Sean Flynn of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal contributed to this story.
On August 4, Converse College held an out of the ordinary commencement celebration in Beaufort, SC for 52 Master of Education graduate students. All of the graduates are teachers in the Beaufort School District, which set up a program with Converse and paid for their teachers to work toward the degrees. The Converse M.Ed. in Gifted Education is the only program of its kind in South Carolina.
The week before (July 28) in Twichell Auditorium, the college conferred Master of Education, Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Liberal Arts and the Education Specialist degrees to 170 graduate students. The Beaufort celebration was an effort in part to recognize the students and the school district.
"(The district) wanted to see that a lot of its teachers had master’s in gifted education," said Dr. Nancy Breard, the Director of Converse’s gifted education program. "They paid for the teachers to get their master’s degrees."
Brenda Singleton, an art teacher at Beaufort’s Davis Elementary, received her master’s along with two siblings: Calvin Singleton, a music teacher at St. Helena Elementary, and Chlorett Singleton, a dance teacher at Davis Elementary. Singleton said the lessons she gained in gifted education will serve her well in her classes, even though she does not have a class designed specifically for gifted students. "It would be helpful for all teachers to take some of these courses because it does help to see the children in a different light," Singleton said. "There are gifts in unexpected places."
Breard said that is the goal of the gifted education program, which flies under the radar in the era of No Child Left Behind, which focuses on bringing kids with lower test scores up to standard. "It’s the most overlooked segment of education," Breard said. "There’s the recurring myth that gifted kids are smart, they’re going to get it anyway, so we don’t need to do anything for them. Many of them are underachieving because they’re bored in the classroom, they’re not accelerated in any way."