One point away from being gifted…

During my tenure as Teacher Leader for the Excellence in Youth (EY) team at Westside Community Schools, I’ve heard the following comments made by students…

  • I was one point away from being in EY
  • I’m not smart and that’s why I’m not in EY
  • I was absent the day of the test so that’s why I’m not in EY

Let me let you in on a little secret (it’s actually not a secret-we’re trying to let EVERYONE know)…

You don’t have to be in EY to participate in seminars or other
learning opportunities that the EY team sponsors.

Here’s the deal…You don’t have to wait around for anyone to tell you that you’re passionate about something.  I’m pretty sure you could list 10 things right now that you’re passionate about or interested in and you don’t need a high IQ or a standardized test score to tell you that you can explore those areas.  Let’s just take a look at a couple inventors:

  1. Les Paul designed a solid-body electric guitar in 1941.  Guess what?  When he was young, one of his teachers told his mother that he’d never learn music.  That didn’t stop Les.  He taught himself how to play several instruments and by the time he was a teenager, he was performing with country bands all over the midwest.  Les didn’t need a score to tell him what he loved doing.  He had a passion and pursued it…it’s as simple as that!  Information taken from:
  2. Joy Mangano designed the Miracle Mop.  I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t check to make sure her IQ was high enough or that her math achievement scores were in the 99th percentile before coming up with her idea.  In fact, according to, Joy was frustrated with household mopping and came up with a new one (  She also came up with several other ideas and eventually sold her company to the Home Shopping Network (HSN).

The EY team has the great pleasure of providing opportunities for all students…regardless of whether or not they are in the EY program.  These opportunities are sometimes based on students’ interests or talents (Musician Andy Hackbarth and Job Shadowing-see below).  The opportunities are sometimes based on what’s available in our community (Orpheum-see below).  In some cases, students and parents suggest ideas (Moon Bot Seminar-see below).  Whatever the case may be, the EY Team is open to ideas and we are passionate about getting kids plugged into these opportunities.  We want students to explore areas of interest, as well as foster talents that may already exist.  We want to open doors for students that they never knew existed.  We want to ignite the passion that exists in all students!  We want to encourage all students to change the world…regardless of their IQ score.


Cale, a 5th grader from Westbrook has an interest in computers.  The EY Team arranged form him to shadow Mr. Sanchez at WHS to get a glimpse of a possible career path in technology.  One thing Cale learned…”There’s a lot of parts to a computer and taking them apart and putting them back together takes time.”

IMG_3126Musician Andy Hackbarth ( came to Westside Middle School a couple weeks ago and worked with a group of aspiring musicians.  No IQ or test score required to attend…just a passion for music!  Andy talked about the math and science behind music, as well as the literary aspects of writing music.  The result was AMAZING!  Sixth grader Erin from Loveland said, “This was the best day ever!  I wish we could have spent 2 full days with Andy.  I learned so much!” Click here for a sample of one group’s song.


Omaha is very lucky to have a variety of organizations that support and expand appreciation for the arts.  Omaha Performing Arts is one such organization and through their student matinee program, schools are able to offer opportunities to students who may not have the experience otherwise.  Last week, a group of students went to Pedal Punk at the Orpheum.  I wish I could have captured the wide-eyes and jaw dropping that took place throughout the performance.  It was priceless!

Last week, 22 students from various elementary schools came together for our first ever, Path to Personalization Seminar.  The ticket to attend?  Just explain something you’d like to work on for an entire day.  We had students writing scripts, taking photos, researching 3D printers, sewing, and more!  We even had a student design a MoonBot seminar that he is planning to lead during the spring semester.  Said by one student, “I just enjoyed working on something I love doing for an entire day…no interruptions!”

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There are so many amazing things happening K-12 in our district.  It’s a great time to be an educator and an even more exciting time to be a learner!  Let’s not exclude students based on their test scores, but rather celebrate and continually look for and provide opportunities for all students to explore their passions.

Please leave a comment and let us know what you’re passionate about.  Got any ideas to share?  Do you have a suggestion for a seminar?  We’re all ears!

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