Graduate Degrees in Gifted Education at WKU
WKU has offered graduate courses in gifted education since 1982. We currently offer the Endorsement in gifted education, the Master of Arts in Education (MAE) in Gifted Education and Talent Development, and the Educational Specialist (EdS) in Gifted Education and Talent Development. WKU is the only university in Kentucky to offer the MAE and EdS in gifted studies, and we have more coursework in gifted education than any other university in the state. In addition, students in the Educational Leadership Doctoral Program (EdD) may use the coursework from the MAE and EdS to make a concentration in teacher leadership with a focus on gifted education. In all its graduate programs in gifted studies, WKU strives to provide opportunities, research-based knowledge, best practices, faculty mentoring, and other tools educators need to better identify and serve high-ability and gifted students. The Center for Gifted Studies supports graduate work through programming and professional learning opportunities.
Learn more about a program of study
- Western Kentucky University offers a Gifted and Talented Endorsement, designated on the teaching certificate, which provides the opportunity to work directly with groups of gifted children K-12. Currently, we are the only Kentucky institution that has offered the complete sequence annually since 1984.
- The MAE has two pathways – one leading to certification and the other with a research focus. The pathway leading to certification (Rank II and Gifted Endorsement) includes 18 graduate hours in gifted education and talent development. The pathway with a research focus has 21 graduate hours in gifted education and talent development.
- The Specialist Degree in Gifted Education and Talent Development is planned for individuals who have earned a master’s degree and want to specialize in gifted education as they pursue further graduate work. Those who complete this degree program will be eligible for a recommendation for Rank I and may earn eligibility for the Gifted and Talented Education Endorsement through the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board (KE37) if the practicum is built into the program.
- The College of Education offers the Educational Leadership Doctoral Program with a concentration on teacher leadership with a focus on gifted education and talent development. For more information, go to WKU's Educational Leadership Doctorate Program or The Graduate School.
WKU offers more coursework in gifted education than most other universities in the region.
- WKU offers the entire sequence of four required graduate courses for the gifted endorsement as a one-year program.
- With the exception of the practicum, all coursework is offered online.
- WKU offers both the Master of Arts in Education (MAE) degree in Gifted Education and Talent Development and the Educational Specialist (EdS) degree in Gifted Education and Talent Development.
- The coursework from the MAE and the EdS makes a concentration in teacher leadership with a focus on gifted education available for students in the Educational Leadership Doctoral (EdD) Program.
- WKU is home to The Center for Gifted Studies and The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky and is the host for the headquarters of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children.
The professors in WKU's Gifted Education program are award winners, authors, and trailblazers. Dr. Julia Roberts, Dr. Janet Tassell, and Dr. Antonia Szymanski are all committed to guiding the next generation of gifted educators. Hear what their students have to say:
Jennifer Sheffield (Endorsement, EdS) is the gifted and talented coordinator for Simpson County Schools: “The professors are fantastic. They really know their subject matter and are all prominent figures in the field of gifted education. I thoroughly enjoyed the in-depth discussion and thought-provoking reading assignments. Dr. Szymanski was invaluable in helping me better understand research design and how to work with statistics. Dr. Tassell was always very positive and encouraging; she helped me hone in on the specific areas of gifted research that I was most interested in. Dr. Roberts’ goal was for us to take what we were learning to the next level — to really push our thinking with our research and produce high-quality academic work.”
Michelle Lynch (Endorsement, EdS) is a Gifted and Talented Teacher for Glasgow Independent Schools: “The professors were flexible, always willing to go above and beyond to help, whether with an assignment or getting my research done in a timely manner. They were all wonderful to work with.”
Exceptional Educational Value
No matter their teaching backgrounds or professional goals, our graduate students find immeasurable value in the gifted education program.
Stephanie Gahafer (MAE) teaches fourth grade at Plano Elementary in Warren County: “When teaching elementary school, whether you are a departmentalized teacher where you teach one subject or you're self-contained where you teach all subjects, you're always going to have gifted students, so this degree is something that I can apply in all settings, no matter if I change grade levels or schools. Also, I've really appreciated the real-world value — I’ve learned concepts that I can apply directly to my teaching.”
Torri Martin (Endorsement) teaches eighth grade math in the Jefferson County Public Schools: “Before I started the degree, I had already realized that in order to be successful with the range of students I had, I would have to differentiate everything I did. A lot of what I have learned in the gifted education program is strategies that I was doing on instinct already, and now I can put an article or research behind them. I’ve got the theory to support what I’m doing.”
Michelle Lynch: “I gained so much valuable knowledge through the program; it was a comprehensive, overall wonderful experience. I was able to do in-depth analysis of identification and programming options for the gifted student while earning a degree that is widely respected. The most valuable thing was that the professors related what we were learning to what I was doing in the classroom or what was going on in our district — it was all practical knowledge. Every class, including my thesis project, was relevant. I gained knowledge that I can use on the job every day with my students for many years to come.”
A Needed Field
Too often, gifted students do not get the education they need and deserve. The gifted studies program gives its graduates the tools to help gifted students at many levels in many ways.
Jennay Weatherholt (MAE) teaches third grade at Potter Grey Elementary in Warren County: “In terms of legislation, gifted education is definitely a field that needs advocates. I wanted to go into a program for a population that often gets underserved or pushed under the rug. Some people don't see the need for gifted education.”
Torri Martin: “Gifted kids come in every flavor, just like every other child, and there’s no one packaged thing we can do that will instantly help all of them. We are told as educators that the conversation about gifted education is not as important as talking about things like achievement gaps, and we tell parents that their gifted children will be fine no matter what, but being in this graduate program has allowed me to say, ‘No, talking about giftedness is equally valid, and in addressing it, you address those other concerns as well because the practices that you do with gifted students also serve students in priority schools really well.’ Whether students are twice-exceptional, gifted, behind, or right in the middle, we can figure out ways to make them successful.”
Jennifer Sheffield: “Gifted education is an important category of exceptional education that is often overlooked. We need educators who will advocate for the needs of gifted students, design challenging curriculum, and guide identification protocols with a depth of understanding of what's behind it all. It’s so important to understand the need to balance equity and excellence in gifted programs and to ensure the social, emotional, and academic needs of diverse populations of gifted students are being addressed. We need well-educated teachers to continue to push the field forward.”
One-of-a-kind Practicum Experience
Since 1984, graduate students in gifted education at WKU have been able to complete their practicum by teaching at The Center for Gifted Studies’ Summer Camp for Academically Talented Middle School Students (SCATS), a two-week enrichment experience for academically talented students who have finished grades 6-8 that year. The practicum provides the opportunity for graduate students to demonstrate what they have learned in their coursework. They select their own course topics — from Bridge Building or The Art of Chihuly to Communication and Leadership Fundamentals — and teach two sections each weekday for two weeks, with class sizes capped at 16.
Rebekah Murphy (Endorsement) is the gifted and talented resource teacher for grades K-12 for Eminence Independent Schools: “It was amazing to be with these students who were passionate about learning and who were intrigued, curious, and intrinsically motivated. It was a really good way to start my career as a gifted and talented resource teacher. SCATS helped me realize the need for differentiation even among gifted students because I had to address their individual needs even though they were all high-performing students. I felt a lot more prepared this school year having those skills added to my tool box.”
Shelby Fisher (MAE) teaches eighth grade science at Bazzell Middle School in Allen County: “One thing that surprised me about teaching at SCATS was the depth and complexity of conversations students had with each other. I also found it interesting how they always questioned the learning they were doing. While this type of thinking and discussion occurs in my regular classroom, in this setting there were 16 students who were all thinking and questioning at high levels with each other and not necessarily with me facilitating the discussion.”