Educators, administrator honored for contributions to gifted and talented education

Educators, administrator honored for contributions to gifted and talented education

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) and the Maryland Advisory Council on Gifted and Talented Education honored five Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) teachers — Kelly Craft, Karen Dempsey, Kristen Lednum, Jane Marchione and Sean Pearson — for their efforts and accomplishments in gifted education.

Michelle Beckwith, principal of Dr. James Craik Elementary School, was named an outstanding school administrator and Ann Taylor, CCPS content specialist for gifted education, was honored as a gifted and talented program coordinator.

They were honored at a Feb. 5 ceremony held to honor the governor’s proclamation of February as Gifted and Talented Education Month. The ceremony was sponsored by MSDE and the Maryland State Advisory Council on Gifted and Talented Education.

Craft, a learning resource teacher at Mary B. Neal Elementary School, moved from a smaller elementary school in the county to one of the largest, without missing a beat. Craft expanded the gifted program at Neal and can often be found co-teaching or working with a small group of gifted students. She has attended numerous conferences focused on gifted education, bringing with her teachers from the gifted cluster. Craft works with the CCPS fourth-grade curriculum writing team, is a Destination Imagination (DI) sponsor and volunteers with the school system’s chess tournaments.

Dempsey has more than a decade of experience as a gifted resource teacher. She works with teachers of advanced and gifted students at Malcolm Elementary School. While the gifted program focuses on third, fourth and fifth graders in elementary schools, Dempsey makes a point of reaching out to all advanced learners at Malcolm, working in small groups with kindergarten, first- and second-grade students. Dempsey has attended many gifted education conferences and is a leader among gifted teachers in CCPS. She writes curriculum for the gifted program curriculum and has spent hours writing and reading third-grade gifted reading curriculum. Dempsey works with Malcolm’s chess club and volunteers for chess tournaments sponsored by the school system. She has completed master course work for the Maryland State Gifted Specialist Certification.

Lednum is a gifted resource teacher at Dr. Thomas L. Higdon Elementary School where she works with teachers of advanced and gifted students. Working with small groups of gifted cluster students, Lednum often models lessons for all teachers at Higdon, and creates and leads professional learning sessions on gifted issues for all teachers at the school. Recently, Lednum advocated for a student to advance to middle-school level math and helped the student adjust to middle school, both academically and emotionally. She is on track to complete the Maryland State Gifted Specialist Certification work in December. Lednum is a leader among gifted teachers in Charles County and creates professional development for all gifted teachers to use. She supports Higdon’s chess club and helps out with the chess tournament. Over the summer, she keeps her students engaged through online blog entries about a novel they all read during the break.

Marchione is a Matthew Henson Middle School’s seventh-grade gifted language arts teacher and has been teaching the school’s gifted students for the past nine years. She is also a member of the identification committee for students being recommended in seventh grade for gifted services. In addition to writing and evaluating the gifted curriculum for CCPS, Marchione offers support to gifted language arts teachers at Henson as the department chair. She helps new teachers navigate gifted resources and maintains the gifted book room at Henson. Her classroom is always open for teachers around the county to come and observe her working with students.

Pearson is a learning resource teacher focused on gifted students and services at Milton M. Somers Middle School. He works with students as well as teachers and is often found in classrooms engaging in book discussions, problem-based activities and station activities. He assists gifted students who are struggling in math and other classes, and monitors gifted students to help them be more successful. Pearson meets bi-weekly with teachers to work on strategies they can use when presenting a lesson to their gifted learners. Pearson also works with special education staff to assure students receive services and leads the school’s gifted identification process to identify students who might be downplaying their academic abilities. Pearson has attended state conferences and was active in a book study using “Differentiation for Gifted Learners,” by Diane Heacox and Richard M. Cash. He took information gleaned from the study and used it as professional development with other teachers at Somers.

Prior to becoming an administrator, Beckwith was a reading resource teacher and has always supported rigorous and accelerated programs at Dr. James Craik Elementary School where she is the principal. Her goal is to enhance and strengthen the gifted program, and she is on the forefront of initiating writing, reading and math into the kindergarten programs. By strengthening academic skills at the primary level, Beckwith believes students are building a solid foundation for continued learning. At Craik, prekindergarten and kindergarten students, along with first graders, are provided enrichment activities and throughout the year students will subject skip to another grade level to ensure their educational needs are being met. Beckwith is a trained and credited Restorative Practices leader and her background as a reading resource teacher helps her provide guidance to Craik staff in gifted resources. Beckwith is a proponent of before- and aftercare enrichment opportunities for students and encourages teachers to lead clubs such as MESA, Lego robotics and Destination Imagination.

Taylor is the coordinator for the CCPS gifted program in middle schools. She continues to expand and improve the services and events offered by the program. Taylor has worked extensively on updating curriculum by supplementing it with more technology and supports new resources. Taylor continues to learn more about the field of gifted education by attending conferences and professional development classes. Beyond Charles County, Taylor volunteered to assist with the new statewide gifted education website and was invited to be part of the EGATE committee.

During the ceremony in which the teachers were honored, nine CCPS students were recognized for their accomplishments in gifted education. To read about the students, go to 

About CCPS

Charles County Public Schools provides 27,108 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Kathy Kiessling, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.

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