Talent Development Academies: Project Talentum Academe

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Talent Spotters Learn and Grow through Summer Professional Development


Teachers As Talent Scouts: Finding & Developing Students’ Talents

July 24 – 25, 2018

The faculty and administration of Hunley Park Elementary along with the newest faculty members of established Talent Development Academies came together for two days of professional development. The group was welcomed and inspired by Charleston County School District Deputy Superintendent of Learning Services, Cindy Ambrose, as well as College of Charleston Department of Teacher Education chair, Dr. Ann Gutshall.

To get things started Dr. Swanson introduced the talent development model in an interactive way prompting teachers to be thinking about the “how”, “why” and “what happens when” throughout their two day development.

Teachers were captivated by Dr. Gutshall’s work with neuroscience and left their sessions each of the two mornings excitedly planning to share their learning: both at home and within their schools.

Each afternoon teachers were introduced to strategies and models taken from powerful curricula in the content areas of ELA, math, and science.

With the pillars of TDA in mind (psychology of learning, powerful curriculum, culturally responsive teaching), teachers listened to a panel of unique guests share their personal and professional experiences.

Applying the Talent Development Model in Your Classroom

July 26, 2018

The faculties of Springfield Elementary, Minnie Hughes Elementary, E.B. Ellington Elementary, and Frierson Elementary returned to College of Charleston North Campus for a one day conference-style professional development.

After being welcomed by Charleston County School District Director of Professional Development, Emilie Woodie, teachers built upon their past experiences with Dr. Ann Gutshall. Teachers explored how to develop grit and self-control in their learners, and per usual, were moved by Dr. Gutshall’s sharing.

Veteran talent-spotters spent the afternoon choosing from multiple session options within three separate breakout times. Sessions varied–including using Socratic Seminar, digging into culturally relevant teaching, and deeper explorations of content specific practices and growth mindset.

As experienced talent-spotters, teachers ended the day pondering “I’ve spotted the talent. Now what?”. Invited teachers served as panelists and shared the various ways they’ve developed students’ talents over the years. From genius hour to having students speak at Google Summit, the panelists inspired the audience to think outside the box.

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2018-2019 Talent Development Academy Addition


The TDA team is excited to announce that Hunley Park Elementary in North Charleston will be the newest Talent Development Academy. A warm welcome to Dr. Griggs and the HPES faculty!

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Teachers Germinate through Inquiry


College of Charleston faculty partner, Dr. Meta Van Sickle, facilitated an inquiry-based Science PD through which teachers connected explorations of seeds, acquisition of vocabulary, and literacy to build deeper learning experiences for their students. Jacob’s Ladder-like questions and the Wheel of Scientific Reasoning served as scaffolds for teacher exploration.

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Cohort 3 Teachers Evaluate their Progress & Showcase Successes


In mid-February 2017, teachers from E.B. Ellington and Frierson Elementary schools self-assessed their implementation of select TDA strategies and thinking models (Talk Moves, Literature Webs, Hamburger Models, M2/M3 lessons) and used these assessment findings to set a goal for future development. Additionally, select E.B. Ellington teachers took central stage and presented to their peers on successful lessons they have led with students. For example, one teacher shared how she had used Richard Paul’s Wheel of Reasoning to assist her students in crafting debate arguments from Document-Based Question resources. Another teacher shared the work she and her students had begun exploring the non-cognitive factors on learning (grit, neuropsychology, having a growth orientation towards learning).


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Teachers Explore Culturally Responsive Practice


Towards the end of September 2017, E.B. Ellington and Frierson Elementary school faculties came together to learn more about the three pillars of Talent Development and to dive more deeply into culturally responsive teaching. Using a Literature Web-like model, talent scouts explored their “water,” the elements of their culture that may have shaped or influenced the early development of their talents.

Participants were then encouraged to consider the unspoken and potentially unseen values of their culture of origin, examining how those values impact one’s definitions of “talent” and “potential.” Follow-up activities included exploration of some strategies for identifying and nurturing more diverse potential.

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TDA Hosts Summer Professional Development Sessions


Cohort I Schools – Gaining Speed on the Talent Development Highway

As Angel Oak and Springfield Elementary Schools embark upon their third year as Talent Development Academies, they joined together for a 1-day professional development session on July 25, 2017. The faculties were welcomed by Dr. Fran Welch, Dean, School of Education, Health, and Human Performance, College of Charleston, Dr. Kevin Eakes, Interim Director of Learning Services, Charleston County School District, and Ms. Blondell Adams, Director of Elementary Gifted Programs and Talent Development Academies, Charleston County School District. All leaders recognized the success these schools have shown to date and reminded them of the valuable work of which they are a part. Dr. Anne Gutshall reviewed growth mindset with the group, and took the conversation of motivation and the psychology of learning further through discussion of focused, critical feedback.  She helped teachers recognize the role of feedback in student growth and offered strategies teachers can use to provide growth-promoting feedback.

Teachers broke into smaller, more focused groups to engage in sessions in which they deepened their content area knowledge. Through a conference-style format, teachers chose from a variety of professional development options within each of the day’s different breakout session times, attending sessions that would extend and develop their skills and knowledge. The sessions ranged from an introduction to Talk Moves to differentiation of  ELA and math curricula, to inquiry-based science, Jacob’s Ladder, and growth-oriented mindset. Dr. Gutshall, Heather Grant, Lara Kessler, Lindsey Blackmon, and teacher leaders from both schools led the sessions.

Cohorts II & III – Teachers as Talent Scouts: Finding and Developing Student’s Talents

Cohort 2 and 3 schools, Minnie Hughes Elementary, E.B. Ellington Elementary, and Frierson Elementary, came together on July 26 and 27, 2017, for two days of professional development. Day 1 began with an introduction and welcome by Dr. Fran Welch and Dr. Kevin Eakes. These leaders were joined by Ms. Blondell Adams who shared her experiences as principal of a Talent Development Academy and offered words of support and encouragement as schools embark on the journey of becoming a Talent Development Academy.

Teachers learned about the three pillars of Talent Development and better understood the background of earlier work on which the Talent Development Academy Project is founded. Dr. Anne Gutshall, College of Charleston Faculty Partner, talked with teachers about brain basics, neuroplasticity, and motivating students through a focus on effort and growth.  On Day 2, Dr. Meta Van Sickle, College of Charleston Faculty Partner, facilitated a discussion on cultural competency hosting teacher panelists Tonya McIntyre, Sean Polgar, and Alexis Duncan as they shared their personal and professional experiences. During each afternoon on both days, teachers broken into grade level groups  (K-2 and 3-5) to explore the basics of powerful curriculum in ELA and math. Teachers left the two day professional development with ideas, materials, and instruction tools to test student responses to thinking models and engaged classroom discussion.



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Celebrating the 2016-17 Work of Talent Scouts


In May of 2017 with the generous support of Dean Frances Welch and the College of Charleston’s School of Education and Human Development, TDA hosted the faculties of Springfield, Angel Oak, and Minnie Hughes Elementary Schools at the College of Charleston North Campus. Teachers were celebrated with wine and cheese as we reflected on their commitment, hard work, and growth throughout the school year.

“When they made that connection, I knew some positive things had happened this year…” – Gregory Taylor, AOES

“Students have transformed from ‘message getters’ to ‘message creators’.” – Emma Tartt, SES

“You don’t just want the answer. You want the conversation.” – Kelley Wildman, AOES

“With TDA, all the light bulbs got turned-on.” – Yahkiah Johnson, MHES

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E.B. Ellington and Edith L. Frierson Elementary Schools Join the TDA Project


E.B. Ellington Elementary, led by Principal Wanda Hughes, and Dr. Deborah Fickling’s faculty of Edith L. Frierson Elementary have been selected as the newest Talent Development Academies. Congratulations!

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Teachers Grow their Knowledge and Skills in the First Semester 2016


Deepening, Strengthening, and Honing Talent Development at Springfield and Angel Oak Elementary

In the fall of 2016, Cohort 1 Academy teachers at Angel Oak and Springfield Elementary Schools have been deepening, strengthening, and honing their talent-scouting and development skills. On October 26, 2016, teachers at both schools took part in an innovative half-day professional development session conducted virtually via Google Drive. The goals of the PD were to provide a forum for teacher collaboration, planning and leadership, and to explore the uses of fidelity checks.

Using the virtual, hot-linked instructions and examples provided, teams of teachers at both schools were able to create 2nd quarter long-range plans with evidence of TDA incorporation in multiple content areas, to draft one week’s worth of TDA lesson plans, and to describe how they plan on using fidelity checks to ensure TDA models and curricula are being used as intended. Teachers in Residence, Lindsey Blackmon and Lara Kessler served as on-site PD facilitators during the ½ day, working with groups of teachers at either Springfield Elementary or Angel Oak Elementary. Dr. Swanson visited both schools.

Virtual “exit tickets” were provided to individual teachers via Google Forms at the close of the ½ day Professional Development, and teachers reported greatly enjoying and benefitting from the virtual, co-planning PD time. One teacher commented,  “It was extremely helpful to be able to work with my grade level to plan out how we would implement TDA for the remainder of the year.”  Another shared that the PD was a “great way to HAVE to sort all this stuff out,” adding “There are so many times that we would like to talk about these topics but we have so many other things we need to do. It was great to have time to actually sit down and do it.”

In November and December of 2016, over 20 TDA teachers signed up for thirty minute fidelity check observations conducted by Lindsey Blackmon and Lara Kessler. Observation notes, fidelity check data, and next steps for development were discussed by the TDA teacher and TDA coaches in follow-up meetings.  Those data will be used as the basis for greater individualized professional development in the future. Teachers seemed genuinely receptive to the feedback and appreciated the opportunity to hone their skills. As one teacher noted, Thank you all for the great feedback! I definitely realize I struggle with remaining neutral for student responses. It’s tough to do when you’re excited about their great insight! I’ll definitely work on this because I know it will lead to deeper conversations.”

Teachers at Minnie Hughes: Gaining Momentum!

By practicing the approaches and models introduced in July 2016, strengthened by a variety of fall PD sessions, the Minnie Hughes teachers are gaining momentum in their development as talent developers and talent scouts. Each K-5 teacher received professional development in the Mentoring Mathematical Minds unit specific to their grade level by mid-September 2016. Some began implementing the unit immediately, while others will incorporate the unit where it best correlates to their grade level pacing guides. All teachers are implementing Talk Moves and seeing the power of this instructional strategy. Teachers shared the following comments:

“This is beginning to become a part of the classroom culture. I have also been encouraging students to respectfully explain their thinking as well as why they disagree with another student’s idea.”

“I have been using the talk moves around open-ended problems during the math block to deepen the students thinking. The students are really getting used to using agree and disagree in their sentences…The students are now using it without me having to prompt them and I LOVE IT.”

During an afterschool professional development session in late September 2016, teachers explored the Teacher’s Observation of Potential in Students (TOPS), a tool designed to help teachers recognize potential in all students. As a faculty, teachers introduced and discussed the nine domains in which students demonstrate potential. Minnie Hughes teachers are using this resource in their classrooms to record interactions in which a student shows strength and/or potential.

In November 2016, the TDA team along with the Minnie Hughes faculty and Principal Berry, came together after school to revisit Talk Moves. Talk Moves, conversational prompts designed by Mentoring Mathematical Minds, are used to create more student-to-student interactions and deepen understanding by way of discussion. During the professional development session, teachers watched videos in which Talk Moves were used purposefully to highlight a correct response or redirect a misconception. In all instances, the teacher kept a “poker face” and allowed the students’ interactions to drive the analysis or problem solving. Minnie Hughes teachers are continuing to build the use of Talk Moves within their classrooms, in all content areas.

One teacher shared the following about her use of Talk Moves with her students:

I have also been using them when discussing Yolanda’s Genius. We have really been stressing using agree/disagree with [another student’s] “idea” and not just that person. So far, it has shown that students are being more respectful in their discussions, and more students are offering up ideas and concepts in discussion. I have also been working on wait time and my poker face, which I have found to be difficult but seems to slow the discussion down and allows more students to process and take ownership of what we are learning.”

In preparation for the third quarter, Minnie Hughes teachers took part in an ELA-focused professional development just before the winter break. K-2 teachers studied examples from Jacob’s Ladder Reading Comprehension Program as a means of developing their own Navigator-like questions and scaffolds. Grades 3-5 teachers explored units designed to explore a central concept through a variety of texts. The units, created by the College of William and Mary focus upon literary analysis, persuasive writing, linguistic and communication development, and reasoning and understanding skills specific to the overarching concept of change. 4th and 5th grade Science and Social Studies teachers practiced elevating the rigor of their questioning using Jacob’s Ladder Reading Comprehension Program. We expect that the units will be taught during the third nine weeks.

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Summer Professional Development Inspires Talent Scouts


Teachers as Talent Scouts:  Finding & Developing Students’ Talents

Talent Development Academy project held summer professional development for the newest TDA, Minnie Hughes Elementary, on July 25 and 26, 2016.  Dr. Frances Welch, Dean, School of Education, Health, and Human Performance, College of Charleston, and Ms. Mary Runyon, Associate Superintendent of Learning Services, Charleston County Schools, welcomed teachers and Principal Bridget Berry to TDA.  Over the two days, Dr. Julie Dingle Swanson talked with teachers, providing a big picture overview of the Talent Development Academy Project.  Dr. Lara Kessler facilitated a discussion by a Teacher Panel of Talent Scouts, Gregory Taylor, Tiffany Shepard, Graylon Nell, Emma Armstrong, and Marie Sanders.  These Cohort One TDA teachers talked about their experiences in their first year of TDA (2015-16).  They shared learning how to recognize talent in students.  Some spoke about shifting how they teach, giving over more of the responsibility for learning to their students, not being the “sole giver of knowledge,”  and how that shift allowed them to see increased student curiosity and engagement.  On July 26, we had Conversations on Cultural Competency with teachers Karen Pickering, Tonya McIntyre, and Jennifer Waldron.  These teacher leaders shared their perspectives on what we can do to promote a more inclusive learning environment for all.

Teachers chat during break.

Teachers chat during break.

Dr. Anne Gutshall spoke to teachers on both days, starting with Neuroscience for Teachers on July 25 and addressing Motivating students to reach their potential on July 26.

Anne Gutshalll shares her expertise.

Anne Gutshalll shares her expertise.

Each afternoon was spent with Teachers in Residence Lara Kessler and Lindsey Blackmon leading content strand sessions in English/Language Arts and Mathematics,  exploring with Minnie Hughes teachers how to use inquiry-based, conceptual teaching.  Teachers left ready to try out new instructional strategies and motivational approaches.  Resources from these sessions found under RESOURCE tab.



On the Road to Talent Development:  Building on What We Know About Developing Students’ Talents

After a warm welcome by Associate Superintendent Mary Runyon on July 27 and 28, 2016, Angel Oak and Springfield Elementary school faculties worked on deepening their skills and knowledge of how to spot and develop talent in their students.  Keynote speakers Dr. Anne Gutshall (Praise, Reward and Classroom Management in the Context of Talent Development) and Dr. Meta Van Sickle (A Thinking Model for Teachers Using Talent Development Processes) challenged teachers to build on their own understandings, apply new ideas, and continue their professional growth.


Teachers ponder thought provoking ideas shared by speakers.

Each afternoon, teachers attended content break out sessions  to extend what they learned to date.  Content experts Karen Reed, Heather Grant, Lara Kessler, Lindsey Blackmon, Denise Zacherl, and Meta Van Sickle led those sessions.  Teachers at these schools will be fully implementing TDA curriculum this year. Resources from these sessions found under RESOURCE tab.

Teachers listen to recommendations about praise and motivation.

Teachers take note of  recommendations on praise and motivation.


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