Hickory Elementary gifted and talented program receives state honor

Hickory Elementary School near Bel Air has received state recognition for its gifted and talented program.

The school was named Monday by the Maryland State Department of Education and the State Advisory Board on Gifted and Talented Education as one of eight Excellence in Gifted and Talented Education, or EGATE, schools for 2012.

The program honors Maryland public schools with gifted and talented programs that aligned with the Maryland Criteria for Excellence: Gifted and Talented Education Program Guidelines.

Fifteen schools from across Maryland applied for the EGATE distinction and only eight schools were selected, according to Harford school officials.

Hickory Elementary School will be presented with a governor's citation along with the other EGATE schools at an awards ceremony and reception Feb. 28 at the Kossiakoff Auditorium of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel.

With the honor, the school will display the EGATE banner and plaque, host celebratory visits from members of the Maryland State Department of Education and State Advisory Board for Gifted and Talented Education, will serve as models and resources for other schools seeking EGATE status.

Harford School Superintendent Dr. Robert Tomback announced the honor at Monday's school board meeting and gave congratulations to the entire Hickory Elementary School community.

Hickory's principal Jeanette Jennings said the award "means we're really doing a good job with our student population."

"While all schools have to struggle and take care of our lower achieving population, we're making sure we're taking care of our gifted population as well," Jennings said Wednesday.

Jennings credited Jessica Hoover, a gifted and talented teacher at Hickory last school year, with compiling the application for EGATE status over the course of one year and being the driving force behind the school's gifted and talented education program.

Hoover, who is now an assistant principal at Fountain Green Elementary School, will be receiving her own EGATE award in the Teacher as Leader category at February's reception.

"She [Hoover] provided a lot of opportunities for the students to take the learning that they were doing and apply it to real world situations," Jennings said.

"Probably one of the most important roles she did at Hickory is that she empowered a lot of teachers," Jennings added. "We hated to lose her, but we knew that the program was going to continue because [gifted and talented education] has become part of the culture here at Hickory."

Jennings hopes to build on Hickory's successes in gifted and talented education.

"Down the road I see us expanding our programs; anything that's going to motivate our students to want to challenge themselves, as well," she said.

"We're going to keep doing what we're doing," Jennings added. "We're always for opportunities to engage our students in more challenging and rigorous programs."

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