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Convocation welcomes 115 students to the Gifted, Talented and Creative program

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Four boys from Highland Junior High School pose for a photo with their STEM project.More than 100 students from Highland Junior High gathered together in a large meeting room and excitedly awaited a day filled with fun activities. They came together, along with four of their teachers, for the annual convocation of the Gifted, Talented and Creative program. Seventh and eighth grade students look forward to this event every year, because it’s a chance for them to get out of their classrooms. They spend the day hearing from guest speakers and doing fun hands-on activities. This year featured activities such as Get to Know You BINGO and a STEM competition. The convocation kicked off with a welcome from Gilbert Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Shane McCord.

“You are going to collaborate and stretch your minds in all different directions, but most of all remember to have fun,” Dr. McCord told the students. 

The GTC program provides students in grades seven and eight an opportunity to be in an environment that directly caters to their unique learning style. They are often learning at a more rapid pace that taps into their curiosity, creativity, intensities and sensitivities. Lisa Creaser, the gifted coordinator for Gilbert Public Schools, oversees the program. She spoke with the students about overcoming challenges in the classroom. 

“Connect, Create and Care. At Gilbert Public Schools, we use those words to help guide our work. We use those words to keep us grounded and make sure that we are focusing on the right things, so everybody can be successful,” Creaser said.

She led the students in a small group activity, where they discussed ways to overcome productive struggles, keeping those three important words in mind. Students didn’t hesitate to chime in, offering their classmates different perspectives.

“If you are having a productive struggle, you can connect with another person to work through it,” a student responded.

“You can also create more complex solutions that work better and faster to solve something that you are trying to do,” another student said.

Two girls from Highland Junior High play Get to Know You BINGO.“If you want to do a project, you can care for your work and not let it get ruined. You can also care about your grades,” said a third student. 

Creaser went on to add that the students’ teachers would be there to guide them throughout the year and celebrate their successes. Students in the GTC program take their core classes together under the guidance of four teachers who understand the specific needs of gifted learners. Dr. Sean Jonaitis, the new interim principal of Highland Junior High, encouraged the students to reach out for help whenever they need it. 

“We’re here to support you. What I love about this program is that it’s a family within our Hurricane family,” he said. 

The students also heard from a panel of experts and industry leaders in areas such as civic education, data science, human analytics, space systems and community service. Students were able to ask questions about the experts’ careers, educational backgrounds and work environments. The speakers encouraged students to find areas that interest them and learn more. The GTC teachers love hosting convocation every year to help students get excited about what’s to come.

“Convocation is a great way to kick off the school year. It motivates our GTC students to have a strong start. It also builds community and teamwork. We like to work hard, but also have fun together,” said Sarah Miller, the social studies teacher for the Gifted, Talented and Creative program. 

Highland Junior High School students listen to a panel of five guest speakers.The GTC teachers are busy planning more activities for students in the coming months. There will be field trips and the eighth grade students will also get the opportunity to work on their own capstone projects. 

To learn more about the Gifted, Talented and Creative program and how students qualify for enrollment, visit the GTC website today!

Story: Kailey Latham, Photos: HJHS, Jonason Pauley