This past week in Denver, our Research Associate, Stacy Hayden was honored at the 68th Annual National Association for Gifted Children Convention. Stacy was awarded the Carolyn Callahan Doctoral Student Award. Doctoral students are nominated by faculty members at their university. The award is presented to doctoral students who have demonstrated exemplary work in research, publications, and educational service and have a potential for future scholarship.

In one of the recommendation letters, Stacy’s professor commented:

"As I have worked so closely with Stacy, I am in an excellent position to comment on her numerous academic, as well as her many personal strengths. She is an extremely dependable person with strong character and integrity. I believe her to be a superlative doctoral student, one in whom I have great confidence for strong future productivity in our field. Stacy seeks to be a force for positive change, has outstanding interpersonal skills, and works extremely well with others. I would be remiss if I did not comment on her many and varied fine personal qualities. She is an incredibly diligent worker who is motivated to excel. She is an independent thinker who is both personable and highly respected. She has exceptional abilities to complete independent work and is committed to a future in gifted education. She will be a superb recipient of the NAGC Doctoral Student Award."

Stacy is currently finishing her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology: Giftedness, Creativity, and Talent Development. Her dissertation is on perceptions of academic risk-taking among college honors students.

Stacy and other National Association for Gifted Children awardees who are alumni of or currently at the University of Connecticut. From left to right: Stacy Hayden, Shaffer Evaluation Group; Carla Brigandi, West Virginia University; Del Siegle, University of Connecticut; E. Jean Gubbins, University of Connecticut; MaryGrace Stewart, Massachusetts Association for Gifted Education.

By Dr. Marquita Hockaday

The months of August and September are both exciting and daunting as these days mark the end of summer and the beginning of the new school year for students across the United States. With the Delta variant of Coronavirus rearing its ugly head, the back-to-school season is a bit different this year. Families and educators alike must consider what they can do to ensure a safe and productive return to learning. As an online educator for over five years, both in the university system and in the K-12 setting, I have come away with some helpful tips for families and educators as we dive into this new wave of learning due to COVID-19 and the precautions that must be taken.

The Classroom Amidst COVID-19 Restrictions

Despite several Americans receiving one of the many vaccinations offered to combat COVID-19, many states have seen a surge in Coronavirus related hospitalizations and deaths. Thus, it is important that students, educators, and families continue to protect themselves against the spread of COVID-19, particularly the Delta variant of the virus. So, how can we make sure that students are safe in schools while continuing “business as usual?”

  • Tip # 1: PPE and Social Distance Protocols

  • Create a safe “bubble” for students, faculty, and staff. The more personal protective equipment (PPE), the better! It is important to provide students and educators with a clean and safe environment that is conducive to learning. This includes masks, social distance protocols, daily cleaning routines, and in some cases partitions.

  • Additionally, ensuring students have their own materials so they are not constantly sharing and spreading germs, may assist in slowing down and stopping the rapid growth of COVID-19.

  • Tip # 2: Make the Most of Your Time

  • Provide engaging and active learning in the classroom. Create lessons that students would not be able to do if they were attending virtual school. This includes hands-on projects, such as dissections, building sculptures and landscapes, cooperative in-person groups, etc.

  • Develop lessons and class resources that encourage active participation from students and involve families and communities (not necessarily in person). Tie lessons and content to students’ backgrounds and ensure materials are inclusive and diverse.

Successful Online Learning

The other option that many families and students are navigating this school year is virtual learning only. If this is the approach you intend to take, there are several tips that can be put in place to ensure you have a successful return to learning. I won’t spend a ton of time delving into how online learning varies from in-person learning and how virtual learning can be done to fidelity (this calls for a blog in itself) instead, I will share two quick tips to ensure coming back to the classroom via a virtual space is fruitful.

  • Tip #1: Technology

  • Make sure you have the technological materials needed to be effective in the online space. Most schools are providing 1:1 technology; however, if that is not possible, several companies provide discounts for educators and students for technology. Whether you prefer an iPad or a laptop (or maybe even a desktop), you want to ensure you are using the technology that will work best for you.

  • Further, you might want to have headphones to allow for peace and quiet when you attend your live sessions.

  • Tip #2: Planning and Organization

  • Another important aspect is to plan so that you are ready to go each week for your classes.

  • Use a daily or weekly calendar for assignment, quiz/test, and project due dates.

  • Keep track of administrative tasks, meetings, and live sessions in your calendar as well.

  • Finally, you want to make sure you are participating in “self-care.” Whether that includes exercise, gaming, binging Netflix every now and then, or just taking a moment to read a book every night, it is critical that you plan some time for yourself as you delve into organizing your virtual school year. It might get tough so take some time out for you!

I hope these tips help as you dive into another school year unlike any other. As we continue to combat COVID-19, we must stay vigilant in educating our students while also being safe and healthy. I am wishing you all a safe and conducive school year!

By Jennifer “Jenny” Hindman, Ph.D.

Fast, powerful, and focused effort commences with the grant solicitation release. Involving an external evaluator as a grant-writing partner often increases the proposal’s robustness and therefore, the likelihood of being funded. Two primary ways of doing this are:

  • Asking the evaluator to write the proposal’s evaluation section. This is usually done at no cost with the expectation that if the proposal is funded the evaluator will provide the external evaluation services. A project narrative’s evaluation section typically is worth 10-15 points of the available 100 points assigned by proposal reviewers. In some cases, funders know the evaluator’s expertise, so a proposal receives a boost from having the professional involved.

  • Contracting with the evaluator for grant writing services. This is a paid service that facilitates the organization submitting the grant to have a partner in the process, dividing the work, and refining the project. For example, the evaluator may draft sections beyond the evaluation section such as the research component and the logic model while the organization focuses on the activities and the budget. When the proposal is funded, the evaluator anticipates receiving the evaluation services contract.

Six tips for grant writing with an evaluator.

  1. Inquire about the evaluator’s availability to write as soon as you decide to write the grant and be specific about what is needed (e.g., evaluation section, grant writing). Send a copy of the grant solicitation (or link).

  2. The evaluation section is drafted after goals and key activities are defined, so estimate a date that these items will be available and allow some time for the evaluator to write the section.

  3. If contracting for grant writing services, a discussion is needed and a mutually acceptable writing plan is created for several weeks.

  4. Share early what the project intends to do. Use a shared folder to maintain proposal drafts. Early in the process, the working drafts of the project abstract and goals provide the evaluator a proposal overview. In particular, the evaluator will be considering what measures can be used to measure and document the grant activities.

  5. Trust that the proposal’s fidelity is the primary focus. Ambiguity, constructive criticism, refinements, feedback, vulnerability, questioning, frustration, glee, weariness, relief, and many other words come into the proposal development process. Two-way communication, patience, willingness to challenge and constructively respond, and affirmation are means to effectively navigate the grant writing process.

  6. Schedule time to discuss the grant proposal with the evaluator. The clarification questions that the evaluator asks can help the grant writing team refine the proposal. The evaluator likely works with other organizations (e.g., universities, organizations, schools) and often can provide insight into what different funders expect to see in an evaluation. When grant writing duties are shared, these phone/virtual discussions are frequent and emails from each other are prioritized.

  7. Provide the evaluator a final copy of the proposal that was submitted.

  8. Follow-up with the evaluator and share any reviewer feedback. This is a no-brainer when the grant is awarded as the evaluator’s services will be needed. Letting the evaluator know if the proposal was not funded offers closure.