West Liberty, W.Va., April 11, 2019 — Starting this summer, West Liberty University will be the only university in West Virginia offering master-level courses to prepare teachers to work with intellectually gifted students.
“We first offered courses to prepare teachers for West Virginia’s gifted certification testing last fall,” said Dr. Leann Elkins, WLU associate professor and director of the Master of Arts in Education (MAEd) program.
“As we were putting together our summer schedule, we realized that we are the only university in the state now offering gifted education courses.”
Registration is open for both the summer and fall sections of the courses. The first summer course begins May 6. Each of the summer courses, which are designed and taught by Dr. Patricia Coon, takes six weeks to complete.
“The approach in the two courses is to encourage collaboration, investigation, interaction and application of theory and best practice among the student teachers,” she said. “Through the completion of the two courses, they will be prepared to take the West Virginia Praxis for Gifted Certification.”
Coon earned a master’s degree in gifted and special education at West Virginia University in 1984 and a doctoral degree in educational psychology in 2013.
She added that the courses were also appropriate for educators seeking courses to complete professional development units.
Dr. Coon, who has more than 40 years experience in working with gifted students, dispels some of the myths about working with gifted students.
“Gifted students are often overlooked because people think they can get it on their own,” she said.
Another myth is that only teachers who were once gifted students can work with gifted students, according to Coon.
“This is not true,” she said, adding that her classes “help all teachers to understand the needs of gifted students and design a curriculum to meet those needs. These courses also help teachers work with students who are gifted with disabilities.”
Lisa Leichliter, a teacher at Cameron High School, Cameron, W.Va., enrolled in the courses after she found that she was asked in a pinch to work with intellectually gifted 7th and 8th grade students.
“I absolutely love it and I want to keep working with them,” said Leichliter, who knew about the course because she was earning her MAEd at WLU. “Dr. Coon’s courses have been vital to me through this process. She is fantastic.”
Leichliter had been teaching for 15 years but never considered working with gifted students before the school approached her. Now she is preparing to take the gifted certification test to continue in her position.
“I love the way the gifted students think outside the box,” she said. “But it has helped me in my regular classes, too. It has given me a way to reach students who are not identified as gifted, but are just as bright.”
The MAEd program meets at WLU’s Highlands Center campus and is a 30-credit hour program that allows students to earn a research-based Master of Arts in Education in one of the following concentrations: reading specialist, community education research and leadership, multi-categorical special education, leadership studies, innovative instruction, leadership in disability services and sports leadership and coaching.
Students also can earn endorsements in autism and gifted education. Tuition is $450 per credit hour, regardless of in-state or out-of-state residency.