NJ Association for Gifted Children

New Jersey Association for Gifted Children


Gifted Education- Advocating for Joyful Growth, #2 Draft-05

April 12, 2024

Session recordings are available for purchase until April 4th and available to view until April 18th. 

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Presenter Portal

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We are now accepting presentation submissions for our 2024 conference!

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Early Bird Registration is now open!



Exhibitor Info

Exhibitors Registration is now closed.

Events Info


Day-of Information for our 2023 Conference


Conference Center at Mercer County Community College

1200 Old Trenton Road West Windsor, NJ 08550

Registration begins at 7:30am

Keynote: Dr. Matt Zakreski

Matthew “Dr. Matt” Zakreski, PsyD is a high-energy, creative clinical psychologist who utilizes an eclectic approach to meet the specific needs of his neurodivergent clients. He is proud to serve the Gifted community as a consultant, a professor, an author, and a researcher. He has spoken over 300 times all over the world about supporting neurodivergent kids.

Dr. Zakreski is a member of Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG), the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), the New Jersey Association for Gifted Children (NJAGC), and the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education (PAGE). Dr. Zakreski graduated from Widener University’s Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology (IGCP) in 2016. He is the co-founder of The Neurodiversity Collective: https://www.theneurodiversitycollective.com

Keynote Topic

And the Children Shall Lead Us: A Guide to Interest-Based Learning 

Gifted and twice-exceptional kids love learning but don’t always love school. If your child wants to learn everything they can about astrophysics, neurosurgery, or the Peloponnesian War, why would we get in the way of that intrinsic motivation and joy? The education system tends to be resistant to the ideal of Interest-Based Learning (IBL), or the practice of layering educational goals through a child’s interests to enhance enthusiasm and engagement. This session will explore why IBL works, how to adapt it for your neurodivergent child, and how to advocate for it as an educational approach regardless of your school system.


Cartooning Through Perfectionism

Dr. Matt Zakreski

10:00-10:50    Room 215 

I can’t draw!!!  But of course, you can; you likely can’t draw as well as you’d like to. Not wanting to do something because of a fear of not being good enough at it is a classic sign of perfectionism, which can seriously debilitate gifted learners.  This workshop uses caricature to address perfectionism head-on.

From Local to Global: A Call for Critically Conscious Curriculum 

Jessica Manzone and Dr. Julia Nyberg

10:00-10:50   Room 217   / Virtual

Gifted students are encouraged to develop competencies that prepare them for interacting in a global world (Renzulli & Reis, 2021). Preparing students for a global world includes building an awareness of the cultural, ethnic, racial, linguistic, and socioeconomic diversity that exists within themselves and others.

This session presents a continuum for teachers and students to develop home, community, and global cultural competence. The continuum offers a means of exploring personal and community identity as it intersects with research-based aspects of global cultural competencies. Participants will examine these elements in relation to their current curriculum to self-reflect and develop their global cultural competence over time.

Building Successful Classroom Environments for 2e Students

Jacqui Byrne

10:00-10:50    Room 123

Using gifted characteristics, Jacqui will discuss how 2e students make classrooms more challenging for teachers and how teachers can both understand these wonderful students and help them thrive.

This session is for teachers and parents who are not familiar with the ways in which classroom environments can be changed to support 2e students. Jacqui will share case studies, explore talent development as a tool and discuss classroom and testing accommodations that work.

It Actually Happened: Navigating a Double Grade Skip in Public School

Daryl Eisenberg and Jen Dursee

10:00-10:50  Room 117

Join the first grade teacher and the parent who successfully advocated for an acceleration in a Somerset County public school through end-of-grade evaluations, acceleration scale assessment, and developing acceleration best practices step-by-step. Participate in an open Q&A about that specific journey and the resources that may help your child, your student, and your district.

Four Cornerstones of Effective Instruction for Gifted Students Dr. Shelagh Gallagher
NAGC President-Elect
10:00-10:50  Room 122 What are essential instructional skills for teachers of gifted students?  This session presents four cornerstone skills that should form the foundation of gifted education teacher preparation, ensuring that any curriculum reaches needed depth and complexity.  Each cornerstone contains pathways for teachers’ continued growth; together they ensure gifted students receive effective instruction regardless of the curriculum they teach.

Strengthening Gifted Education: The Student Perspective

Rebecca McLelland-Crawley 

10:00-10:50    Auditorium

What do our gifted students really want from us? This session will explore vignettes of successful collaboration experiences to support gifted learners. Students will share how they benefit from enrichment opportunities, curriculum compacting, and schools that recognize and support their talents. Strategies for coaching colleagues, connecting with parents, and building lasting community relationships will be discussed.

Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM): Developing Talent Within Your School

Roundtable Panel Hosted by Miette Brown and Connie Drakeobrien

11:00-11:30    Room 215

SEM reveals the potential of children, progresses academic gifts and talents, exposes and flourishes creative productivity, encourages students to think creatively, and value opportunities for creative, self-selected work.

Joseph Renzulli developed SEM to evolve the potential of children, progress academic gifts and talents, expose and flourish creative productivity, as well as encourage students to learn to think creatively and value opportunities for creative, self-selected work.

The Gifted Child PTO: Strengthening the Partnership Between School and Home

Roundtable Panel Hosted by Christina Vreeland

11:00-11:30    Room 213

Representatives from the Woodbridge Township School District will discuss the benefits of a Gifted Child PTO and will describe events and practices throughout the year that strengthen the relationship and communication between educators and caregivers of gifted students.

Advocacy Panel

Hosted by Dr. Lenore Cortina, Dr. Shelagh Gallegher, Jennifer Madsen, and Dr. Jonathan Plucker.

Moderated by Lynne Henwood

Expanding excellence and equity in both state and federal policy and in your local district through advocacy

What GT Students Want and Need

Roundtable Panel Hosted by Diana Wisniewski

12:20-12:50      Room 215 

This roundtable is designed to hear students’ perspectives on gifted education. We will discuss what works for them and what doesn’t work for them. We will ask what needs to change in regard to acceleration, unity, social and emotional aspects, and time factor for GT programs. What do gifted children need to succeed?

The Strengthening Gifted and Talented Act – What it Means for Gifted Students

Roundtable Panel Hosted Michael Kaelber, Esq.

12:20-12:50    Room 213

This roundtable will be led by Michael Kaelber who will interpret the SGTEA law and dispel myths about it.  There will be an informal discussion about best practices and what other districts are doing to identify students.

Starting from the Ground Up: An Informal Guide to Relaunching a GT Continuum of Services in Your District

Allie Welch and Ali Hart

1:00-1:50      Room 215

Is your district looking to better meet Chapter 338 requirements and enhance your current GT services? Hear one district’s story of how they are changing the mindset of staff, parents, and students by rebranding, enhancing, and relaunching their GT services to benefit their school community.

An Arts-Focused Approach to Transformational Social Emotional Learning (Virtual)

Dr. Jessica Manzone and Dr. Julia Nyberg

1:00-1:50      Room 217

This session proposes an arts-focused framework for creating Transformative Social Emotional Learning (TSEL) experiences for gifted learners. Participants will connect culturally relevant works of art to their lived experiences, intersecting identities, and home and community perspectives. In an arts-focused approach to social and emotional development, the focus shifts from personal conformity to individual, family, and community cultural empowerment. This session will utilize arts-focused TSEL experiences to help gifted learners develop the complex tools of social awareness.

Infusing Social and Emotional Practices into Gifted and Talented Programs

Dr. Meg Freeman

1:00-1:50      Room 123

Gifted and Talented students are so successful that they often have a fear of failure. Infusing Social and Emotional Practices into your gifted and talented program helps students learn to grow through their fear of failure to greater success. This workshop will give practical suggestions on how to foster the growth mindset in students and build an advisory program. Please bring a laptop.123123

Adding Depth and Complexity to General Education Standards

Anne Marie Hughes

1:00-1:50     Room 117

How do we add depth and complexity to grade-level standards for our gifted learners? Workshop attendees will engage in lessons and discussions around how strategies introduced will challenge gifted learners in elementary school.

Leading for Equitable and Effective Gifted Education

Dr. Lenore Cortina

1:00-1:50    Room 122

School leaders have an essential role in delivering equitable gifted education programs and services. Teachers require guidance and support to effectively meet the needs of gifted learners in their classrooms. This session is focused on observation and supervision strategies and tools to insure effective differentiation is occurring in the classroom for all learners, including gifted students. There will be time for participants to raise questions or issues for discussion.

Fostering a Culture of Creativity

Dr. Jonathan Plucker

1:00-1:50    Auditorium

Creativity is a highly valued 21st-century skill, but what do we know about how to foster it in children? Is it the same in both children and adults? What does the latest research tell us about how to help create cultures of creativity? How can we even define it? We will explore these and other questions through a series of anecdotes and hands-on activities that illustrate and model key creativity-producing instructional strategies. An emphasis will be placed on understanding the nature of creativity and how it manifests itself in the lives of adults, with application of that information to how children learn, both in and outside of school. The latest research and thinking on creativity and innovation will be emphasized throughout the session.

Failure is Fun…damental

Dr. Matt Zakreski 

2:00-2:50    Room 215

Failure is one of the most challenging aspects of life for neurodivergent folks to manage. We spend so much time thinking about it, worrying about it, planning for it, and then dealing with it. But failure is an unavoidable part of life. Instead of becoming hopeless when faced with that reality, this session focuses on how to identify the positive aspects of failure, from teachable moments to opportunities to build resiliency. By accepting the reality and inevitability of failure, we lessen its negative impact on us. Learn how to build resiliency and navigate failure in the best possible ways.

Expand Identification and Differentiate Services Using Ability Profile Scores

Dr. Joni Lakin and Jackie Miceli

1:00-1:50    Room 217

While ability tests are valuable for identifying students for GT services, the value of administering a multidimensional measure of cognitive skills comes from differentiating instruction for students all along the ability distribution and throughout the school day for gifted students. This session will provide practical strategies and opportunities for application.

Motivation Through Engagement and Challenge

Kristin Baker

1:00-1:50    Room 123

How can we help students to achieve their fullest potential? This session connects theories of grit, growth mindset, and motivation, and discusses four key factors behind underachievement: self-efficacy, task valuation, environmental perception, and self-regulation. We will also touch on the mastery vs. performance learning orientations and how these impact motivation.

This session draws on the works of Angela Duckworth, Malcolm Gladwell, Sir Kenneth Robinson, Carol Dweck, Del Siegle, and others. Participants will come away with new understandings and strategies to support the young learners in their lives.

Teaching Ordinary Subjects in Extraordinary Ways

Michael Castania

1:00-1:50     Room 117

Competition for highly qualified, technical talent will continue to intensify to keep pace with technological innovation. To meet the challenge, educators must rapidly develop a STEM curriculum, often with limited funding. Educators will see aerospace/STEM lesson plans, activities, textbooks, products, and programs to use in any classroom or after-school or enrichment programs. CAP’s educational materials can be used across disciplines in both core and elective studies.

Supporting the Intellectual, Social-Emotional, and Academic Development of Profoundly Gifted Students and Davidson Young Scholars

Davidson Institute

Laurel Griffiths, Sandra Perlman, Jacqueline Byrne, and Allison Park

1:00-1:50    Room 122

Profoundly gifted students are those who score three standard deviations above the mean (99.9th percentile) on intelligence testing. In this panel discussion, a representative from the Davidson Institute, school administrators, and parents will discuss the unique characteristics of profoundly gifted young people and ways to support them in school.

What’s Your School’s Talent Development Plan?

Dr. Jonathan Plucker

1:00-1:50    Auditorium

In a series of recent studies, the lack of coordination among advanced learning policies and programs within schools and districts has become apparent. In this session, we will discuss how to construct talent development plans, share examples from districts, and begin creating plans for your schools and districts.

Framing Advanced Tasks for Gifted Learners

Dr. Lenore Cortina

3:00-3:50    Room 215

Frames are an organizational tool used to differentiate tasks for diverse learners, first introduced in the Depth & Complexity Model developed by Sandra Kaplan. The focus of this session will be on using the Depth & Complexity icons to develop Frames that raise the level of intellectual demand for advanced learners. This strategy has helped teachers to manage advanced tasks in the general education classroom while maintaining focus on the same concept/skill for all learners.  

Sharing Best Practices: Using Assessment Data in Gifted Identification

Dr. Joni Lakin and Jackie Miceli

3:00-3:50     Room 217

Join our discussion with New Jersey educators as they share their best practices for gifted identification including the universal screening of students, utilizing a multi-measure approach, considering local districts as well as building norms, and understanding student aptitude through a holistic lens to understand the whole child.

Musicals With Character: Theater and Character Education for Gifted Youth

Emily Clare Thompson

3:00-3:50    Room 123

Celebrate storytelling with original musicals! Musicals With Character creates youth-driven shows that provide a standards-based, interdisciplinary approach to theater. Meeting ELA and Visual Performing Arts requirements, MWC musicals maximize opportunities for differentiation. Learn how your students can showcase their talents while engaging in meaningful social and emotional learning.

Writing Is Sometimes Hard For Me – Strategies to Support Gifted Learners in Writing

Adam Laningham

3:00-3:50    Room 117

Many gifted children, especially boys, seem to struggle with writing. Understanding asynchronous development with this population, and with their brains processing so many topics quickly, it may be hard for gifted learners to get all of their thoughts down and meet classroom expectations. Writing is an essential yet emotional task, it requires a complex interaction between the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex. Over the years, working with many parents, teachers, and students who struggle with writing, we have developed many strategies to help in the process and look forward to sharing them with you.

Math Breakthroughs to Inspire Gifted Students

Larry Zaccaro

3:00-3:50     Room 122

The lack of critical thinking by the general population has resulted in failure to understand and accept the most important scientific breakthroughs in modern history. This session will discuss several high interest stories to engage our future mathematicians and scientists, to encourage a mindset of analytical and critical thinking.

Developing Your Village: When Educators and Parents Come Together

Adina Leuthner

3:00-3:50    Auditorium

When educators and parents work together our students and children win. In this workshop, you will learn how to begin the conversation about being a part of the solution. Developing relationships across the aisle builds a foundation of success for our gifted and 2E children/students.

Venue and Room Block Information


Conference Center at Mercer County Community College 


Homewood Suites by Hilton Hamilton, NJ

We have secured a room block, however, rooms are limited. Please contact the hotel directly either by phone or the online booking link below before 2/14/2023 to reserve your room.

Group code: NJA
Phone: (609) 689-1260

Book Online