other school staff to monitor student behavior. They continually update “upperventions” to advance students’ curiosity and innate gifts.
Content knowledge isn’t sufficient for success in gifted education. Teachers need outstanding interpersonal skills to connect with students who are often the most misunderstood. Speaking and listening skill are crucial for gifted education teachers to collaborate on school programs that spark academic challenge. Educators must possess organizational skills to carefully juggle complex IEP paperwork for multiple students. Creative problem-solving ability is a must-have for teachers to individualize curriculum to each learner’s advanced level and interests. Gifted education teachers need analytical and critical thinking skills to accurately detect cognitive learning differences. Teachers should also be enthusiastic, caring, trustworthy, and supportive for good rapport with students.
Degree and Education Requirements
Training steps required to become a gifted education teacher vary by state. Certified educators can typically find employment with a bachelor’s degree in education from a CAEP-accredited college. Focusing your education major in special education is suggested to master curriculum modification. Studying elementary or secondary education would also be justifiable. Gifted education programs are increasingly seeking teachers with graduate degrees though. The Master of Education (M.Ed.) can be completed in two to three years with a concentration in Gifted and Talented Education. Going further for a Ph.D. in Gifted or Special Education is optional for advancing into school administrative positions.
Pros and Cons of the Position
Every teaching specialty has its advantages and drawbacks, but gifted education has its own unique set. Gifted education teachers are able to challenge themselves along with their students by implementing pedagogical strategies not typically applied in general classrooms. Watching gifted students blossom into tomorrow’s leaders, inventors, and artists is intensely gratifying. Gifted education teachers are rewarded with decent salaries, benefits, and pensions while enjoying a two-month summer vacation. Increasing awareness on gifted and talented education means that position openings will be spreading for good job prospects. However, gifted educators may be pressured to accommodate larger class sizes. Teachers may come across unmotivated students who stubbornly hide their ability. Gifted education teachers need extensive continuing education, which can be costly. Work schedules are also busy with parent and staff meetings lasting beyond the school day.
Becoming familiar with the K-12 school community is the best first step. During your college career, take every opportunity to develop classroom experience through volunteer projects, field practicum, and internships. Accredited education programs culminate in a student teaching semester, so request a gifted class placement. Upperclassmen should be taking their Praxis exams and other state mandated tests for initial special education licensure. After graduation, begin applying for full-time or part-time teaching openings. Most gifted educators first work in the general education classroom before advancing. Earning your M.Ed. online or during evenings while teaching is suggested. You’ll then have the training credentials and 90+ clock hours of in-service experience to pursue most states’ gifted and talented endorsement. Also consider joining the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) to display your dedication.
The United States awards approximately 22,000 special education degrees yearly. However, colleges and universities are only producing about half of what the country demands. Greater diagnostic attention means that less high-ability students are going ignored. Although a diversity imbalance persists, more American youth are getting tested for gifted programs than ever before. One Business Insider article recognized the average IQ score growing from 70 in 1910 to over 100 today. Overall employment in special education is expected to rise by 6 percent, thus creating 31,000 new openings by 2024. Retiring gifted educators from the baby boomer population will also spark job availability. Prospects are good in public schools, childcare centers, private/parochial schools, tutoring centers, colleges, and government agencies.
Gifted education teachers have the tough task of building a classroom community while differentiating instruction to suit each students’ needs and interests. They continually assess students’ knowledge to determine when challenge must be added to keep brilliant students from turning bored. Gifted educators apply great creativity in designing projects that encourage curiosity and exploration, especially into today’s STEM fields. Some even add distance learning into curricula for online AP courses and college lectures. Choosing to become a gifted education teacher will give you the chance to further cultivate A+ students’ intellectual ability toward their full potential.
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