M. René Islas' Opening Remarks at the NAGC Annual Convention

Welcome Friends! Welcome to the NAGC 63rd Annual Convention. Isn’t it great to be in the happiest place on Earth?

More than a year ago, our conference chair, and President-Elect, Sally Krisel, challenged us to Imagine the Possibilities in developing the convention this year. She asked us to be bold and be willing to break the mold, while honoring our organization’s rich traditions and history. I am proud to say that the NAGC team lived up to its promise to her and to you!

This convention is truly magical. It is a place where we can be safe to explore intellectually, connect personally, and collaborate with people who are dedicated to supporting gifted and talented children. At every turn, you will see new little things that will make your professional learning experience at the convention more powerful. You will see more people—We have hit a new milestone with nearly 3,000 in attendance at this convention. You will get Disney Inspiration—Opportunities to learn how to teach like Walt Disney at the Disney Yes Programs, and you will get some “Pixie Dust” sprinkled on you as we watch the Disney Illuminations and let our hair down at Epcot with friends.  Thank you for being part of this important event for NAGC and for gifted children.

We are a team at NAGC in service of youindividuals who dedicate their lives to supporting gifted children. And, as any good team member does, I will pick up where my colleague George Betts left off.

George shared that the NAGC Board of Directors recently adopted a new strategic framework that will put NAGC and its members on a path of national leadership. He shared the recommitment to the vision of a nation and world where giftedness is fully recognized, universally valued, and actively nurtured so that children from all backgrounds get the support they need to reach for their personal best.

Now, I willl share with you a simple, but powerful formula for achieving NAGC’s vision for gifted children. Over the next five to seven years, NAGC will focus on transforming MINDS, POLICIES, and PRACTICES.

Strategy #1 - MINDS

Our strategy is to implement a messaging campaign that that expands the public’s understanding of the nature and needs of gifted and talented children, to dispel common myths, and to increase the public’s urgency to support our gifted children as they reach for their personal best.

As you know, the perception of gifted and talented education is mired in mythology. People often associate gifted education with elitism. Or they go to the opposite extreme of reducing all children to the mean and treating them exactly the same as their age-based peers, despite their differences. In other cases they say things like, “There can’t possibly be any gifted children in my school that predominately serves ‘at-risk’ youth.” A final blow is the excuse that “we just can’t afford gifted education.”

As you can see from these examples, the public seems confused! Each one of these myths and more needs an effective antidote.

NAGC is building the first shot to affect the head and the heart with powerful imagery and messaging. You can see them at the www.GiftednessKnowsNoBoundaries.org website.

Along with the awareness building and advocacy tools, NAGC is actively recruiting high level spokespeople to bring voice to the needs of gifted children and working to build support among powerful organizations in the education community and beyond to act as dissemination channels in support of our cause.

So far, NAGC can count on the support of corporate leaders like Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin, Nita Seelinger, former director and chief of staff to the Executive Director at DuPont, and Jesse Lovejoy, STEM Director for the San Francisco 49ers Museum.

We also have support from organizations like the American Federation of Teachers, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Jack Kent Cook Foundation, the Fordham Institute, and the Council for Exceptional Children. These organizations have taken active steps to help us develop messaging and more importantly disseminate the information through their wide networks.

They are a great start, but we will need your active support too!

I know that NAGC can count on all of you for your support. Please visit the www.GiftednessKnowsNoBoundaries.org site, and ask your friends to look at it too.

Strategy #2 - POLICY

In addition to the MINDS strategy, NAGC is committed to leveraging policy to create action. NAGC believes in the power of policy and has had great initial success in recent federal law. The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) creates opportunity, but it does not provide a guarantee. For this reason, we need to work together to build a coalition of states that are ready and willing to engage in powerful policy development and advocacy. We will work to collaboratively build this agenda with states, districts, and our affiliate leaders so that our national organization can support local leaders in creating an environment where children with gifts and talents will thrive. Stay tuned for more over the next few months as we work with leaders on the ground to develop this important advocacy agenda and strategy.

STRATEGY #3 - PRACTICES

The third NAGC strategy is practices. NAGC believes that one of the fastest ways to improve the lives of gifted children is to provide adults with the ability to implement evidence based practices for supporting gifted children. Working with leaders in our field and members of the NAGC Education Committee, we will develop programs that empower supporters to implement effective practices for all gifted and talented children. NAGC is busy developing tools, publications, and powerful opportunities for professional learning so that our organization supports those who help gifted children. Some of these professional learning programs already exist on the www.nagc.org site. Our team will continue to develop and release more professional learning programs over the next twelve months to support implementation of programs in homes, schools, and communities.

Now, allow me to turn back to the MINDS part of NAGC’s strategy. With the help of a broad community of supporters, we launched the Giftedness Knows No Boundaries Campaign. Through this campaign we will allow the public to look into the eyes of gifted children and hear their pleas to SEE ME, UNDERSTAND ME, TEACH ME, and CHALLENGE ME. In our first iteration of the campaig, NAGC released four short videos and several posters. We have asked our organizational partners to consider posting these videos on their sites and include the print campaign in their publications.

I need your help too. You can get involved in this important campaign by following three simple steps: Tweet it. Pin It. Post It.

First, Tweet It.  Please log into your Twitter account or sign up for an account and tweet www.GiftednessKnowsNoBoundaries.org,  #GiftedMinds. This simple task has the power to increase awareness exponentially. On the first day of the campaign we saw over 1,000 page views using this simple technique.

Next, Pin It. Go to the website poster section and find your favorite poster. Print one, and Pin It to your board in places where others will see it. When it grabs their attention be ready to share why supporting the needs of the child in the poster is so important.

Finally, Post It. Over the next few months, NAGC will share videos that correspond with key messages of the Giftedness Knows No Boundaries campaign on our websites and social media channels. Find your favorite videos and share them on your personal and organizational Facebook and Twitter accounts. Help us make these messages go viral. NAGC is watching the social sharing metrics carefully to quantify the exposure of the messages and their impact.

I appreciate your dedication and support, and I look forward to working with you to increase understanding and increase urgency to support gifted children as they reach for their personal best and contribute to their communities.