About The Gifted Teacher

The local hero that made it all happen

About The Gifted Teacher

Andria Andros

Hi, my name is Andria Andros and I am gifted. When Damian started talking about building the Spaulding School of the Arts I brought him the idea of adding a gifted program and he let me run with it and develop the program from the ground up to be everything I wish I had when I was a kid.

I grew up with what passes for gifted programs in the public school system. The gifted program itself was only Friday mornings and all they did was let us choose something to research. There was very little guidance and little point to anything we did. The teacher was mean and very condescending and did not understand us at all. She reminded me of the characters in the movie Matilda when they say “I’m big, you're little. I'm smart, you're dumb. I'm right, you're wrong, and there's nothing you can do about it". Sadly this is all too often the attitude teachers have towards gifted students as they can’t handle being outsmarted by a 10yr old. During regular classes the rest of the week, my teachers would just give me more of the same work to do, which made no sense as, especially in math, I was bored after about the 10th question and would regularly get in trouble for not completing homework because they didn’t understand that for a gifted mind, when you understand it perfectly after the first few questions you answered, having to do 50 more of the same thing was just torture. I would also have to fight with teachers for marks as I would either unknowingly skip steps or just find an easier way to do it and would lose marks because I didn’t use the “proper” formula or didn’t show every step of work as they wanted it, because apparently it didn’t matter if I could get the answer right every time with half the number of steps in half the amount of time. Because it wasn’t their way, it was “wrong". But for me, not getting 100% on something was like the end of the world so I would have to fight endlessly for the marks I deserved.

My teachers really didn’t understand me or know what to do with me. My school wouldn’t allow skipping grades, so when I was done Friday's work by Tuesday my teachers would give me trouble for working too far ahead. Then because they wouldn’t let me go any farther, I would pull out a book to read to keep myself busy, only to have some teachers get upset and tell me I couldn’t read because it was math time and it wasn’t fair to the other students. So my mom bought me workbooks for the next grade, which I would also get in trouble for because the teachers said then I will be too far ahead next year and have the same issue. I would resort to hiding these workbooks and working on them inside my desk when the teacher wasn’t looking. So more often than not my teachers, not knowing what to do with me, would loan me out to other teachers to act as a teachers assistant to help other classes with different projects or art classes or to essentially act as a special ed. teacher to help friends with learning disabilities complete their work. Sometimes other teachers didn’t have anything for me to do so I would go help with filing and photocopying and things in the office. By grade 8 they even let me answer the phone. I felt like I could practically run the place myself, which was fun and all, getting to do things no other kid was allowed to do, however this was not in any way benefiting me intellectually or academically.

High school was a little better. I switched to a different school board with a better gifted program that actually grouped gifted students into core subject classes together (English, science, math, and geography) and those classes worked at a faster pace than regular academic classes. Our teachers were clearly not gifted themselves, but at least most of them learned to go with the flow with our odd ways of doing things and worked with us instead of against us. However in the rest of the classes outside of those 4 subjects, I was still done Friday's work by Tuesday so, again, my teachers would let me go help other teachers or help in the office. I would do photocopying and marking for my teacher friends, and filing and stuff in both the regular office and counselling office. Again, by grade 12 I could just walk in and do whatever I wanted and could practically run the place. So while it did give me more opportunities with those few classes, it still fell well short of fulfilling my needs as a gifted student.

When I started doing research to develop the gifted program for the Spaulding School of the Arts, one of my tasks was to call public schools that had gifted programs to see what they were offering for gifted students. Trying to get any information out of anyone was worse than pulling teeth. It felt like gifted programs were like some secret society that no one wanted to admit existed. It was as if they didn’t want to acknowledge these programs, didn’t want anyone to really know about them like they just wanted to hide the fact that there were gifted students in their school and not acknowledge their existence in any way. I was also told by multiple schools that their programs were full so there was no point in giving me any info for a program that isn’t taking new students, which meant that who knows how many gifted students were being denied access to gifted education. How many people and politicians would be up in arms if they found out even one special needs child was being denied devices in school, yet no one bats an eye when gifted students are left to founder in a system that doesn’t work for them. It was so disheartening that this was the attitude towards gifted education and so sad that clearly nothing had changed since I was in school and so many other kids were probably still fighting the same battles I did.

So when I started developing this gifted program, my number one goal was to give my students everything I didn’t have when I was a kid: having a gifted teacher who actually understands them, being able to work at whatever level they are at no matter what grade they should be in based on their age, having special interest based projects that actually have a purpose, having a classroom with resources and technology that suit their needs so there is never a shortage of learning opportunities, and to have activities that are truly challenging, where the teachers don’t have the answer to feed them so you get to use the abstract and critical thinking skills that are part of what make a gifted mind so unique and interesting.

The bottom line is, I want every one of my students to be excited to come to class every day. I framed the program to cater to a gifted student’s every need so no child will ever be bored but instead no matter what level they are working at they can be challenged to keep developing their wonderful minds and learn how having a brain that works differently can really be a wonderful thing that opens the world to them in ways that others could only dream of.

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