The UA Gifted and Talented Summer Enrichment Workshop: Enriching Teachers, Students and the Community

Summer Enrichment WorkshopEvery summer students enrolled in UA's Special Education Gifted and Talented master's degree program provide an opportunity for children in grades K-8 to participate in a broad range of interactive, hands-on courses. The Summer Enrichment Workshop, held at Mathews Elementary School in Tuscaloosa, Alabama gives graduate students the chance to apply concepts and principles learned in class.

“SEW is a true hands-on field experience, where you get the opportunity to put into practice all of the theoretical ideas discussed in class,” said Emily Waymire, a student intern in the 2014 SEW. “The environment is very nurturing and allows you to try new teaching techniques that you haven't used before.”

Teaching in SEW Allows You to Explore Teaching Strategies

Teacher and studentsSEW student interns teach classes that go beyond the bounds of the normal classroom environment. Course topics include advertising, culture, forensics, space, oceanography and photography, among others. Student interns lead the classroom instruction but are mentored by key professors and master teachers - highly trained and talented teachers who volunteer their time to help other teachers be their best. Through this experience student interns receive immediate feedback.

“The class that I am teaching is about culture,” said Ashley Williams, student intern. “We are learning about different education systems around the world, especially about how girls in some countries aren't allowed to get an education, which is mind-blowing for these students. We talk about government and religious policies that keep these girls from going to school. The students ask, ‘Why? Why can I go to school and they can't?' Later we will talk about some intercultural misconceptions, such as racism and sexism, that often put barriers in the way of us trying to help one another,” Williams said.

She continued, “SEW has given me a taste of what it's like to run my own classroom. I plan to use the expectations that I set for my students this summer in my own classroom as a part of my classroom management system because it seems to work well. They love not having formal rules,” she said.

Waymire had more to add, “Participating in SEW has helped me learn to effectively implement critical thinking and problem solving strategies, and develop curriculum units that can enrich students' general academic knowledge. For some teachers at SEW, like myself, this is the first time that we have been able to work with a homogenous group of gifted students in a setting that is not constricted by the typical school setting such as scheduling and testing.”

Living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for a Month is Feasible Regardless of Your Situation

Teacher with group of studentsFor some potential students, leaving their families for a month to live in Tuscaloosa while teaching SEW classes causes some concern, but students find a way to make it work. They are housed in the UA suite-style dormitories where they have a kitchenette, a living room, four bedrooms and two bathrooms. Students are allowed to bring their families, and many do.

Teresa Harris, an MA student with a family said that it was hard to leave them at first, but she went on to describe a great experience where she was able to focus on what she was learning and bond with other students. To study with classmates she simply walked down the hall. Collaboration became easier.

“I have really missed my family; however this experience has been smooth, and I have had so much support from my classmates and the faculty,” she said. "I have built so many friendships. I think that we will continue our friendships and stay in touch.”

Harris brought her daughter. Other students bring their children, and sometimes even their spouses.

"The Summer Enrichment Workshop sold me on The University of Alabama. I am able to teach for three weeks at an elementary school and get to know other people and students I would never have had the opportunity to meet. I also am able to receive immediate feedback,” Harris said.

The featured students graduated in 2014 and are using their degrees to advance their careers and provide their students with creative and challenging learning opportunities. To read each person's story, click here.