With the excitement of the start of a new school year, West Manor Elementary School (West Manor) has an equally exciting addition to celebrate.
Seventeen new students have been added to their already impressive number of Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program students, bringing the total to a notable 40 scholars.
The Georgia Department of Education defines a gifted education student as one who “demonstrates a high degree of intellectual and/or creative ability(ies)” and excels academically through specialized instruction and services. The GATE program within Atlanta Public Schools (APS) ensures all eligible students in grades 1 through 12 are exposed to this curriculum and receive personalized learning strategies.
With a modest population of around 300 students, West Manor’s GATE population is the largest in the Mays Cluster and has the largest increase of all Title I schools district-wide. They also have the highest percentage of students in the district meeting their growth targets for the MAP assessment in math at 64%, with third graders leading the way at 73%, meeting or exceeding growth expectations.
The increase in gifted students can be attributed to the faculty’s commitment to practicing social and emotional learning, capitalizing on the assistance of their Student Support Team and assessing each child wholistically to determine their educational needs.
In addition, Carla Anderson, West Manor’s gifted and talented educator, shares a large portion of the credit by infusing creativity, critical thinking, and interest-based lessons to enrich the learning experience.
These innovative teaching practices create an environment where students are able to truly excel at their own pace.
“We have exposed all our students to [the] gifted strategies,” Dr. Reginald Lawrence, principal of West Manor Elementary said. “Our gifted teacher goes in every class, and the kids that are not gifted receive what’s called talent development, and we find different ways where they may qualify to be a gifted student.”
The investment in each student has positively affected West Manor’s English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students and English Language Learner (ELL) students as well, by tapping into their creativity and their scholastic achievement.
“We have the largest ESOL population [in the Mays Cluster for elementary schools],” Dr. Lawrence said. “We’ve identified gifted ESOL students. [They] have a language barrier, but [are] still gifted. And they have some of the highest growth in the district as far as math and ELL. So, we’re an unknown gem.”
West Manor’s equity is achieved through its International Baccalaureate (IB) signature program with the goal of removing barriers through inclusivity. Utilizing a 45-minute teaching block as an Inquiry Lab, Anderson will enter the classroom and rotate throughout the day incorporating the specialized curriculum.
“I’ll go into their rooms, and sometimes it’s science-based, but I’ll infuse creativity,” Anderson said. “I’ll do critical thinking skills. We also do things with technology, where we [use] some things with gears and things like that. This year, we’re doing things with Legos. They do coding. So they do some cool stuff.”
This year, West Manor’s students can expect to “Drop the MIC” which stands for Motivation, Integration and Creativity. By teaching foundational debate and utilizing tools like Legos and robotics, Anderson’s Inquiry Lab will be teaching students lessons that their teachers can carry over into their classroom.
The concept included collaborative planning between Anderson and the other teachers.
“We have a really good group of teachers and I think they push [students] beyond. They make them think,” Anderson said. “We have great enrichment teachers. Music teacher, art teacher. They [all] do things, so I think collectively it all comes together.”
In celebration of their ability to work together and achieve high standards of equity for their students, the faculty of West Manor was surprised on July 27 with breakfast and a visit from Atlanta WSB-TV Channel 2 Morning News Anchor Lori Wilson.
Wilson shared her admiration for their calling to teach and dedication to showing each student love and patience.
“I know the difference that having someone believe in me made in my life,” Wilson said, as she shared a personal story of her second and third grade teacher, Ms. Robins, who identified her need for creative expression and allowed her to entertain her classmates.
She also acknowledged West Manor’s students and faculty for the success of their GATE program.
“I understand that you have an increase of gifted students here,” Wilson said. “Seventeen more students that were identified simply because they were exposed. And that makes all the difference.”