The Belin-Blank Fellowship

This article about the 2012 Fellowship was originally posted during the International Week of Giftedness (the second week of August) on the Gifted Blogtour 2012. 

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Since 1980, the Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank Fellowship Program in Gifted Education has provided educators with knowledge and skills to better support the academic and socioaffective needs of gifted students.  Participants live on the University of Iowa campus and learn more about gifted and talented children (and often more about themselves, in the process).  As well, they begin to understand more about appropriate interventions for talent development, including the importance of above-level assessment and acceleration.  The Fellowship provides an intensive and collaborative professional learning experience, enabling participants to become leaders of gifted education in their settings. Fellows also develop friendships with colleagues who share their interests and commitment to supporting high-ability learners.

During the last week of June, 2010, a diverse group attended the Fellowship Program—what one Fellow called “a marvelous week!”  The 9 women and 2 men came from varied backgrounds.  While several of the participants came from Iowa cities and towns, others came from Washington, D.C., from Tennessee, and from India.  The Fellows included teachers (elementary, middle-school, and secondary), an Area Education Agency staff member, an elementary school counselor, and married professionals from India who have established a non-governmental organization (NGO) to support profoundly gifted children in their country.  Many of the teachers applied to the Fellowship hoping to learn more about challenging gifted learners in their classrooms; some are already committed to earning the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education.  Several of the participants are also parents of talented learners, and they understand the vital need for differentiated services for children who are far more advanced than others the same age.

The Fellowship Program provides extensive opportunities for professional learning.  Experts in the field, including Professors Nicholas Colangelo, Susan Assouline, and Susannah Wood, engaged the Fellows in topics as varied as the social-emotional development of asynchronous learners, acceleration, and twice-exceptionality.  Fellows participated in thoughtful, reflective discussions, expanding their understanding of the diversity within this population, as well as experiencing and sharing strategies and tools for facilitating learning.  Participants analyzed the movie, Finding Forrester, particularly focusing on the cultural and socioeconomic issues portrayed in the film.  In addition to class time with Dr. Laurie Croft, Fellows visited student programs, observing the energy and enthusiasm of learners in a homogenous setting; as well, they spent a morning with one of the professional development workshops scheduled every summer, learning more about curriculum compacting.  Participants developed a sense of the committed community of those dedicated to nurturing talented learners.  This community, and the knowledge gained through the Fellowship, will follow the participants as they return to their roles in their communities.

Applications for the 2013 Fellowship, the 33rd anniversary of the program, will be available online in January 2013.  More information is available at http://www.education.uiowa.edu/belinblank/Educators/Fellowship/Default.aspx.

More information about ongoing professional learning experiences is available at http://www.education.uiowa.edu/belinblank/Educators/Courses/Schedule.aspx.

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