Posts Tagged ‘inspiring’


Gratitude for Those Working in Education

By Deborah Mersino

Make no mistake about it. Education is at a crossroads in the United States. Wherever you stand on Common Core, graduation rates, budget cuts, poverty’s impact on outcomes, teacher unions, coaches, public versus private, teacher evaluations, Gates and other corporate education influences and/or digital learning, you’ll find a slew of opponents to your opinion. What is clear, though, is that we have hundreds of thousands of individuals who have chosen to serve learners with their time, talents, and passion.

Today, I applaud you.

I applaud you for waking up extra early, so you can fine-tune that lesson plan on the trajectories of hurricanes or grade the last batch of persuasive essays on whether O. Henry should be pardoned. I applaud you for spending your evening at Michael’s and using your extra time and sadly even your own money to ensure your first-grade turkey art projects bring joy to your students.

I commend Algebra teachers who are compacting curriculum in nearly impossible ways because of furlough days and budget cuts. I applaud administrators working with new and old teachers alike to ensure they feel valued for their own creativity and impact.

I applaud language arts teachers and librarians who help bring words to life and connect stories to emotion and humanity. Here’s to the social studies teachers and curriculum masters who challenge students to think about Columbus, Kent State, and the Boston Massacre in a new light and the physics instructors inspiring future engineers and problem solvers.

To the educators and counselors who not only know students’ sometimes tragic back stories, but do what they can to let these students know they matter and provide support, I’d like to give you a standing ovation.

Today, I salute professors who hold high expectations and hopes for their students. More and more of you are being paid far less than you should, yet we demand and command that you ready the next generation to lead and prosper. Here’s to you.

To the tireless board members, district leaders, and education advocates who spend their days and/or evenings trying to make sense of it all, I tip my hat to you. Here’s to the staffs of education associations and foundations who work day in and out to fulfill vital missions. And to the PTO volunteers, janitors, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, music teachers, and robotics and sports coaches, as well as after-school care and office workers who go of your way to make students feel seen and valued, I thank you.

Wherever you are located and whatever role you’re playing, I hope the gifts and passion that you have been sharing so freely are reflected back to you in spades today – and in the years ahead. You deserve it big time.


Texas Leads the Way with #TAGT2011

By Deborah Mersino

What a conference! For those of you who had the privilege of attending the Texas Association for the Gifted & Talented Professional Development Conference, Gifted 3.0, I am hoping your time in Austin proved fruitful and inspiring. I certainly feel energized from the buzz created by the impassioned educators, administrators, psychologists, and parents who took part in this forward-thinking conference orchestrated by linchpin leaders, like TAGT’s Past President Michelle Swain, newly installed President Lynette Breedlove, Executive Director JJ Colburn, Associate Director Tracy Weinberg, Marketing & Communications Coordinator David Estlund, the Board of Directors, staff, and volunteers!

Whether or not you attended this year, you will want to mark your calendars now for TAGT’s 35th Annual Professional Development Conference in Dallas, scheduled for November 28-30, 2012! It’s sure to be THE conference for visionary learning designed to serve and positively impact GT educators, administrators, parents, advocates, policy makers, psychologists, and students.

For those of you who are becoming cognizant of the rich Professional Development (PD) opportunities inherent in Social Networking year round, I encourage you to “dip that digital toe” (thank you Dr. Lynette Breedlove) into the water and begin exploring Twitter to create your own Personal Learning Network (PLN). If you didn’t attend a session on how to get connected, here is a written How to Tweet Primer, which will help get you started, so you can begin engaging with educators from across the world and even learn how to participate in #gtchat, the weekly chat on Twitter devoted solely to issues of giftedness.

Joel McIntosh, publisher of Prufrock Press, graciously put together a brief Guide to Twitter video prior to the conference. Wherever you live, it is worth checking out too.

I encourage you to continue utilizing the #gtchat hashtag when you are posting resources, questions, and/or thoughts about gifted education in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Additionally, I suggest using TweetChat to search for the LIVE #gtchat stream throughout the week and on Fridays, rather than simply searching for #gtchat in the Twitter Search Box. You can also try HootSuite and/or TweetDeck. See what you like best and determine what feels the most comfortable to you!

The LIVE Twitter feed in the Social Connections area right before #gtchat!

Remember, #gtchat takes place at noon (EST) and 7pm (EST) every Friday, which is 11am (CST) and 6pm (CST). Feel free to lurk and/or participate. Here’s a picture of the swanky Social Connections area at this year’s #TAGT2011, which was made possible by Adventures in Learning. It was packed during the LIVE #gtchat session!

If you have questions (big or small) in the days ahead, feel free to send me an email at I will do my best to answer your question/s and/or find someone who might be able to assist. I do get hundreds of requests, so please be patient. There’s nothing I enjoy more, though, than helping gifted education advocates connect!

TAGT, the 2010-2011 Lead Global #gtchat Sponsor, and other sponsors, including The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky, the Gifted Development Center in Denver, and the University of Northern Colorado’s Summer Enrichment Program, truly make #gtchat possible. Their support allows me to serve as a connector year round; I cannot thank them enough!

For those of you who signed up to get updates following the conference, I will be sending out the next #gtchat NEWS in the next few weeks. This next issue will include links to gifted education blogs from around the world, links to suggested resources, and more! If you didn’t sign one of my sheets at the conference, feel free to subscribe to #gtchat NEWS by clicking here and looking for the “Subscribe to #gtchat NEWS” section on the lower, right-hand side of the page.

If you have reflections on the conference, favorite 21st Century Learning tools you may have discovered, and/or new inspiration from #TAGT2011, I encourage you to “Leave a Reply” below and/or post to Twitter using #gtchat and #TAGT2011. The learning from this year’s powerful conference can continue, as we all work to serve this critical population with zeal!

Lastly, I want to say again how honored I feel to be among such talented and creative individuals, who care so deeply about the needs of gifted learners. I was touched by the hospitality of Texans and also appreciate those of you from around the world who went out of their way to make new tweeps feel welcome on #gtchat. You’re helping to change the world for gifted learners one tweet at a time!


When Ideas Spark

By Deborah Mersino

Be willing to fail. Magic just might happen. When reaching for something grand, failure is always a possibility. That possibility, though, should never derail simmering ideas from having the chance to fully ignite.

Unfortunately, in our society today, people still long for assurances. We want and demand straight lines, correct multiple choice answers, proficient stats, empirical research, and guarantees of success before we dive in, mix it up, get messy, fall down, stand back up, dance around the fire, and create with passion.

We’re afraid of all the things that could go wrong. We forget that bumps are inevitable, dips serve us powerfully, and failure – perhaps even getting burned – is always, always inherent in risk. We forget that if and when we fall down, we may just see situations anew and stumble upon new trajectories. One wrong turn may lead us to novel avenues, fresh thinking. And remarkably, sometimes our first, second, fifteenth or six hundredth try will actually work.

When our children, our students, our colleagues, our teachers, our politicians, our friends and family have an idea, do we immediately respond with, “That sounds fine and dandy, but…” or do we allow the flickering idea to flourish for a bit? Do we throw sand on the embers or add our own sparks of support?

I ask because right now we need idea generators. We need creative solutions. We need risk takers. We need spark plugs. We need you.

So the next time your right brain delights you with an idea, be kind to yourself and nurture the possibilities. All those left-brain, rational considerations will be addressed in due time. The warmth and glow of that initial firestorm, though, will be what gives you the strength and clarity for the long haul. Let’s.all.think.differently.


Take Five: Spotlight on Resources for Gifted Learners

By Deborah Mersino

On 09.02.11, our #gtchat session focused on five resources and sites resplendent with information and opportunities for educators, parents, and gifted education advocates. As promised, I am recapping the resources here. Please share these five finds with classroom educators, gifted specialists, administrators, friends, parents, students, and tech lovers. The links are live, so simply scroll over them to access.

{Drum roll, please….}

#1 –

After you take a moment to appreciate the clever logo, dive into this site, designed by  Brian Housand, an Assistant Professor at East Carolina University in the department of Curriculum and Instruction. You’ll be happy you did. Many of you may know Brian from his novel presentations at NAGC, Confratuate, and Edufest (among others). This forward-thinking educator never tires of “exploring ways in which technology can enhance the learning environment” and “striving to define what it means to be creatively productive in a digital age.”

If you click on 2011, 2010, and/or 2009 on, you will see just how busy this digital guru has been. Be sure to click on the “60 in 60” presentation in 2011, where Brian introduces “60 Sites in 60 Minutes.” And although you won’t hear Brian’s riveting dialogue, you will see some of the most current apps and sites worth exploring. You’ll also get a true sense of what the future of education could look like.

#2 –

Perhaps one of the finest gifted education blogs available today, Ian Byrd crafts regular posts to stretch our thinking – and benefit the minds and spirits of gifted learners. Ian has taught in a gifted classroom since 2007 and was a GATE student himself from first through sixth grade. He’s quickly becoming one of the most sought-after speakers for professional development in gifted education. To me, it makes perfect sense. This humble, yet wickedly creative soul has tenaciously devoted himself to making education come alive for gifted learners via sound gifted education practices mixed with relevant life and digital applications. More than 3,400 educators have already signed up to receive his free PDF entitled, “Improve Your Gifted Classroom: 7 Ways in 7 Days.” Whether you’re looking for lesson plans, resources, and/or fresh ideas, Ian’s blog and site will inspire.

#3 –

During our #gtchat session, I actually shared a different resource in this #3 spot, only to later realize the site had grown cobwebs {gasp} from being poorly managed. In its place, I’m pleased to highlight one of my favorite new streams, the Everyday Intensity blog, which I personally have delivered via email because it’s.that.good. Lisa Rivero has been a strong force for good via social media platforms this past year. She not only serves on the Board of SENG, but also teaches, writes books, and now pens a Creative Synthesis blog for Psychology Today.

In Everyday Intensity, Lisa asks,

  • Do you want to know how to live with more intensity?
  • Are you interested in finding and sharing resources that pertain to intense learners (children and adults), giftedness, creativity, and personal growth?
  • Are you looking for ways to learn about and discuss giftedness that move away from the gifted label?

If you’re looking for wisdom and grounded insights, this site will open your eyes and evoke a sense of community and wonder. You’ll find yourself nodding your head in agreement and shifting your thinking regularly. After all, isn’t that what the best blogs do?

#4 –

Russel Tar (@RusselTarr) was one of the first educators I started following on Twitter back in 2009, and he’s still one of the best. Currently working as the Head of History at the International School of Toulouse, Russel has created the ActiveHistory site for teachers and students of World History, and he regularly offers up some of the best history resources on the planet. His site is chock-full of interactive simulations, decision-making games, self-marking quizzes, worksheets, and lesson plans designed to make education captivating.

ActiveHistory has received acclaim throughout the world. The New York Times, The Guardian and other major news outlets have praised the apps on the site, including his Head2Head Interviews, where students can have virtual conversations with historical figures like Hitler or King Henry VIII. Whether you want your students to compare and contrast the rise of power of Mao to Stalin, interview William the Conqueror or pass sentences on criminals living in the 19th Century, this site is for you. Even if you want to devise a new IB Study Unit on Pinochet, he’s got you covered.

Unlike all the other sites listed in this recap, ActiveHistory costs, but it is reasonable. While you can often get free resources from @RusselTarr on Twitter, he does require a small fee to access the full content of the site. Fees for a whole school run $150.00 US/$125 Euros. Single teacher access runs $60 US/$50 Euros. Please let me know if and when you start utilizing this site; I will gladly share your experiences – and those of your students – with others. Personally, I can’t wait to create an online book club in seconds…just one of the many activities available.

#5 – Nicholas Green Distinguished Student Awards

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) offers many vital opportunities for educators; however, not everyone may know about this laudable awards program for gifted students in grades 3 through 6.

Please note that the deadline for this year’s awards program has passed. I’m sharing this because I hope you will keep students in mind for next year!

Here’s what the NAGC site says about the awards:

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) is pleased to announce the NAGC – Nicholas Green Distinguished Student Awards program for the 2010-2011 school year. Originally funded by the Nicholas Green Foundation and NAGC, this awards program is designed to recognize distinguished achievement in academics, leadership, or the arts, in children grades 3 through 6. NAGC believes that the Nicholas Green Distinguished Student Awards inspire children to achieve to their fullest potential, highlight high-ability students, and draw attention to the educational needs of our nation’s gifted and talented students.

The Nicholas Green Foundation was established by Maggie and Reg Green to honor the memory of their seven-year-old son Nicholas who was killed in a drive-by shooting while visiting Italy in 1994. The Greens paired with NAGC to start the Distinguished Student Awards because they wanted to recognize young people who are: 1.) working hard to make the most of their lives to develop their unique gifts and talents and 2.) around the age of Nicholas at the time of his death.

One child in each state may be named a Nicholas Green Distinguished Student. Each winner receives a $500 U.S. savings bond and an NAGC Certificate of Excellence. Eligible students may be nominated by parents, teachers, students, or community/civic groups.
Thank you to NAGC and Maggie and Reg Green for this program.

So go to the NAGC site, print out the application information, and put it on your bulletin board as an encouraging reminder to think about possible student nominees for next year. During our #gtchat, educator Krissy Venosdale (@KTVee) made this worthy suggestion!

That’s it for this recap; I appreciate you stopping by. My hope is that you will not only check out these resources regularly, but also will gladly share them with others. As always, I welcome your comments.


Q&A with Actress Jeri Ryan

by Deborah Mersino

I’m delighted to bring you the second installment in my new Women Living Their Dreams series. My goal is to spotlight authentic women who are impassioned about their work and willing to shed light on their professional journeys. It’s time to chat with Jeri Ryan, who currently stars as Dr. Kate Murphy on the ABC drama series Body of Proof. Perhaps best known for her iconic role as the liberated Borg, Seven of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager, Jeri also has starred as Tara Cole on Leverage and Veronica “Ronnie” Cooke on Boston Public, and has had recurring roles on the science fiction show Dark Skies and the legal drama series Shark. Ryan played opposite Rene Zellweger and Ewan McGregor in the 2003 comedy “Down with Love,” and appeared in “Dracula 2000” opposite Gerard Butler. She describes herself as “Mom, wife, actress, foodie, Francophile, obsessive gardener, and Twitter-addict.” I would describe her as generous, warm, and wickedly smart.

1. Many youngsters dream of becoming a Hollywood star; however, you’ve actually made that dream a reality. How did it happen?

Honestly, with a combination of preparation and luck. I had some experience acting in community theater, and then I majored in theater at Northwestern University. The education & training I got there was pretty critical in making sure I was prepared for it when I got my “break”. And that’s where a lot of luck comes in…! My Chicago agent had sent my headshot to some LA casting directors before I moved out and one of them called me in for a meeting. I read a scene for them and they called a great agent on the spot and told them they had to sign me. So I was INCREDIBLY lucky to get an agent before I even moved, which is not usually the case!

2. What qualities have served you best throughout the trajectory of your career?

Persistence and a thick skin! It’s a tough industry; there’s a LOT of rejection, and a lot of critique about physical qualities — you’re either too pretty or not pretty enough, too blonde or not blonde enough, too tall or not tall enough, too thin or not thin enough.

3. What has surprised you the most about life as an actor?

I’d have to say — and this is specific to the life of an actor in Hollywood, as opposed to the theater —  how much (and how quickly) the industry changes.

4. How did school prepare you – or not?

As I mentioned earlier, the training I received in the craft of acting was invaluable. I learned how to create a character and give them life. But it was (at least at the time) pretty specific to theater. It didn’t prepare me at all for the technicality of acting for the camera, which is a very different beast.

5. Many gifted and talented kids feel “different” and/or “out of sync” with others. Did you ever experience that growing up in Kentucky and/or at Northwestern?

I don’t think there are many people who can say they never experienced that as a kid. But I was an army-brat who moved around a lot. When you’re always the new kid, you learn very quickly how to get the lay of the land and find out how to fit in with your new classmates. I do have one memory that stands out: I lived in a very small town in Western Kentucky from 6th grade – high school (the longest my family had ever lived in one place.) I kept a diary for a couple of years when I was 12 or 13. I was writing in it one day (and I remember this so vividly!)  I wrote “…I don’t think he really likes her” — and then went back and crossed out the word “think” and wrote “thank”, even though I knew it was incorrect, because that’s how all my friends wrote it. Pretty sad that I so badly wanted to avoid being different that I’d “correct” my own diary.

6. Did you have any teachers and/or mentors who really “saw you” and impacted you powerfully? Can you share a bit about them?

My middle school music teacher, Gayle McDermott, was an incredibly supportive mentor for me during those years. (As a side note, I was on a talk show many years later and they surprised me by flying Mrs. McDermott out to LA to appear on the show with me!)

7. Do you have any thoughts on how the United States could improve its support of gifted, talented, and creative learners in public schools?

It would be wonderful if schools could offer as many opportunities & challenges — both academic & creative — as we would like. Unfortunately, until our public schools are sufficiently funded to support any of our students… let’s just say we have a long way to go.

8  What are the biggest misconceptions people have about life as a working actor?

That it’s glamorous. There are moments, sure, but that’s not the norm!

9. What advice do you have for students interested in pursuing an acting career?

If there’s anything else that you would be happy doing, DO THAT. If you truly need to act to be fulfilled, then really COMMIT to it. Get trained — really work on your craft. You can’t control when your break will come. What you can control is making sure that you’re prepared when it does. Be persistant. Be confident. Finally, and this is much easier said than done, don’t, don’t, DON’T take the rejections personally. It’s just part of the business.

10. What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned in your career?

That it’s a bit of a numbers game. There will always be many more “no”s than “yes”es.

11. What are you most proud of?

My amazing kids.

12. Can you tell us something about your non-professional life that might surprise people?

I’m a big science geek.

13. What’s the most rewarding part of your life right now?

That I’m able to balance getting paid to do what I love and having a real life with my incredible family. I’m a lucky, lucky lady!

You can catch Jeri Ryan on Body of Proof’s Season Premier on Tuesday, September 20th at 10/9 CST. She’s also currently starring in the live action series for Warner Brothers, “Mortal Kombat: Legacy,” as Sonya Blade. You will find her on Twitter at @JeriLryan and she tweets a lot! Feel free to leave her a comment here too.

And stay tuned for future installments in the Women Living Their Dreams series. #StrongWomenRock