SIG eNewsletter: The Gifted Student

November 2014

Sponsored by the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC)

In this issue:

SIG is a program of NSGT, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization

From the President's Desk

A letter from Barbara Swicord, President of SIG:

If you think of a November holiday, itís probably Thanksgiving, with good reason. After all, Thanksgiving is a national holiday and has a quite wonderful theme of gratitude for all the good things in our lives. This month is a great opportunity here at SIG to express our appreciation for our wonderful students and families, our fulltime and summertime employees, and our fantastic partners at our campuses, as well as in other countries. Everyone works together to create opportunities for experiences that advance the potential of our amazing young people.

But, are you also aware that most every other day of the month has some special attachment to it? I want to highlight a few days that might have special application to our particular mission of helping gifted students.

There are a couple of days devoted to world peace. November 17 is World Peace Day, started by Don Morris of Miami, Florida, around 1997. He encourages us to promote peace through ourselves by being kind and teaching others to be peaceful. Additionally, World Hello Day, created by Brian McCormack and Michael McCormack during the 1973 conflict between Egypt and Israel, takes place on November 21 and asks each of us to greet ten people for peace on this day. Simply saying hello to at least ten people starts the communication process so important to world peace. We certainly want our children to inherit as peaceful a world as possible.

In recognition of these two daysí efforts, perhaps in your home or classroom you can create your own grass roots peace strategies that also stimulate your creative and intellectual juices. Gifted students often have a great sense of concern about critical issues in the world. Participating in potential solutions to those problems allows them to put their emotions and energy into productive activity, and can be empowering.

On a much lighter note and highlighting the great sense of humor that our students possess, we must pause a minute to enjoy Absurdity Day on November 20. Celebrate this day in an absurd manneródo something senseless, illogical, and fun. Who knows? If you stretch outside your norm, you may experience a pleasant surprise, an "aha" moment, or simply a good laugh.

Finally, because we focus on children, we canít ignore Universal Childrenís Day on November 20 as well. An absurd or logical connection to the aforementioned special day? You be the judge! Anyway, in 1954, the UN General Assembly recommended that all countries should establish a Universal Children's Day on an "appropriate" day. The resolution was adopted on November 20, 1954. There are many days in several countries that celebrate children. Here at SIG we celebrate gifted children every day in every way. So, with an eye toward peace and absurdity, we strive to create programs and services that deal with serious and important issues at the challenging levels that our gifted youth require, while at the same time embracing what is unique, perhaps quirky and amusing, and special about each one of them. We hope you have a peaceful, grateful month, with a large dose of humor thrown in.

Barbara Swicord
President, Summer Institute for the Gifted

Kevin's Korner

Hello again everyone!

Sometimes the fall and winter school seasons can present the dilemma of gifted students beginning to manifest signs of underachievement in their studies. While we hope you are not finding yourself, and your family, in this position, we thought this would be an appropriate time to share some thoughts on the topic.

First, letís define what we mean by gifted underachiever. A simple definition would be that the student is performing under the level at which he or she seems capable of achieving success. An operational definition considers that there is a significant difference between potential and actual performance, however measured, and generally would be the difference of one or more years. Any useful definition will include the need for early identification and intervention to prevent loss of productive activity.

Underachievement should be considered specific to individual courses and academic disciplines, and we must be careful not to generalize students as all-around "underachievers." This type of labeling ignores studentsí positive aspects, and may damage their pride and inspiration to persevere in challenging areas. Such inspiration can help blaze pathways to academic confidence and ultimate success, and we can foster it by encouraging students both when they are experiencing difficulties and when their attitude and/or performance shifts in promising directions.

Gifted children usually flourish in mutually-respectful environments supported by practical, fair rules and systems, featuring encouragement and feedback. Many such children benefit from adults willing to listen to their questions without commenting quickly, as such questions are often followed rapidly by childrenís opinions, and immediate adult answers may inhibit their willingness to offer them. To foster confidence in their academic and other thoughts, and a generally inquisitive spirit, make sure to listen carefully to such questions and be enthusiastic about your childrenís observations.

Gifted students may be more interested in learning than in obtaining impressive grades. They might spend days on academic pursuits unrelated to school and ignore required work. While such students should be encouraged to pursue their passions, they must know that teachers may not be as accommodating as others when required work is not submitted. Sometimes, making explicit the connection between completing assignments and achieving future career aims can help inspire further interest in school-based success. Providing authentic experiences in areas of potential career interest may also motivate improved school-based academic engagement.

Provide your children with many opportunities (both school-based and entirely apart from school) to succeed, foster a sense of accomplishment and belief in themselves, and guide them toward activities and goals that reflect their values, genuine interests, and needs. Counterproductive pressure may occur when exclusive emphasis and praise are placed on winning awards and obtaining exemplary grades. Make sure to offer your children encouragement that emphasizes effort and highlights steps taken toward accomplishing goals, and tell them when you are proud of their efforts. Finally, make sure to help involve them in social activities they will enjoy. Like everyone, gifted children need to feel connected to others who are supportive.

Gifted students who appear not to be achieving at their optimum come in all varieties. Some learn well in highly structured academic environments, but may underachieve if they canít establish priorities, focus on a few key activities, or set long-term goals. On the other hand, some students who seem to be underachieving are not uncomfortable or discouraged. They may feel uneasy in some learning environments, but happy and successful in others with different structural organizations. Some may handle independence quite well, while others may not. Underachievement often involves an intricate structure of circumstances, but ultimately can be turned around by those who consider studentsí individual strengths and talents, and take them into account when strategizing to help develop their confidence and inspire their interest in school-based learning.

If you feel that your child is underachieving at school, here are a few suggestions you might want to consider:

  1. Collaborate with your childís teacher(s) to arrive at a learning plan that will capture your childís individual interests. Such a shift may help increase academic engagement.

  2. Speak with your child about his or her career and other personal interests, and work with your child to create opportunities inside and outside of the school curriculum to explore them, emphasizing the importance of school achievement in reaching objectives.

  3. Focus on, and celebrate, your childís academic successes rather than excessively or exclusively on areas presenting difficulties. Boosting self-esteem is a key ingredient in fighting underachievement.

  4. Involve your child in healthy, stimulating social activities to help develop and maintain a network of peers and other individuals who can provide support and understanding.

  5. Be patient. Underachievement may take time to reverse, and an expectation of immediate results will likely place more pressure on your child, potentially creating an increasingly difficult situation.

Kevin Wickersham
Academic Director
Summer Institute for the Gifted

Be SIGnificant – Support Gifted Education T-shirt Booster!

Help Raise Scholarship Funds for Gifted and Talented Students!

The National Society for the Gifted and Talented believes that all gifted students, regardless of their financial situation, should be able to experience the academic rigor and enrichment that they deserve. As such, we strive to provide as much scholarship funding as we possibly can so that these students may attend gifted and talented programs.

Each shirt purchased from this Booster campaign will go toward scholarships that will directly benefit the lives of gifted youth, specifically for students interested in the Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG) Online program. If you are able, we encourage you to purchase one or more and show your support proudly. By reaching our goal, we can fully sponsor many deserving, motivated children to take a SIG online course.

100% of all funds raised will go to NSGT scholarships for the SIG Online program.

Order your SIG T-shirt today

Campus Spotlight: UCLA

The University of California Los Angeles, established in 1919, is the most applied-to university in the U.S. From its celebrated faculty to its super high-achieving students, from its distinguished alumni to its myriad contributions to the community, UCLA has attained a stature in the last century to which most institutions of higher education can only aspire.

Fun Facts!

  • Alumni include: Francis Ford Coppola, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Tom Anderson (creator of MySpace), just to name a few.
  • UCLA's Office of Intellectual Property has a total invention portfolio numbering 1,560.
  • SIG has been on campus since 2004!

SIG offers many options for students who wish to attend this program:

  • Residential Program for students ages 9-17
    Students choosing this option will participate in the full curriculum of SIG including the 4-period academic day, evening programs, Saturday Get-Away Day and Weekend Activity Day. Students live on campus in dormitories.

  • Day Commuter Program for students ages 9-17 (8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.)
    Commuter students participate in the full 4-period academic day, lunch and recreation period. They do not participate in any weekend or evening activities. Commuter students must be dropped off at 8:30 a.m. and picked up at 5:30 p.m.

  • Extended Commuter Program for students ages 9-17 (8:30 a.m. - 9:15 p.m.)
    Extended commuter students will participate in the full 4-period academic day, lunch, recreation period, dinner and all evening activities, as well as the Saturday Get-Away Day trip. Extended commuters do not reside on campus or take part in Sunday activities.

Please call 866.303.4744 today for more information or visit our website.

Meet the 2015 SIG Program Directors!

SIG Program Directors oversee specific campus programs. We are proud to announce the 2015 Summer Program Directors. They are:

Hillary Jade
Manages: Bryn Mawr College, Princeton University, University of Miami, University of Chicago, Stuart Country Day School, Weiss School

Fifteen years after being a camper, I returned to Summer Institute for the Gifted as a Program Director to give students the same wonderful opportunities I had. I am originally from Olympia, Washington, but have spent ten years of my life living, working, and studying in Germany. I earned my B.A. with honors in German from the University of Puget Sound and my M.A. in German from Middlebury College. Before joining SIG, I was a Fulbright Fellow in Hamburg, Germany, a Teaching Fellow at Phillips Academy Andover, a foreign language instructor and residential assistant at Salem International College in Germany, and a full-time ESL teacher and exam preparation coach in Hamburg, Germany. In 2015, I will serve as the Program Director for SIG at Princeton University, Bryn Mawr College, The University of Chicago, Stuart Country Day School, and the new Florida programs at The University of Miami and The Weiss School. Additionally, I am responsible for residential life oversight for all SIG residential programs, as well as alumni relations. And last but certainly not least, I am a proud alumna of SIG at Pacific Lutheran University 1998 and 1999!

For the 2015 season, I am not only excited to work with my veteran staff at our established programs, but also to get three new programs in Florida up and running. One of my favorite things about being a Program Director is that each program has its own distinct feel, and the uniqueness of each program shines through in the campus, the staff, and the students. I am excited to see our new Florida programs succeed and provide students from all over the world with a wonderful SIG experience.

Erika Paine
Manages: Emory University, Boston University Academy, Hudson School, Oak Hill Academy, Woods Academy

I became a Program Director for SIG in the summer of 2014. My prior experiences as an Assistant Director of Academic Services and Standardized Test Preparation have equipped me with a good understanding of studentsí academic potential and goals which I would like to apply and further build on in my current role. I spent the first 19 years of my life in Slovakia, and upon relocating to the U.S., I went on to earn a Bachelor's Degree in Human Services from the University of Connecticut, and a Master's Degree in Higher and Post-Secondary Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. I am a member of Mensa International and will serve as the Program Director for SIG at Emory University, Boston University Academy, The Hudson School, Oak Hill Academy and The Woods Academy. In addition, I will take part in the academic planning activities for SIGís summer programs. In my free time, I like to travel, read, and participate in a variety of group fitness classes.

For the 2015 season, I am looking forward to working with the staff, students, and parents from all of my six programs. I am excited to get to know the campuses, participate in creating the academic portfolios of our classes, and plan out the functions and details of each program as we are preparing for the next busy summer season.

Matthew Patrick
Manages: UC Berkeley, UCLA, Corbett Prep School of IDS, Out-of-Door Academy, Overlake School, Sierra Canyon School

I first joined The Summer Institute for the Gifted in 2011 as an instructor of Cosmology and Physics at Yale University. From there, I became Program Director for SIG's west coast programs. Prior to SIG I was a full-time high school teacher. I taught in New York for 2 years and 1 more year in Stamford, CT, as a Mathematics and Physics instructor. My journey into education was preceded by an interesting exploration of nanotechnologies. In 2009 I received a dual BS from SUNY at Albany in Math and Physics. During my undergraduate years I was an independent research student and performed material analysis at SUNY's 5-Mev Ion Beam Lab. In my senior year, I decided that I needed a little more interaction with other people, and that spending 13-hr days, 80 ft. beneath the earth's surface was just not for me. I decided to enter the university's school of Educational Theory and Practice. I coupled the experience with an accompanying MA degree in mathematics, allowing me to pursue college-level instructor positions.

The journey to SIG has been long and fun, but I truly enjoy being able to work with staff and students from all over the world. Beginning my 3rd year, I now have the responsibilities of being the technology expert for SIG; managing additional sites in Florida; and providing the lead for all Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum development for SIG's programs.

My passion for engineering lies now in my personal life. I truly enjoy automotives and fast cars, and DIY home improvements. One large passion of mine is soccer. I played throughout my entire life and into college but currently am coaching for Stamford Youth Soccer. Another lifestyle of mine is fitness: athletic weightlifting and crossfit training. Finally, I am actively involved in my church and co-lead a youth group there.

Shayla Williams
Manages: Vassar College, Yale University, Fairfield University, Rippowam Cisqua School, Sarah Lawrence College

Fostering strong communities through education and civic participation has always been my calling. I earned my B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Africana Studies from Williams College. Since then, I have worked with various non-profit and government entities such as the City of Hartford, AmeriCorps, and University of Connecticut's Upward Bound to develop and improve their education and community service programming. In July 2014, I was warmly welcomed to the SIG team as the Program Director at Fairfield University, Rippowam Cisqua School, Sarah Lawrence College, Vassar College and Yale University. I also have a deep love of the arts. In my spare time I am frequently found scribing poetry in coffee shops, performing at open mics, or visiting art galleries and performances.

For the 2015 summer, I am very excited to get to know each campus and ensure that SIG student activities promote positive social and emotional development by keeping activities happy, safe, and fun!

Puzzle Corner

How many miles should it be to Georgia on this strange signpost?

Submit your answer online at The first student who submits the correct answer will receive recognition in the next issue of The Gifted Student!


Last Month's Puzzle

In which direction should the missing arrow point?

A: North. Starting in the top left-hand corner then running along the top row and returning along the second row etc., the arrows rotate anticlockwise pointing north, west, south and east.

Congratulations to Erika from Mickleton, NJ, for being the first to respond with the correct answer to last month's puzzle!

NSGT Seeks Candidates for the Board of Trustees

The National Society for the Gifted and Talented is seeking interested candidates to serve on its Board of Trustees. Candidate approvals will be held at the Board meeting in New York in March 2015.


The NSGT Board of Trustees is responsible for implementing the mission of the organization. All board members must:

  • Possess a passion for advocating for the advancement of gifted and talented students across the globe.
  • Advance the mission of NSGT by extending personal and professional credibility, expertise, and resources.
  • Think broadly and strategically about the role of gifted education generally and NSGT specifically.

NSGT is committed to recruiting volunteer board members from ethnically diverse communities who can travel within the Northeast and who also represent a broad spectrum of professions. The board is particularly interested in maintaining a diverse perspective and in involving persons who have influence within their professional circles.


  • Board term: 3 years
  • Ability to attend Board meetings held twice each year, once in NYC and once in Boston
  • Availability to participate in fundraising and development, either through personal giving, fundraising activity, or philanthropic connections
  • Willingness to market NSGT programs through personal connections or recommended activity suggested to NSGT staff

If you are interested in serving on the NSGT Board of Trustees, or if you would like to recommend a candidate, please contact Barbara Swicord, Executive Director of NSGT, at She will follow up with more information and answers to questions. Interested parties are encouraged to review the NSGT website at

Anticipated schedule:

  • November – January: Potential candidates interviewed by phone
  • February: Nominating committee submits recommended new list of Trustees to the current NSGT Board of Trustees
  • March: Candidates elected at the Board meeting with orientation to be scheduled
  • March – October 2015: New Trustees engage in Board work and attend first meeting in Boston in the fall.

Connect with SIG on Social Media!

Social media is a driving force in many of our lives. Here at the Summer Institute for the Gifted, we see it as a great way to connect with those who are just as passionate about gifted education as we are!

We often hear from parents of alumni that SIG summers were some of the best their children ever had! If you are a SIG parent, we encourage you to pass this along to your current or former student(s) so that they can stay up-to-date on SIG happenings.

Through social media outlets, SIG provides updates on everything from gifted education resources to details about our various programs, from puzzles and learning strategies to event announcements across the country. Stay connected with us throughout the entire year by following us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn!

SIG on Facebook:
SIG on Twitter:
SIG on LinkedIn:

The Summer Institute for the Gifted is a program of the National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT), a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization.

We look forward to connecting with you!

Upcoming Conferences & Events


The Learning Edge: Annual Administrator's Conference
November 18, 2014
"Digging Deeper, Reaching Higher: Serving the Needs of Gifted Students," Keynote: Ian Byrd
McKay School of Education, Provo, Utah

MIT Museum's F.A.T. Chain Reaction
November 28, 2014
A grand event that could only happen at MIT! Participants link their mini chain reactions together forming one mega chain reaction – set off at the end as the event's thrilling culmination. Participants range from Girl Scout troops to artists and engineers, from MIT clubs to high schools and family teams. Teams come from all over the U.S.! Register to build a link in the chain reaction or just attend as a spectator.


TAGT Professional Development Conference for Educators & Parents
December 3 - 5, 2014
Fort Worth Convention Center, Fort Worth, Texas

TAGT Parent Mini-Conference
December 5, 2014
Keynote: Scott Barry Kaufman
Fort Worth Convention Center, Fort Worth, Texas

South Carolina Consortium for Gifted Education Annual Conference
December 9 - 10, 2014
"Em-POW-ering: Superheroes in the Gifted Classroom!" Dynamic Duo (December 9): Del Siegle and Tamra Stambaugh??, Fantastic Four (December 10): Brian Housand, Angela Housand, Ian Byrd, Lisa Van Gemert
The Marriott Hotel, Columbia, South Carolina

Vanderbilt Gifted Education Institute
December 11- 12, 2014
"Models for Developing Talent: Providing Access for Low Income Gifted Students"
Nashville, Tennessee

Indiana Association for the Gifted
December 15 - 16, 2014
Indianapolis Downtown Marriott, Indianapolis, Indiana

Spread the News!

If you are excited about what you have seen in The Gifted Student newsletter, please share it with your friends. Or send us their names and email addresses, and we'll put them on our email list. Write to Michelle Holleran at with "The Gifted Student" in the subject line to subscribe.