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Educators from Saudi Arabia visit WKU to learn about gifted education

Last month The Center for Gifted Studies at WKU hosted a delegation of 14 educators from Saudi Arabia who were sent to Bowling Green by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education to learn about gifted education. This is the second group from Saudi Arabia that The Center for Gifted Studies has hosted, having hosted an initial group of 17 educators in October 2012.

A group of educators from Saudi Arabia visited WKU and Bowling Green in January 2013. (Photo by Josh Raymer)

A group of educators from Saudi Arabia visited WKU and Bowling Green in January 2013. (Photo by Josh Raymer)

Dr. Abdullah Abdulaziz Alofeis, the Director General of General Administration of Gifted Education, said the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education pays special attention to giftedness.

“After the successful implementation of the first workshop that took place in October 2012, I can see that we, at the Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia, have established a great academic relationship with your university and The Center for Gifted Studies to learn from your experience in the field of gifted education,” he said.

Dr. Julia Roberts, Executive Director of The Center for Gifted Studies and the Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky, called the partnership with the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education “a wonderful opportunity to learn from each other.”

“What an honor it is to have The Center for Gifted Studies at WKU selected as the place for learning about gifted education,” Dr. Roberts said.

During the two-week visit, the group had several opportunities to get a firsthand look at gifted education practices, beginning with an all-day visit to the Gatton Academy that included a morning session with Dr. Tim Gott, Director of the Gatton Academy, and an afternoon session with students at the Academy.

“One of the results of our conversations is to see how much commonality exists between our educational philosophies,” Dr. Gott said. “Investing in talent development crosses over international and cultural boundaries.”

The group also spent time at the GEMS Academy, where they learned innovative teaching strategies for math and science from instructors Jennifer Smith Sheffield and David Baxter, and observed a sixth-grade class during a lesson.

“It is an honor that other teachers would take a genuine interest in our work here at GEMS Academy – let alone a group from halfway around the world,” Baxter said.

During the visit, members of the Saudi delegation participated in several activities including a luncheon at Gary Ransdell Hall. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

During the visit, members of the Saudi delegation participated in several activities including a luncheon at Gary Ransdell Hall. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

With the help of translator Khaldoun Almousily, an Arabic instructor at WKU, the language barrier was minimized and the students were able to work with the educators.

“Language and cultural differences quickly became secondary, as we soon bonded in the common language of teachers everywhere,” Sheffield said. “Everyone was eager to ask questions and discuss ideas about teaching STEM content and processes in ways that will challenge, motivate, and foster innovative thinking in gifted students.”

In addition, the group spent time with Dr. Martha Day and Rico Tyler, SKyTeach faculty, and visited Cox’s Creek Elementary School in Bardstown. There was also time for learning outside the classroom as the educators visited Mammoth Cave, the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, and the Huntsville (Ala.) Space Center.

The 14 educators will use the knowledge they’ve gained to prepare for the construction of gifted centers in three Saudi Arabian regions – Riyadh, Mecca and Alsharqyyah.

Abdullah Ali Saywed, leader of the visiting delegation and the director of gifted studies in Jeddah, remarked on the dedication of gifted students to create a brighter tomorrow for Kentucky.

“When I see these students, I see the future in their motivation, in they way they speak,” he said. “They are really thinking about the future.”

Contact: Josh Raymer, (270) 745-3015.

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