Gifted students in Troy get chance to excel at
District expands program to 1st grade
by Janet Sugameli / Detroit News / September 23, 2002
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At age 7, Nishant Desai eagerly seeks more challenging
mathematical and scientific problems in his daily dose of
His interest, above and beyond that of a normal second-grade
student, was part of the reason he became part of Troy Schools
PACE, a program for accelerated and creative education.
For the first time, the program is being offered to students,
as early as the first grade, who demonstrate an innate ability
to reason beyond their age.
"It's a challenge because you're supposed to apply yourself to
it and put a lot of work into it," Nishant said of the
Last year, the Bemis Elementary student was part of the pilot
PACE program at three elementary schools. This year, each of
Troy Schools' 12 elementary buildings offers the program from
first through fifth grade.
"We studied dinosaurs and wrote a lot of reports," he said of
last year's program. "I gave a Power Point presentation, and
we made dinosaurs out of things like cans and spoons."
PACE resource instructor Karen Matthews said teacher
identification, anecdotal information from parents and testing
helps determine which students would benefit from the program.
Moving the program into the lower elementary grades was
something she hoped to see since she got involved with it nine
"Across the country, people are realizing that some children
are born with these gifts, and we shouldn't let them sit there
and wait for us," she said. "In starting them earlier, we will
challenge them, and they will be able to move at a faster
Some examples Matthews noted are the child who writes poetry
at the age of 6 or plays chess with an adult and wins.
Sometimes, gifted children have an extraordinary amount of
empathy for problems in the world.
"They are philosophical and asking the big questions," she
Bringing students into the program as early as the first grade
might help them develop their creativity and critical thinking
Ellen Hodorek's son Gregory, 7, started in the program last
year at Bemis. She was thrilled that her son could be part of
the program at an early age.
"Otherwise he would have stayed in neutral for a few years,"
Hodorek said. "This way he can hit the gas pedal with his
In the early years of a child's development promoting a "love
of life-long learning" is crucial, Hodorek said.
"I was worried that when a child is bright, they might get
bored with learning if their minds aren't exercised to their
capacity," she said.
Matthews said children who have special gifts need time to be
together with children who think like they do.
She spends four hours a week with the children in first and
second grade teaching them "the skills that they will need to
Third-grader Vania Smirnov got involved in the PACE program
last year and was pleased because math is his favorite
He even boasts of multiplying 10-digit numbers by other
"I like the program because we learn new things like deductive
thinking," Vania, 8, said.
And he said "I like being with smart kids because we can talk
about hard stuff."
Bemis Principal Janet Keeling said teachers try to challenge
gifted students, but the PACE program gives them an extra
PACE is a positive alternative to jumping a grade level since
a child may not have the emotional, social, cognitive,
physical and psychomotor skills that accompany advancing a
"This program gives us the wonderful option of providing for
those children's needs," Keeling explained. "It gives us
another way to meet their needs -- to help them stretch their
minds without the advanced placement."
Rhonda Hendrickson said her 7-year-old son James is a normal
child, "but when he reads information, he looks at that
information and looks beyond the words and he expresses how to
use that information.
"PACE broadens his scope in terms of problems solving and how
to look at information."
She was pleased the program was extended to cover first- and
"There are kids that get lost because they have something
special going on and could use the challenge," she said. "PACE
gives them an emotional boost. It becomes a point of pride for
The parent of a Schroeder Elementary student, Karen James said
her son Evan wasn't ready to go into the program at first.
"Initially, he was a little bit concerned that he would miss
things in his regular classroom and that he would have to make
it up. He quickly found out that wasn't the case," she said.