BUSD Holds Inaugural GATE Conference

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Author Nathan Levy and BUSD's Dr. Tom Kissinger at the inaugural GATE conference. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Burbank Unified School District held its first annual GATE conference on Saturday, May 3, at Providencia Elementary. Headed by Director of Elementary Education and Categorical Programs, Dr. Tom Kissinger, the conference drew approximately 50 parents and educators from Burbank and surrounding communities with its focus on students in the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program.

Keynote speaker Nathan Levy, a prolific author of materials for GATE students, conducted an exercise in critical thinking with the adults in the room. He discussed techniques for educators and parents to draw out children’s listening and thinking skills.

Nathan Levy talks with a conference attendee.  (Photo By Lisa Paredes)
Nathan Levy talks with a conference attendee. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Drawing on his years of experience as an educator in New York City and New Jersey, Levy dismissed the recent emphasis on self-esteem deriving from minimum effort as bogus, “Nobody learns to their maximum if they aren’t uncomfortable. The struggle is important for gifted kids to learn.”

“Many gifted kids breeze through school and then encounter challenges in college and work and then often quit,” Levy added. “Self-esteem goes up when you take on a challenge.”

Levy underlined some of the skills students need to succeed, and emphasized ways teachers and parents can provide the environment for successful growth, including creating a culture within the classroom of engagement, listening and speaking up.

“Our children need tools to be better writers,” he added. “They need to learn how to write. Writing can be taught but it takes enormous amounts of time.”

Nathan Levy addresses the GATE conference audience. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)
Nathan Levy addresses the GATE conference audience. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Levy also stressed that students, and many adults, lack cultural literacy and basic information.

The author has written and published several books for educators and parents to engage and teach critical thinking, cultural literacy and writing.

Other workshops at the conference included “Instructional Differentiation for GATE Students” led by BUSD GATE teacher Jennifer Almer, “Integrating the Arts into your Common Core Lesson” conducted by Las Virgenes School District Principal Christina Desiderio and teacher Danielle Sturgis and “Parenting Your Gifted Child” headed by psychotherapist Judy Wiener, who specializes in working with gifted children and adults.

Judy Wiener leads a workshop on parenting gifted children.  (Photo By Lisa Paredes)
Judy Wiener leads a workshop on parenting gifted children. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Techniques and tactics for parents and educators to encourage and draw out the most from their GATE students was the underlying theme of the workshop.

“As parents, your job is to not be objective about some things,” commented Levy. “That’s what’s different between parents and schools. What matters to you as a parent and what you value is important to convey to your children.”

Author Nathan Levy and BUSD Director Dr. Tom Kissinger at the inaugural GATE conference.  (Photo By Lisa Paredes)
Author Nathan Levy and BUSD Director Dr. Tom Kissinger at the inaugural GATE conference. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)